Nate the Great is now truly entering his prime.
Nate Robinson may be thrust into a starting role with Kirk Hinrich likely sidelined with a strained right hip. Hinrich underwent an MRI on Sunday and is officially labeled "day to day."
"I have no idea what happened," Hinrich told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "It just tightened up on me. It's frustrating. But I'll be all right."
Robinson has been good so far this season. In just under 23 minutes per night, he's averaging 11.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, along with getting a steal per night and keeping his turnovers in check (2.5 per game).
Robinson's Player Efficiency Rating is a 19.8, which ranks the highest of all Bulls players that play major minutes.
Could Hinrich lose his job if the injury lingers and Robinson continues to perform well? It's already been a time-share situation at the point, and if Tom Thibodeau finds that Robinson functions better with the first unit, Hinrich could make the move to the bench.
Robinson commented on his versatility, saying "Whatever Coach needs me to do, I'll do…I just try to get my teammates involved and give energy."
Energy has never been anything Robinson has been short on. Throughout his career, he's played full-octane point guard, seldom letting up on the clutch as he gambles on defense, pushes opposing point guards, and uses his speed to his advantage. Robinson leads the Bulls in PER because of his effort, and he's capable of scoring in bunches.
Hinrich was at one point a top-15 to top-20 point guard in the NBA, but he's declined since that time (specifically during his first stint with the Bulls). Robinson may never enter the realms Hinrich was at during his prime, but he's the better option now.
Robinson can be erratic, and the 2.5 turnovers per night could be cut down upon. But his diminutive stature and effort bring a lot to the Bulls and he may finally be finding his niche as an NBA player, after bouncing around the league and playing on four teams in six years prior to landing in Chicago this summer as a free agent.
Robinson is now 28, but just entering his prime, and with Derrick Rose on the shelf he has every opportunity to showcase his immense talents.
He's never averaged more than 30 minutes per night over his career, but until Rose gets back, shouldn't he?
Hinrich is an effective leader and still an average defender, but Robinson has that proverbial upside that just can't be attached to someone with as limited athleticism as Hinrich. But it's not as though Robinson offers only athleticism. He's an effective leader, too, and the Bulls are going to reap the benefits if Hinrich's hip injury leaves him on the sidelines.