Why Nate Robinson Is the Best Value in the NBA

Kelly ScalettaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2013

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 18:  Nate Robinson #2 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a shot against Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics during the game on January 18, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Nate “the Skate” Robinson is one of the most intriguing and exciting players in the NBA. He’s easily one of the best pound for pound players in the league. This year, he’s also best value, dollar for dollar.

He signed a minimum, non-guaranteed contract. In return, he has given the Bulls 11.8 points and 4.1 assists per game. He is 64th in the NBA in Win Shares (WS). No player in the league with at least 1000 minutes played has more Win Shares per 48 minutes (WS/48).

Nor is there any player with a higher Player Efficiency Rating (PER) than Robinson’s 17.7 who is on a minimum contract (unless you count Andray Blatche, whose amnesty makes him higher paid, albeit by two different teams).

Effectively, this makes Robinson, quite literally the best value in the league. No player brings a greater return on the team’s investment. He is projected to end up with about 6.1 WS this season, which means he’ll make about $140,983 per win he adds to the Bulls.

Putting this into perspective, compare Robinson to LeBron James, who, for a superstar and MVP, has an amazingly high-value contract. Remember, he did take less money to play in Miami. (And no, he doesn’t have to pay state income tax in Florida, but he could have gotten a max contract without paying taxes there too.)

James should end up with around 21 Win Shares this season. He’s making “just” $17.5 million. While that’s a great value for a superstar, the Heat are paying him $833,333 per win, almost Robinson’s entire season salary.

Another good value is J.J. Hickson of the Portland Trailblazers. He’s only making $4 million this year, and he’s averaging 13.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, making him one of 12 players in the NBA averaging double-digits in both scoring and rebounding. He has 5.5 WS and is being paid a mere $4 million.

His 8.1 projected WS means he’ll be paid about $493,827 per win by the Trail Blazers, over triple what Robinson is being paid per win.  

Second-year player, Nikola Vucevic or the Orlando Magic is posting some impressive numbers, averaging 12.1 points and 11.4 rebounds a game, making him another of the double-double machines. Only he’s making a piddly $2.8 million this year. His projected cost per win comes out to $450,819.

Isaiah Thomas is dynamic in his second year playing for the Sacramento Kings. He’s making about a hundred grand less than Nate Robinson because he is a second-round player on his rookie contract. It’s literally impossible to give a guaranteed contract for less money.

He’s also providing fewer wins than Robinson does, giving the Kings just 2.6 win shares. His projected cost per win is $200,526—still about 30 percent more than Robinson’s.

Robinson is the highest value player in the NBA. The math says so. That doesn’t mean he’s perfect.

Robinson is not a great player. He certainly has his flaws. There are times where he’ll stun you by passing the ball—not because of the quality of the passes, but because of the actual fact that he passed.

He’s as streaky as they come, and when he’s missing, he’s really missing. He’s had 26 games this season where he shot .400 or below from the field. He’s also had 19 games where he’s shot .500 or better.

He’s dubbed Nate “the Skate” but Nate “the Fate” would be more apropos. The Bulls are 15-4 when he shoots .500 or above compared to 11-15 when he’s .400 or worse.

Streaky or not, Robinson is still providing a lot for a player getting little pay in return. His energy off the bench is amazing.

Even weighing the good with the bad, it’s hard not to argue that Robinson is the best value in the league.

A little known fact about Robinson is that if you store a dead smart phone in his pocket for 10 minutes it will come out fully charged.

The United Center has seen its electricity bill drop 5.9 percent this year by having Robinson run on a hamster wheel during halftime.