Let’s talk for now, briefly, on what sort of basketball player the C’s would get in Nate Robinson, since so much of the dialogue about Robinson has focused on his clownish tendencies and occasionally idiotic, selfish, preening behavior. This is a guy that high-fived Will Ferrell, saluted “Call of Duty” fans at the foul line, fired a shot at his team’s basket just after the buzzer and turned his back on a live ball after he blocked a shot to show off for the crowd.
That stuff is not going to fly in Boston, where the games matter a bit more than they have in New York since Nate arrived in the league.
But: The Celtics are also getting a player who is a lot more dynamic than Eddie House.
Eddie House has never recorded PER higher than 15.8 (a smidgen above league average), never averaged more than 20 minutes per game and has never really done anything else but shoot from the perimeter. That’s not a knock. We all love Eddie House. It’s just fact.
Even with all his attitude issues, Nate Robinson is just on a different level. Nothing brings that home better than this:
In 2009, Robinson attempted 4.1 shots per game at the rim, according to Hoopdata.com. Only 13 point guards and 11 shooting guards got to the rim more often, and 23 of those 24 players logged more minutes per game than Robinson. (Nate played 29.9 minutes per game last year).
To put that in perspective: Chris Paul attempted 4.4 shots per game at the rim in 38.5 minutes, Kobe Bryant attempted 4.4 in 36.2 minutes, Rajon Rondo 5.2 in 33.0 minutes and Vince Carter 4.1 in 36.8 minutes. (All numbers via Hoopdata.com)
Put simply: Nate can beat his guy off the dribble and get to the rim almost at will. It is astounding to watch at times how easily he beats NBA defenders off the bounce. What he does next, of course, determines the course of a possession, and it’s there that Nate’s game needs improvement. To his credit, he’s trying; he has assisted on 26.7 percent of New York’s baskets while he’s been on the court this season, according to Basketball Reference. That’s a mediocre number for a lead ball-handler, but it’s not awful and it’s a career-best for Nate. Progress, people.
By comparison, Eddie House took 28 shots at the rim all of last season, according to Hoopdata. That works out to about 0.3 attempts per game, or one every three games.
This is not to fault Eddie House, for whom we all have great affection. Nate Robinson is just a different, more dynamic offensive player. And if you haven’t noticed, the C’s have struggled over their last 24 games because their offense has slipped to 14th in the league in efficiency; the defense remains the best in the league. It wouldn’t shock me to see Doc Rivers slide Robinson right into the game during crunch time if the C’s offense lacks pace or becomes jumper-happy, or if Rajon Rondo appears tentative.
Robinson also takes decent care of the ball, a trend he shares with approximately zero current Celtics. For his career, he has turned it over on about 11 percent of possessions on which he has tried to do something with it. That’s below average for a guard who handles the ball so often; it’s a rate in Chris Paul territory, actually, and that’s a good territory to be in and not one in which you would expect to find a player perceived (rightfully) as a hot dog.
I’ve covered the defense and the plus/minus stuff elsewhere, so I won’t belabor it here. To sum it up: Nate’s raw plus/minus numbers are basically neutral—the Knicks gave up about the same number of points per possession with Nate on the floor versus with him on the bench. His adjusted plus/minus numbers are even better, and show that he and David Lee were by far the most productive players on the Knicks last season.
David Berri’s wins produced system also rated Robinson and Lee well above the other Knicks last season.
The C’s are getting a better player here. Provided they don’t surrender a first-round pick, this will be a good basketball deal. It will be a better one if Nate Robinson stops putting himself above his team, pays attention to detail as long as the ball is live and works his tail off on defense.