After an extended preseason look at the new Chicago Bulls roster, there is a lot for fans to be excited about. The starters have performed, Derrick Rose replacement Kirk Hinrich has looked good, and there’s little reason to doubt that Chicago will be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
While there is still a lot for Tom Thibodeau to figure out before the regular season starts, one thing has become apparent: If the Bulls want to maximize success in 2013, Nate Robinson needs major minutes.
Robinson exploded in his first start as a Bull, finishing with 24 points, 13 assists, four steals and four threes in a 100-94 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, it’s only one start. And it’s preseason. And he struggled prior to the 24-point outburst. But there is tons to like here, and Robinson adds a dynamic to the offense that can’t be paralleled with Rose on the shelf. His explosiveness and instant offense is a welcome addition to a Bulls roster that is looking for points while the former MVP recovers.
Though Robinson drew the start while Hinrich sat out with a thumb injury, it was back to the bench for the veteran guard in the next contest. The former dunk champion saw only 15 minutes off the bench against the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday, finishing with six points and four assists. Hinrich didn’t fare well in his return, turning the ball over five times while scoring five points and dishing out eight assists.
15 minutes is not enough for someone with the ability to take over a game. I believe Robinson has that, and just needs minutes to become a serious performer for the Bulls this season. While some think he only scores, his assist numbers are higher than many think. Others believe he turns the ball over too much. A stat that combines these two: assist-to-turnover ratio. Robinson’s in 2011-12: 3.08, good for 6th in the NBA.
This isn’t a motion to insert him in the starting lineup. I think Hinrich runs the offense well, and I don’t have a problem with his play thus far. However, I do think that Robinson should be playing serious minutes every night. He’s not a Thibodeau-type player, and I hope that the coach sees the reward and looks past the flashy, fun style that he loathes so much.
The team is still working out its rotations, and I hope come the regular season Robinson is a main contributor. He’s a game changer and a sparkplug, two assets that Chicago will need while Rose waits for medical clearance. I hope I don’t have to start the #FreeNate hashtag any time soon, but I hope he isn’t underutilized in Thibodeau’s strict system.
Zach Mink covers the Chicago Bulls for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @zachmink12 for more news and analysis.