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Is It Time To Say Goodbye To Nate Robinson?

 

I realize the headline may open up a can of worms all by itself.

But I am prepared for your hate, CelticsHub readers. I even welcome it.

Picking up on Brian’s post yesterday on the possibility the Celtics might tinker with their roster before the trade deadline, I believe the player the Celtics should look to move is Nate Robinson.

Robinson has a reasonable contract ($4.2 million this year, $4.5 million in 2011-12) and can contribute in the right role, but because of the makeup of the Celtics roster, its outstanding needs and his diminutive size, he seems likely to be watching the majority of the playoffs from the bench, just like he did last year.

On a healthy Celtics team, Delonte West would be the primary backup to Rajon Rondo. This is hardly news. Pressed into service by the Rondo/West injuries, Robinson has proven capable at times, and incapable at others but by now we know he belongs at shooting guard. The Celtics have come to this conclusion as well, cutting bait on Robinson as a point guard (or trying to, anyway).

Robinson’s main offensive credential is his 38% three-point-shooting (it’s certainly not his career-low 11.31 PER). To be fair, the long ball has been welcome, especially on a bench unit that has struggled to score. But Robinson is shooting a meager 31% from 16-23 feet. And those two areas represent the bulk of his offensive game. Shots from the three-point-arc and the mid-range comprise 74% of Robinson’s total shots taken.

(It seems to me that one of the reasons you rarely see Robinson dunk in a game is because he’s not effective taking the ball to the hoop against larger defenders. And that’s pretty much all of them. He remains a prime candidate to have his shot blocked in those scenarios, which is why he usually drives to pass or settles for pull-up jumpers).

The other problems with Robinson are that he doesn’t play consistently hard enough on defense, gives up significant size to every 2-guard he might see from April to June even when he does, and six years into his career, still regularly struggles with decision-making on the floor.

In summary, I think he’s a borderline rotation player on a championship team. No more. And potentially a lot less.

After the jump, I’ll try and follow this Nate-Hate through to its logical conclusion:

If Robinson can’t crack the C’s playoff rotation, what kind of player could?

***

The obvious need (so says me, anyway) is a big, strong wing player who can back-up Pierce and Allen against players like Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Manu Ginobli and perhaps even Gilbert Arenas and Derrick Rose. All of these guys are potential trouble spots for the Celtics on their route to banner #18 and the C’s bench, even at full strength, could use additional help to deal with them.

Remember how Pierce struggled offensively against the Cavaliers last year in the playoffs? Remember how much energy he exerted covering James and how it hampered his offense? It’s going to happen again. Both Pierce and Allen are a year older and looking down the barrel of elite offensive player after elite offensive player for two months.

The Celtics need to get their two wing scorers a break from that kind of pressure if they hope to get offense out of them on the other end of the floor. You’ve seen what happens when Pierce and Allen don’t produce – the offense goes in the toilet.

Now, Daniels could make life difficult for many of those opposing players. But history suggests he may not make it through to June without an injury. And I don’t think the Celtics can go into the playoffs with Von Wafer as the only other viable backup at the 2/3 spot besides Quis.

So, that’s the area of need:

A 1) defensive-oriented wing player with 2) size and 3) strength who could also, ideally, 4) hit the three-ball at a decent clip.

Robinson only fills up one of those four categories.

Which is why he should be in play.

  • Chris O

    I think Robinson could be a big piece of the bench. I don't really understand the trade talk. Unless you are going to ship out Nate and Baby or something of the effect for the heir apparent to Garnett (or Pierce but that would leave you really small if you shipped Baby) I wouldn't do it. True Nate should be the 4th PG (Rondo, Delonte, Quis then Nate) and Pierce may be as good in the PG role but Nate can spread the floor and can be a red hot volume scorer. Yes many ppl don't have Nate's deficiencies and he is prone to being inconsistent but a lot of players don't have his scoring upside either. Now I'm not saying he's gonna drop 57 (or whatever it was) but he could be a Tony Delk explosive type. As someone commented on here (I think it was a writer not a commentor) they were saying Nate might be the one to break the no 40+ point dropping Celtics in the New Big Three Era (however sarcastic this was I don't know). Still I wouldn't ship Nate (or Von even) unless we were filling a dire need. Which for us is really just getting healthy.

  • Chris O

    Also I feel the player you are looking for is Mickael Pietrus, but I don't know what his cost is. He has been the guy I wanted since before Orlando got him. Plus I love his swag

    • kricky

      Air France would be awesome. but i don't think Phoenix would want Nate.I'd hate to give up any of the other big pieces.

      • Chris O

        Agreed, minus Sheed's contact (which we should have told Sheed to not 'officially' retire) I don't see what we could give up to get much better. Unless it was a draft pick and Nate but that still seems to expensive to me.

        • zebulon

          It might be possible to convince Phoenix that Nate could fill their hole at PF. I mean, they've tried out just about everyone there so far…

          • Ryan DeGama

            You'd have to tell them he could be a stretch four. Which they'd probably love.

          • Chris O

            hahaha, love it

  • zebulon

    "(It seems to me that one of the reasons you rarely see Robinson dunk in a game is because he’s not effective taking the ball to the hoop against larger defenders. And that’s pretty much all of them. He remains a prime candidate to have his shot blocked in those scenarios, which is why he usually drives to pass or settles for pull-up jumpers)."

    This is blatantly untrue! Remember the piece Zach wrote about Nate's contributions when we first traded for him? His biggest ability, after his 3-point shooting, was the ease with which he got to the rim. In his four years with New York, Nate averaged between 4.1 and 5.5 shots at the rim per 40 minutes.

    Compare that to Rondo's career average of 5.3 shots at the rim per 40 minutes, or his career high of 6.2 (in 2008-09).

    The problem isn't Nate's ability to score – he has proven to be excellent at the two most efficient shots from the field (layups and 3-pointers). Unfortunately, that success happened in New York, in an entirely different system where Nate was given the freedom to play his game/take his shots. Unfortunately, since coming to Boston Nate has no longer used this ability to get to the rim at a high rate. If the coaching staff and Nate can just come up with a way to use him that plays into his strengths, he can be an incredible scoring asset for this team, especially when paired with a second unit that doesn't have any other high level creators (Delonte, Von and Quis can all create their own shot – but not to the extent that Nate proved capable when playing for the Knicks).

    Also, Nate is shooting a career high 68% on shots at the rim this season (albeit on a career low number of attempts).

  • http://www.azizpbrimah.com Zee

    Nate be traded? Not at all! And what playoff series did YOU see last season? Certainly not the one I saw.

    Nate was highly effective in the playoffs against the Lakers. That was when he made his real debut and showed what he was capable of. Remember the famous ‘Shrek and Donkey’ game? Nate and Big Baby single-handedly won that game for us in a series where it REALLY mattered. And ever sincd then, Doc has been using Nate more and more. Its evident this season that Doc and the rest of the team see Nate as a mainstay.

    Also, if you remember, folks were saying (even Doc; and I agree) that Nate has what can’t be seen on the scout report. He brings a very high level of energy to the game. He gets the crowd excited about comebacks and takeovers. When it counts, he consistently hits 3′s and humpers. He comes up with steals. And with his jumping ability he has never been afraid to take it to the hoop. I’ve yet to see him miss a layup (after-all the is a slam dunk champ)! And with his height, he’s harder for men to defend, steal balls from, and any time he goes to the basket against bigger men he automatically gets the foul. And he is great at the FT line. I’m confident in what Nate does at the line and with his game all-around.

    Trade Nate? That shouldn’t even come out of anyones mouth. Nate isn’t a starter, but is best off the bench. He filled in for Rondo as best he could, but he couldn’t help it Delonte went and broke his wrist. Playing point is not his position.

    I’m disappointed in this article, because if anything, it is damaging advice and suggestive almost to a fault.

    Nate has bought in to the Celtics team, and as long as the other cast is there, he should be too.

    Wafer on the other hand? Maybe. Haroungoudy? (sp) Perhaps. I need to see more from them.

    Nate, we love you man. Let’s go get 18!

  • http://www.azizpbrimah.com Zee

    Excuse the typos above. I wrote this on my phone.

  • Ray

    Don't know why the other guys would do it, maybe Wyc would have to pony up some cash but:
    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId

    This guy fills three of the four criteria.

    • JAW

      Was just going to say that Memphis might be looking to dump ToT TA, because they're certainly not getting rid of Mayo.

      • Ryan DeGama

        Not that it means anything in particular but…

        MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Grizzlies teammates O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen were involved in a fight with each other on the flight home from Los Angeles after Sunday night's win over the Lakers, three different sources have told CBSSports.com. Two of those sources said the altercation left Mayo with a noticeably "swollen" face.

        from: http://www.cbssports.com/nba/story/14500965

  • CG12

    I think that if we had to part with Nate to get a top-notch 3-and-D guy at the 3 spot, then I would be okay with that. But not some scrub who MIGHT help. I like Nate, but he is a bit of a square peg on the Cs. The balance between letting Nate do Nate things and making sure Nate plays within the system is very, very tenuous. Nate provides unique energy and firepower off the bench, but ideally the Cs wouldn't need that dimension. It is much more in their character to build and hang onto leads, rather than making comebacks.

    It seems unlikely that the Cs could get someone who would make moving Nate worthwhile. But in light of Von's recent strong play and Delonte's impending return, Nate may find that there aren't a lot of minutes for him. Maybe that will be his role – throw him out there when things aren't going well or the team needs an energy boost and give him cart blanche to make things happen, one way or the other. It makes no sense to play Nate and ask him to be something he isn't.

    • zebulon

      Agreed, 100%.

      Like what Doc said at the beginning of the playoffs last season (paraphrased) – Nate isn't in the rotation, but I guarantee he will win a game for us.

      That seemed like a paradox when he said it, but it turned out to be completely true. Nate won us that Orlando game by injecting the team with energy/scoring in the second quarter when nothing else was working. He played the only role he's great at (explosive and efficient scoring) at a time when the team needed him to do just that. When the regular offense/rotation was working, Nate didn't play.

      I think this is definitely the best use for Nate on the Celtics. If he can also play the 12ish minutes a night we need at the backup point that's great, but if he can't he is still an excellent weapon off the bench for games where our normal offense just isn't working.

  • http://www.anaheimamigos.com Anaheim Amigos

    Even though he hit two 4th quarter three-pointers last night, this guy might need a new home: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId… Maybe we could trade Nate for him?

    • NHBluesMan

      we don't need another Center, and trading Nate AND Wafer would leave us without a back-up shooting guard who can… you know… shoot the ball.

      TA had his chance to stick around, i don't think we should bring him back.

      • Jay P

        Amen to that, people need to stop glorifying TA as some basketball genius. Ya, the guy was alright in the Celtics system, he played some nice D.

        But Daniels this year, playing the way we all knew he could but didn't show up last year, makes TA completely redundant.

        And for all TA's high energy plays and steals, he had his fair share of "jump through the ceiling on balls fakes" as well. To me, Daniels is a far better, and far more complete player.

        I wouldn't trade Wafer right now for anything, he's quickly becoming an important piece of this team… while Robinson is quickly becoming "player most likely to be resident towel waver come playoff time" once West gets back.

  • MDftw

    you act like Nate getting a limited role in the playoffs is a bad thing… that his ideal role for this team

    the starters are too good to have any bench player come in and get serious minutes (20+) off the bench consistently when the games matter… with the exception of the bigs… Shaq / Baby in particular

    I cant imagine the Cs acquiring a higher quality player by trading… even if they threw von in the deal

  • NHBluesMan

    Nate will be fine once Delonte comes back. if you remember, they were a deadly combo before D-West broke his wrist.

  • Rachel

    Nate is my least favorite Celtic. his ball handling is often sloppy and his decision making is poor. He was pretty clutch in the playoffs last year, but I haven't been as impressed with his production since. And Marquis Daniels has proven to have that "spark off the bench" quality that seems to be Nate's top contribution.

    TA was problematic in many respects, but he played lock-down defense, which is potentially just as important as offensive production in terms of spelling Pierce in the playoffs. The whole Celtics approach hinges on each player conforming themselves to Celtics-style ball. What is so special about Nate that we have to "let Nate be Nate" when everyone else has to be a Celtic?

    bottom line though, I can't see the front office trading him unless they're pretty confident they can do a lot better.

    • Jay P

      Because we're talking about the difference in changing defensive or offensive mind sets. It's far easier to get a player, who's never learned to play defense, to adapt to the Celtics system, then to take a player, who's never been able to be a point guard and say… be a point guard.

      Nate's defense hasn't been awful, at times his ball pressure is great. But he tends to get caught around screens a lot, and sometimes just doesn't have the height to recover and contest (he can be there, but still not able to contest the shot, because he has to time his jump so perfectly to make up the 3-6 inches he's almost always giving up.)

      But, those defensive limitations can be dealt with, if he's scoring (we can live with a bench +/- player, but not a -/-) so the issue comes down to his use in the offense. Which, telling him to be a point guard, simply will not work, as we've seen.

  • hdavenport

    Brewer does fit a lot of the above criteria, but he's doing the opposite of improving his range right now. Terrible from outside so far this year.

    • zebulon

      BUT he plays on the timberwolves, who always want more PG's, so we could probably get him for a package headlining Avery Bradley (who would actually be the best defender at the PG for the wolves. Maybe their best defender overall). And I would take that trade, probably.

  • Jay P

    His problems getting shots at the rim stem from him not being aggressive enough. He's not attacking, because he's trying to be Rondo. He needs to start looking for his own offense when he gets the ball in his hands. But that means Daniels needs to run the point and facilitate when he's on the court.

    Nate is at his best when he's able to work off the ball, in my opinion, come around screens to get a step ahead of the defender, and catch the ball going to the rim, or if the defender gets caught, catch and shoot. This is where he'll be at his best.

  • skeeds

    I'm affraid that Nate of all the Celtics is playing out of his comfort zone this year so far. Doc and Ainge were smart as hell. Getting Delonte, a great PG with a bigger build, would enable them to play Nate at the SG on offence and switch to the PG on D when needed, letting West guard the bigger body.
    But the way things turn out, the C's haven't had time to work it out. I say keep Nate, he can play d when you force him,(he did last year), he's a very very useful scorer, and just be patient. If everyone gets back and healthy by early February, hopefully there's just time to tighten the lineup for the playoffs. If last years bench managed to help the Celtics, this bench is gonna win a championship.

  • Morpheus

    I would definitely be open to trading Nate if it bags us a defensive, 3D type player like Tayshaun or Battier, Pietrus, Garcia…. LOVE HIM. I think i've seen too many BONEHEADED plays from Nate and BRICK AFTER BRICK and settling for long 2s rather than attacking the basket. That and those "make you wanna throw the remote at the TV" quick pull up 3s in transition……I HATE THOSE.

  • DRJ1

    Pretty simple, really. If the right deal comes along, you make it. There's certainly nothing about Nate that makes him NECESSARY in Boston. So it comes down to the deal. Pretty sure that's how Danny will see it. And not just with Nate. Avery, Luke, Semih, Von and Baby are probably in the same boat with Nate. And if I were JO, I'd consider myself there too.

    • KBA

      right on the money… if there is a good offer out there, why not make a deal if it seems worth it. pietrus is certainly I would love to have. But as stated above somewhere, having West or Quis play the PG on offense, and Nate PG on defense should work fine. He can provide good offense off the ball and guard PGs, but not most two guards.

  • Dan

    What about Jared Dudley? Or perhaps if Phoenix can't live without him, then Pietrus. Seems like PHX has two of the exact type of player the Celtics need. In fact, they have 3 if you consider Grant whose in his last year anyways.

    Nate on his own obviously wouldn't be enough. Before the Orl-PHX trade Semi would have been a nice chip for PHX, but now they don't need him. Orlando does need some size, but they don't have any extra wing defender anymore. So that one trade hurt the Celtics chances.

  • rob

    stephen jackson? not exactly a great defender but has size and can shoot the 3

  • http://www.azizpbrimah.com Zee

    See how Nate came right in scoring big shots? Exactly.

  • JP-

    Peitrus would be a great fit for Boston, nit sure if he is available or even if the Celtics have enough to reasonably get him

  • hokianga

    i think that once west comes back and youd have him nate and quis that looks good to me!! west and quis share ball handling nate guards other teams back up pg on d.

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