According to Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago, the Chicago Bulls are not expected to re-sign Nate Robinson this summer. This comes during an odd time for the Bulls, as they're mere weeks removed from Robinson leading them through the postseason.
Plain and simple, the Bulls cannot afford to let Robinson walk.
Robinson was sensational during both the regular season and playoffs, nearly matching a fourth-quarter scoring record set by Michael Jordan and pushing Chicago past the Brooklyn Nets. Even without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, Lil' Nate came through.
At this point, however, it appears as if his time with Chicago is running thin:
"You have to look at all the aspects of what we're doing, where we are salary-cap wise, what the market calls for," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Nate had a great year. So we'll evaluate it moving forward."
"The thing is about Nate, and again I thought he had a very good year, but in the last month and a half I thought he and Kirk played extremely well together, and Nate was more at the two. I like that versatility, so I wouldn't rule anything out."
Undersized or not, Robinson was beyond effective.
The 29-year-old finished the season with averages of 13.1 points and 4.4 assists in 25.4 minutes of action. He shot 40.5 percent from three-point range and ranked in the top 20 among point guards with a player-efficiency rating of 17.43.
This exceptionally efficient season comes as Robinson was 10th among all point guards in usage rate—a sign that the little guard can be used in big doses.
The Chicago Bulls have an elite starting lineup, as evidenced by the fact that they reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals without Derrick Rose. With that being said, Chicago has lacked a sixth-man-of-the-year type that can step in and provide instant offense.
Nate Robinson can be that player.
After the All-Star break, Robinson saw an increase in minutes, and his numbers went up with it. After going for 12.0 points and 4.2 assists in 23.8 minutes, Robinson upped the ante by tallying 15.0 points and 4.7 assists in 28.4 minutes.
Robinson shot better than 40.0 percent from beyond the arc both before and after the All-Star break.
Furthermore, Robinson proved that, regardless of how many minutes he receives, he now knows how to score and facilitate in an efficient manner. That isn't just a one-way deal where he can do more in fewer minutes, but instead a sign that he can take on a heavy burden, as well.
Lord knows Chicago needs a point guard who can offer that type of security.
The D-Rose Factor
Derrick Rose is a former league MVP, a perennial All-Star selection and one of the better clutch performers in the NBA. He's also coming off of back-to-back seasons in which injuries kept him off of the court.
Don't think for a second that the well-documented torn ACL was the only issue he's been battling.
In 2011-12, Rose played in 39 of a possible 66 games for the Chicago Bulls. During that time, Rose battled five separate injuries before he tore his ACL.
I repeat, five separate injuries.
Throw in a season-ending torn ACL, and you have yourself a list of injuries that suggests aggravation is a legitimate possibility—something Chicago cannot let derail its season.
Uncertainty at Point Guard
If Kirk Hinrich can remain healthy for the better part of 82 games and play through the entirety of the postseason, this conversation may not be necessary. Hinrich is one of the best defenders at his position and manages the game as well as you could ask of him.
With that being said, the Bulls are preparing to enter the 2013-14 season with their success resting on the shoulders of Hinrich, Derrick Rose and Marquis Teague—two injury-prone point guards and a second-year player with minimal experience.
Should the Bulls re-sign Nate Robinson, however, they would have the comfort of knowing that a proven postseason performer is on their roster. It's also encouraging to know that Robinson played in all 82 regular-season games.
When it comes right down to it, the Bulls simply do not have enough reason for confidence in their current point-guard situation to let Robinson walk.