Should the Heat be interested in Nate Robinson?
Some of us that were watching the second quarter of tonight’s Celtics/Magic game may be contemplating the possibility of adding Nate Robinson to play the point for the Heat next season. After all, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
It may surprise you to know that the Heat did express an interest in Robinson at the trade deadline last season. But why would the Heat, a team known for its size deficiency in the backcourt, pursue the smallest player in the game today?
Nate’s lack of height is the first thing that comes to mind about him as a player. He is listed at 5’9″, making him one of the shortest players in league history (Muggsy Bogues, drafted twelfth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets, was a starting point guard at a shocking 5’3″), yet his height is the only thing that makes him a point guard. He’s really a shooting guard masquerading at the point. He has a scorer’s skillset and a scorer’s mentality, playing point guard only by default. He tends to look for his own shot rather than to set up others and can get wildly out of control at times. Robinson’s jump shot is also inconsistent, and he takes more three pointers than his conversion rate would suggest he should.
The flip side is that he brings tremendous energy to the game whenever he enters, and despite his size is capable of getting his shots off due to an explosive first step and impressive leaping ability. His defense is surprisingly effective for 5’9″ player, where his combination of strength and supreme athleticism allow him to stay in front of players far bigger than he is. Unfortunately, they’ll always be able to shoot over him.
Robinson is a high quality player as we saw tonight, despite the fact that God seems to have forgotten to grant him those final four inches. Even if his size worries you, his tunnel vision alarms you, and his swagger outright annoys you, you’d be hard pressed to deny his talent. He can flat out score in this league.
One can see why the Heat expressed an interest. He’s such a difficult force for opponents to contain, he’d be a perfect volume scorer off the bench – something the Heat has been desperately lacking for years. But his physical limitations and his temperament suggest he can never be anything more.
Simply stated, Robinson doesn’t work in South Florida. His skill set does not match the Heat’s need in the starting rotation – Miami needs more of a floor general, who can space the floor and contribute quality defense – and his value would price him out of the Heat’s range as a second unit contributor.
Still, you can’t help but feel bad for the guy.
His status as a restricted free agent forced him to accept a below market $4 million contract with the Knicks this past season. After being traded at the February deadline, Robinson saw action in all but five games with the Celtics. The first three missed contests were right after he got traded, and then there were two random ones in April. Those random ones were an issue of much debate. It saved the club $2 million.
A clause in Robinson’s contract called for him to make a $1 million bonus if he both played in at least 58 regular season games and made the playoffs this season. Well, he clearly made the playoffs. But he played in just 56 regular season games. As a result, the Celtics saved the $1 million they would have paid Robinson and an additional $1 million they would have owed in luxury tax. With 10 days left in the season, he remained on track to get paid. He’d played in 20 straight games, averaging 15 minutes a night, and was doing quite well. But then Robinson suddenly got two dreaded “Did Not Play – Coaches Decision”s, and the money disappeared.
Robinson will get the contract he deserves in the offseason. But it won’t be in Miami.