It was back in October, about the middle of the month, when columnist Scoop Jackson wrote a piece for the Chicago Bulls report on ESPNChicago.com and in it he detailed that at some point in 2013-14, the Bulls would find themselves missing guard Nate Robinson.
Robinson was a pint-sized spark plug for Chicago last season, providing them with thrills (and some chills, to be fair) off the bench for much of the year before emerging as one of the surprise stars of the playoffs.
In his lone season in Chicago, Robinson averaged 13.1 points and 4.4 assists per game on 43.3 percent shooting (40.5 percent from long range). He posted those numbers in a little more than 25 minutes a game (25.4 to be precise).
But in the playoffs, Robinson averaged 16.3 points (and 4.4 assists) on 43.6 percent shooting (33.8 percent from deep) in 33.7 minutes per game. A big part of his increased burn in the postseason was because Kirk Hinrich was hurt (along with Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and, of course, Derrick Rose).
Robinson got a two-year deal from the Denver Nuggets for a little more than $4.1 million, with the second year being a player option, after making a bit more than $1.1 million on a one-year contract with the Bulls.
He wasn’t the Nate Robinson who lit up the NBA in New York in 2008-09, getting almost 30 minutes a game of run and averaging 17.2 points a night. But he also wasn’t the Robinson who basically disappeared for a lost year and a half with the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010 and 2011, either.
It was always an odd pairing, the deliberate, defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau and the go-like-your-hair’s-on-fire Robinson, who is familiar with the word “defense,” even if he has never really played much of it.
Robinson generated an offensive rating last season of 101.9 to go with a defensive rating of 101.9 in the regular season. But what Robinson brought to the Bulls that no one seems to be able to duplicate, particularly now that Rose is gone with another knee injury, is the ability to create offense for himself.
Of Robinson’s 258 2-point baskets last season, a whopping 72.1 percent of them came unassisted.
No one on the Bulls’ roster scored a higher percentage of their 2-point shots without an assist than Robinson, with 28.9 percent of his points coming in the paint—a strong percentage as a finisher when you consider Robinson is listed at 5’9”.
Hinrich leads this year’s Bulls in that category at 62.5 percent, higher even than Rose’s 59.5 percent for the 10 games he played.
But as a team last year, Chicago shot 43.7 percent and averaged 93.2 points per game, with an offensive rating of 100.4 and a defensive rating of 100.3. Those stats were accumulated without Derrick Rose, but with Nate Robinson.
This year, the Bulls are a 41.7 percent shooting team averaging 91.2 points per game, with an offensive rating of an abysmal 95.7 which counters a really good defensive mark of 97.4.
In essence, the Bulls got better defensively without Robinson, but they got so much worse offensively that the whole thing is a net loss.
So in the end, Scoop Jackson was right—sort of. His thesis was that the Bulls would miss Nate Robinson if they had to go up against the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
No, they miss him even more than Jackson thought they might … and a whole heckuva lot earlier, too.