Can Nate Robinson Become NBA's Sixth Man of the Year with Denver Nuggets?
Playing the Denver Nuggets will be more exhausting than ever following the addition of high-energy dynamo Nate Robinson. Denver's unique backcourt situation, though, will prevent Robinson from making a major impact with the Nuggets like he did last season with the Chicago Bulls.
So any consideration for him winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award next season can probably stop now.
According to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post, the Nuggets agreed with the pint-sized spark plug on a two-year deal.
The Nuggets were already approaching luxury-tax territory for next season, and with only the biannual exception available, they got terrific value in adding one of the league's most explosive bench scorers for a yearly salary of just over $2 million.
Stating the obvious here, but new Nuggets GM Tim Connelly may have just landed best value contract of free agency season w/ Nate. Great deal— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 22, 2013
Robinson averaged 13.1 points and 4.4 assists off the bench last year.
Perhaps more importantly, his 40 percent three-point completion rate from a year ago will give Denver some desperately needed spacing on the perimeter. Remember, the Nuggets can't do stuff like this anymore to create room in the middle:
Standing out of bounds on purpose will be illegal next year. So fortunately for the Nuggets, they've got a guy in Robinson who's more than comfortable firing away from absolutely any place on the court.
The 5'9" guard certainly brings offensive punch and manic energy, but it's going to be difficult for him to replicate the numbers (or court time) he produced with the Bulls last season. That's because the Nuggets already have a pair of point guards who need the basketball in their hands in order to be maximally effective.
Ty Lawson is a franchise cornerstone, and when he's attacking the lane, the Nuggets are a much better team. The problem with him, though, is that he struggles mightily in handling larger guards on defense. So playing Robinson—who has the same size-related defensive issues—alongside Lawson is basically a non-starter.
If the Nuggets envision using Robinson in tandem with Andre Miller, the defensive problems won't be nearly as significant; Professor 'Dre is more than capable of handling even some of the league's biggest shooting guards on defense. Old man strength gives him borderline super powers against bulkier opponents.
But Miller needs the ball just as badly as Lawson does, and his skills as a distributor are key to both the Nuggets' second unit and their fourth-quarter lineup.
If Robinson is on the floor, he's most likely going to be used as a shooter off the catch, and perhaps occasionally as a penetrator when the ball swings to him on the weak side. He'll still be a dangerous option in those roles, but it's probably unreasonable to expect him to knock down 40 percent of his triples again.
Look, Robinson was fantastic for the Bulls last season. He had ample opportunity to play with Derrick Rose missing the entire season and only Kirk Hinrich ahead of him on the depth chart. He'll always be a threat to take over quarters with highly entertaining scoring flurries.
The fact remains that he has always been a low-percentage shooter overall and can only really be utilized in certain situations.
The Nuggets have a pair of capable ball-handlers on their roster, and Robinson's value simply isn't as high when he's spotting up or coming off of off-ball screens. He needs lots of touches to get into the kind of rhythm that makes him deadly, but he won't get them in Denver.
If there's a case to be made for Robinson retaining his effectiveness as a Nugget, it has to center on the team's fast pace. Denver used the second-most possessions in the league last year, while the Bulls checked in at No. 26 (per ESPN). When things get frantic, Robinson is at his best.
So Denver's overall style of play certainly favors Robinson's strengths. And at such a steep discount, it's impossible to knock the signing.
Ultimately, though, Denver can't really give Robinson significant minutes on the ball. And it can only use him as a No. 2 if he's playing alongside Miller. Those limitations—combined with the likelihood that Robinson's efficiency is going to regress to the mean—will make it almost impossible for him to join the conversation as one of the league's top reserves.
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