Glenn Robinson III Needs to Prove His Worth as a Starter

Glenn Robinson III has gotten a chance to show his worth for the Pacers amidst a Monta Ellis injury.

Glenn Robinson III was projected to receive his fair share of minutes this season simply due to the jump in his game exhibited over the offseason. Unfortunately, those minutes arrived, but in the worst of circumstances — the injury of other players. Between the injuries to Paul George, Monta Ellis, and C.J. Miles, Robinson has netted nine starting bids in the 26 games the Pacers have played so far this season.

His first few games as a starter, which stemmed from the recent George injury, were wonderful. GR3-mania was in full-swing as Robinson averaged 15.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game during his first stint in the starting lineup, shooting 49.1% from the field and 52.4% from deep in the five-game span.

PG returned, however, and GR3 was back to his usual self, getting about 10 minutes a game and not doing much with them. Questions have arisen — like “Can GR3 be a quality bench player?”, “Does he need the starters to pick him up for him to have worth?”, and “Should GR3 start just to get the most possible out of him?”. These questions were discussed during staff writer Jon Washburn’s defense of GR3 in this roundtable, though the most crucial remark was this:

It’s possible that Robinson is not going to be an NBA rotation player (I mused as much this pre-season myself), but wouldn’t it be good to really discover what you have in him? If he busts, then the team can move on.

But he might hit, and if he does, then the Pacers have another young starter to play around Paul George and Myles Turner, and potentially one more reason for Paul George to stay when he looks at his free agent options.

Robinson has been a rollercoaster, for sure. There are times when he doesn’t look like he should be in the NBA, and there are others when he looks like a budding star. But, he’s the only young player on this offense (outside of Turner, obviously) who has a legitimate shot at becoming something in this league.

Robinson is also restless. His ultimate goal in this league isn’t to be a rotational guy. He recently said in an interview that he has “been on the bench for way too long”.

“I think when another role guy goes down, this opportunity that I’m given, I’m really trying to keep it,” Robinson said. “That’s my job (to) come in competitive and to come in wanting to keep that spot. Like I said from the beginning of the season, I’ve been on the bench way too long (and I’m) trying to get back (in the starting lineup). Obviously, that’s what I’m trying to do, that’s my goal, but in the end, it’s on Nate to make that decision.”

For now, McMillan has decided to keep Robinson in the starting lineup, as only a few games after his return to the bench Ellis came down with the injury bug. While the team has performed well with Robinson in the starting lineup, the last four games haven’t been quite as successful for him individually.

Over the new stretch of the GR3 Starter Experience, Robinson has been averaging 5.8 points per contest, but he’s notched a solid 7.3 rebounds per game to boot. The real deficit comes from the assist column. Robinson averaged one mere assist per game over the last four games, and that’s not just an anomaly. Robinson this season — starter or not — has not eclipsed 2 assists in any game this season.

This is a gross difference from Ellis, who is currently averaging almost 4 assists per game this year despite playing next to traditional point-guard Jeff Teague. GR3 may be improved by the other starters, sure, but it seems as if GR3 isn’t the type of player who can improve other starters himself.

That’s important to note, as the current starting lineup is a lot closer to what it would realistically look like in the scenario that Robinson becomes a starter full-time. In Robinson’s explosive first five games as a starter, he was playing alongside Teague and Ellis and playing without George. If that was the cause of his point inflation, it can’t be something that can be expected to continue if and when he’s a full-time starter.

The good news is, even though he may not be actively improving his fellow teammates, he’s not actively harming his fellow team. Robinson has only registered one turnover in his four recent games as a starter. Not one turnover per game —literally, one turnover. He’s basically been a Lavoy Allen as a starter — someone you can trust on the floor at all times, but not someone that produces at a star level.

The difference between Allen and Robinson is that we know Robinson can kick it to that next level. He’s shown it many times, during games where he started and games where he came off of the bench. It’s not fair to judge him based on four games, but this was his big opportunity to show why he deserves to start over Ellis, and he hasn’t necessarily made a convincing case.

The team didn’t really change due to Robinson’s starting role over the last four games either; they still are the same unpredictable Pacers. In the past four games, Indiana has lost a game to a team that they shouldn’t have lost to in Miami, lost a game to a team that they really shouldn’t have lost to in New Orleans, and blew out teams that they probably shouldn’t have blown out in Detroit and Charlotte.

Robinson will get his next chance tonight against the Washington Wizards. While Ellis still hasn’t returned from his groin injury, he could be back very soon.

If Robinson wants to keep his spot in the starting lineup, he has to prove that he can do a little more individually on the court with the other starters. Time is of the essence, and it’s time for GR3 to show that his potential as a star is more than just that.

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