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Nate’s Slow Start

 

Nate Robinson has played nine games for the Celtics. I realize this is a tiny sample size, and we will all forget about these nine games if Nate catches fire in the playoffs.

But so far, this is not the player for whom the Celtics traded Eddie House (and Bill Walker, and J.R. Giddens). I’ve never really liked Nate Robinson (that’s an understatement, actually), but I backed the trade because Robinson brings two skills Eddie House doesn’t really have. In order of importance:

1) Ability to get to the rim;

2) Ball-handling/passing—i.e., passable point guard skills. 

I haven’t noticed much of either so far, and the numbers back up that impression.

In 2008, 192 of Robinson’s 782 shot attempts (24.5 percent) came at the rim, according to Hoopdata.

In 2009, 306 of Robinson’s 1028 shot attempts (29.8 percent) came at the rim.

Only about a dozen point guards in the entire league got to the rim as often as Robinson over those two seasons—and all but one of them played significantly more minutes than Robinson. (I went over the numbers in this post, if you’re interested). 

In nine games with Boston, only 10 of Robinson’s 56 shot attempts (17.8 percent, about one attempt per game) have come at the rim. He has made just three of them.

To Nate’s credit, the shot attempts he used to take at the rim are now coming from three-point range—and he’s made 13 of 29 (45 percent) from deep with Boston. If a guard with a decent three-point stroke stops attacking the rim, you generally prefer him to shoot more threes instead of long two-pointers. Robinson has only attempted 11 two-point jumpers beyond 15-feet since joining Boston, and that is in line with the percentage of shots Robinson has taken from that range in each of the last two seasons. 

More than half of Robinson’s shot attempts in Boston have been threes. Nate is a career 35.6 percent shooter from deep, so we should expect his three-point percentage to settle in at about that level. 

Here’s the thing: The Celtics already had a little back-up guard taking more than half his shots from three-point range; Nate was supposed to bring something new to the offense. 

And he hasn’t—yet. Even his assist rate (the percentage of Boston baskets he assists on during his time on the court) is down from 26 percent in New York to 21 percent in Boston. That’s much higher than House’s typical assist rate, which hovered around 10 percent in Boston. 

It’s up to 19 percent since he joined the Knicks. 

Nate just got here, and he probably needs time to learn the schemes on both ends. There’s also the possibility that the coaches have told him to take more threes and worry less about getting into the lane; after all, Robinson has played almost all of his minutes in line-ups that include either Rajon Rondo or Marquis Daniels, both of whom can handle point guard duties. 

But to me, if this trade is to be worthwhile, Robinson has to attack the rim and get into the teeth of the defense. 

Otherwise, what was the point?

  • http://www.osu.edu wess

    Don’t downplay the loss of Billy in this. I

  • Jay P

    Walker is an incomplete player right now, at best. He’s a strong offensive player who’s got weapons, no doubt, and he’ll thrive in a New York system and will probably show a enough to get a run somewhere in a team next year. But he just wasn’t going to fit in here, there’s too much depth at that position to give him a real chance to develop.

    Honestly I think the issue (if there is one) comes down to coaching. If he’s in line ups with Rondo out there, of course we’re going to see Rondo handle the ball more, that’s what he does. In those situations Nate becomes more of a 2-guard, so the 3-pointers will come, and they should, that’s the role we need in that unit when Rondo is on the floor.

    If we want to see Nate handling and getting to the rim more, let’s see him in lineups that allow him as the true point. Something we haven’t seen much of, then we’ll make some judgments on his play.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    also never been a nate-lover, but this team would seem to be the perfect fit for him. he could and should be making more of a positive impact. he just seems tentative to do anything but shoot. gotta give him more time.

    him and sheed are the x-factors. regardless of the roof being on fire now and this team being so frustrating for the last 40 games, i still feel like we know exactly what we’ll get from the other guys come playoff time. if sheed and nate actually step up and the team catches a few breaks (like no hawks matchup)…..there’s no reason the Cs can’t still roll the east. amen.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    i add marquis to the x-factor list too. hoping we haven’t seen him at his best yet…..hoping….

  • Jason

    I will always be fond of Eddie, but his transition hasn’t gone well either. In 11 NY games, he’s shooting 24% from 3 and on a per minute basis is turning it over twice as much and scoring much less. I’m rooting for you Eddie, but that’s some bad play.

  • DRJ1

    Well, you asked a question, and then answered it in the 3rd paragraph up from the end. Nate just got here. Shooting 3s is easy, he only needs to be free for an instant. Getting to the rim involves knowing sets, running plays, picks, etc. They’ve not had the time to get him up to speed on all that. No other explanation fits: it’s not like he could FORGET how to drive to the hoop.

    So we have back what we gave away in Eddie, plus: Nate’s ability to bring the ball up, his speed, energy, active defense, and his driving ability (coming soon, we believe). Not bad, so far.

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  • KC

    Wasn’t getting Nate more about having someone to guard quick, attacking point guards?

  • Jay P

    Um no KC, no it wasn’t. Nate is not a good defender by any stretch. At best he can be considered average. But we weren’t losing anything in that department, because Eddie certainly wasn’t any better.

    The move was about making the second unit offense my dynamic, and having a guy who can spark you and score 20+ points off the bench when he’s hot.

    Eddie can do that, but he can’t do it on his own. Nate is a guy who can (potentially?) create his own shot, get to the rim and score without any help whatsoever. That’s why he’s here, and we haven’t seen it yet (the entire point of this column) but I still firmly believe that’s due to the coaches not giving him the opportunity to do that due to the lineups he’s been playing in (i.e. Rondo on the floor.)

  • mitch

    nate isn’t getting enough minutes…do you really expect him to score 16 points in 14 minutes every game?

  • http://pleasecomebackto.me Carmelia Pead

    Exactly what I have been thinking. Your post was unbelievable. To get your lover back is not the hardest of the accomplishments But it sure may take some time

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