Every year around this time ESPN introduces its annual #NBArank series codifying all 500 players in the NBA from least to most valuable. Last year Roundball Mining Company decided to get in on the action and began ranking each of the players on the Denver Nuggets’ final 15-man roster in the same fashion. We’ve polled all seven of our writers, asking them to arrange each player on the Nuggets roster from one to 15 (one being the best, 15 the least valuable), then we added everyone’s scores together to come up with a single, definitive list of the 15 “most valuable” Denver Nuggets. Checking in at number six is newcomer Nate Robinson.
Robinson, entering his ninth NBA season, is one of the most polarizing Nuggets players in recent memory. Both his strengths and his shortcomings are abundant, which explains why he was available late in free agency for only the bi-annual exception.
Robinson is one of the league’s fastest players with the ball in his hands, but his speed does not always translate into easy looks. Only 28% of his shots last year were in the paint, with 34% of his shots being long two pointers and 38% from behind the arc. (For comparison, Ty Lawson took 47% of his shots at the rim, 29% were long two pointers, and 24% came from behind the arc.) Robinson is an above-average three point shooter for his career, and was one of the league’s best volume shooters last season, but will need to resist the temptation to settle for long two point jumpers. He is also willing and capable passer, posting an assist rate of over 30% and an assist to turnover ratio of 2.7 over the last two seasons.
Robinson’s small stature limits his effectiveness as a one on one defender and his effort was lacking during the early part of his career with the Knicks. During his tenure with the Celtics and Bulls he showed a capability of playing fundamentally sound defense within a strong team concept. If he reverts to old habits he could be a significant liability, but if he brings the sort of effort he showed in Chicago and Boston he could provide real defensive leadership to a team that has lacked that trait.
Leadership may be where Nate Robinson has the biggest influence. The Nuggets have few veterans and little playoff experience beyond the first round. Robinson has played meaningful minutes in the NBA Finals and can bring that perspective to a young team. Unfortunately, he has also had his fair share of attitude problems and off-court incidents, which could be detrimental to a young team. He is at a crossroads in his career, with the ability to become a solid veteran contributor and mentor or to become a distracting sideshow.
Entering the season Robinson seems to be the leading candidate to back up Ty Lawson. If he can show maturity while running the offense at a Lawson-like pace, distribute the ball, shoot well, and play his role within the team defense, opposing benches will dread playing against Denver. If not, he could find himself on the sidelines watching Andre Miller’s YMCA moves.
15. Anthony Randolph
14. Quincy Miller
13. Timofey Mozgov
12. Jordan Hamilton
11. Randy Foye
10. Darrell Arthur
9. J.J. Hickson
8. Andre Miller
7. Evan Fournier
6. Nate Robinson