Would Robinson Still be Dominant In The NBA?

Project Spurs begins its final day of its David Robinson tribute week with an analysis by Jon Lee of Accuscore.  In this analysis, Jon shows how a young David Robinson would impact the Orlando Magic and how an older David Robinson would impact the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Seems the Admiral would still be dominant in today’s game.  Follow Jon on Twitter.     

By Jonathan Lee, AccuScore Analyst

David Robinson being inducted into the Hall of Fame offers plenty of time for fans of the Spurs and of basketball to reminisce.  Everybody remembers the accolades (ROY, All-NBA, Defensive POY, MVP), the quad-double, the 71-point game, the Olympics, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.  He was a great player carrying San Antonio through his prime, then evolving into the perfect complement to Tim Duncan en route to two titles.

But who in today’s NBA compares, and what kind of impact could he make today?  To answer that question AccuScore took a look at the Admiral in a couple different scenarios.

Up first is Robinson replacing Dwight Howard in Orlando.  The Magic made a strong run to the title, and with several offseason moves are positioned once again to compete against the elite basketball has to offer.  Howard (with Yao out for the year) is unquestionably the most dominant center today.

Just 23 years of age last season, Howard’s career average and 08-09 numbers look like this:

 

PTS

REB

AST

BLK

STL

TO

FG %

FT %

Career

17.3

12.5

1.4

2.0

0.89

2.95

.568

.601

08-09

20.6

13.8

1.4

2.92

.97

3.04

.572

.594

Robinson of course spent time in the Navy before coming over to the NBA, so he was a bit older in his first couple years, but his numbers in his first two seasons (89-91 at age 24 and 25) are staggering:

 

PTS

REB

AST

BLK

STL

TO

FG %

FT %

2 Season Average

24.96

12.48

2.27

3.90

1.62

3.21

.542

.747

Put that young Robinson on the Magic instead of Howard and that completely changes the complexion of last year’s Finals:

ORLANDO BEATS LAKERS

%

w/ Howard

26.6%

w/ Robinson

34.6%

Robinson Impact

8.0%

AccuScore simulations show Robinson would have improved the Magic’s chances by 8% in each game.  That’s nothing to sneeze at.  Over the course of a full season that could amount to as many as 6 or 7 wins (improvement with Robinson would be negligible against vastly inferior teams so the total +win amount would be less).

The big difference between the two is that Robinson was a complete player once he hit the NBA hardwood.  He was at least Howard’s equal on defense (personally I think he was better) but was a far more dominant player on offense.  Howard’s famous deficiency is the complete lack of a post game outside of putbacks and dunks.  His best offensive move is an offensive rebound.  Robinson by contrast had a complement of moves in the post, with the most striking improvement being his range with the jumper.

ORLANDO 2009-2010

WINS

WIN DIV

Baseline w/ Howard

59.4

85.3%

w/ Robinson ’89-93

61.0

89.5%

Robinson Impact

1.6

4.2%

Next season AccuScore projections peg the Magic for 59 wins.  A composite version of Robinson in his first four seasons would improve their outlook by nearly 2 wins for the same reasons he would have made a difference against the Lakers.

Even late in his career the Admiral remained effective even with diminished minutes, and a much smaller role alongside Duncan.  Robinson was a still an efficient player, and a force on defense ranking 6th in blocks in 2001 and top 3 in defensive rating in each of his last three seasons.  More importantly he understood that the Spurs were Tim Duncan’s team and was perfect as a role player on the court and in the locker room.

One player that isn’t making the transition into the twilight of his career as well is Shaquille O’Neal.  Shaq has left in his wake tarnished memories and broken relationships in Orlando, L.A., Miami, and now Phoenix.  Now that he’s with Cleveland he is supposed to help deliver LeBron a title.  A late career Admiral probably would be a better choice simply because he would undoubtedly would be the good soldier (had to get in at least one military allusion) and play his role.  Will Shaq allow LeBron to be the man without trying to take up the spotlight?  Time will tell.

The numbers support my claim that even an older diminished Robinson would be better for Cleveland this upcoming season than Shaq:

CLEVELAND 2009-2010

WINS

WIN DIV

Baseline w/ O’Neal

65.2

98.1%

w/ Robinson ’98-01

66.2

98.5%

Robinson Impact

1.0

0.4%

Robinson would improve Cleveland’s outlook by one game, and would probably make the season much more drama free.

David Robinson is being enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the best class ever.  Even though he might be overshadowed by Jordan, it should not be forgotten just how dominant a player the Admiral was.  As good as fans might think the current generation of players is, Robinson was just as good a center as any playing today.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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