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Making a case for Glenn Robinson III to start for the Indiana Pacers

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In his fourth NBA season, Glenn Robinson III will get his biggest opportunity with the Indiana Pacers.

NBA: New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, TJ Leaf, and (of course) Lance Stephenson - Pacers fans have been talking about them for months.

They should be talking about Glenn Robinson III too.

Head coach Nate McMillan plans to start Bojan Bogdanovic at small forward on the first day of training camp, but to me, it’s Glenn Robinson III’s position to lose.

Last season, GRIII started 27 games for the Pacers as he averaged 7.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 29.4 minutes per game as a starter. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, his continuous development deserves opportunity. The 23-year-old is entering the third and final year of his contract, and he will have his biggest opportunity yet.

Here are four and a half reasons why Glenn Robinson III should start for the Indiana Pacers in 2017-18:

Long-term continuity

I think you have to be bold in this position but the one thing I’ve learned from Larry is how important continuity is,” Kevin Pritchard told the media after being announced as the new Pacers President of Basketball Operations.

Robinson, an Indiana native, has spent the last two seasons with the Pacers. Two seasons doesn’t sound like much, but it does when you realize no other player on the roster has been in Indiana any longer (except Lance Stephenson if you include his first Pacers stint).

Even if you discount the last two seasons due to the rebuild, Robinson is more likely to remain in Indiana long-term due to Boganovic’s partial guarantee in the second year of his deal.

If the Pacers have intentions to ink Robinson to a long-term deal in 2018, his minutes with Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo are increasingly valuable. If the Pacers aren’t certain about signing Robinson to a long-term deal, his minutes with Turner and Oladipo at least allow an evaluation opportunity while not sacrificing many wins, if any at all.

Robinson’s history and potential future with the Pacers is a significant reason to get starting minutes. If Pritchard truly values continuity, it makes sense to give the Slam Dunk Champion a starting role.

Defensive edge

Though Robinson is not yet as talented offensively as Bogdanovic, Robinson fairs better on the defensive end. The numbers support that claim, too. Last season, Bogdanovic posted a -3.1 defensive box plus-minus and 113 defensive net rating, while Robinson recorded a -0.2 and 110, respectively.

GRIII is not an elite defender by any means, but he’s not a liability either.

For the last two seasons, Robinson has made a significant difference on the defensive end - especially when substituting for Monta Ellis in the Jeff Teague-Paul George-Thad Young-Myles Turner lineup. With Ellis included, that group posted a -0.2 net rating - per NBA. When Robinson replaced Ellis’s spot in the lineup, the group posted a 7.8 net rating.

Robinson is defensively competent, and he continues to develop as one of the best perimeter defenders on the roster. The Pacers might not be scoring a ton of points, but Oladipo, Turner, and GRIII could develop defensive chemistry to build on for years to come.

Offensive development

Here’s a look at Robinson’s offensive numbers over his two seasons with the franchise:

Glenn Robinson III Stats

Year MIN FG% 3PA 3P% TS% PTS REB AST
Year MIN FG% 3PA 3P% TS% PTS REB AST
2014-15 7.5 38.8% 0.5 26.3% 47.1% 2.1 1.1 0.3
2015-16 11.3 43.0% 0.8 37.8% 50.8% 3.8 1.5 0.6
2016-17 20.7 46.7% 1.8 39.2% 56.4% 6.1 3.6 0.7
Per Basketball-Reference.com

The increase in Glenn’s minutes contribute to his increased production, but his offensive development as a whole is what led to his increased shooting percentages. Robinson has started to find his role and, more importantly, confidence on the offensive end.

Robinson’s numbers aren’t eye-opening, but they are improving. His development in all facets of the game should earn minutes.

Athleticism

Pritchard mentioned his desire to surround Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo with athletic, tough players.

Isn’t that what Glenn Robinson III is?

He’s athletic - we know that - even for a professional athlete.

Athletes like Robinson are important to this team if the Pacers insist on playing faster and switching defensively. We’ve seen how detrimental poor individual defenders such as Monta Ellis, Aaron Brooks, and Rodney Stuckey have been to the defense in recent years. Starting Glenn would be a step towards solving the problem; starting Bojan would be recreating it.

The Slam Dunk Champion’s athleticism is an asset on both ends of the court, and it could help fuel the uptempo pace the Pacers are looking for.

Home state

This is the ‘half reason’ you were wondering about earlier. Seriously, c’mon, who doesn’t want to root for the kid from Indiana? Robinson’s home state should never be a reason for his minutes or even his spot on the roster, and it hopefully won’t, but what do the Indiana Pacers have to lose?

There you have it - four and a half reasons why Glenn Robinson III should get the starting nod come October.

Now, of course, there are many reasons to start Bojan Bogdanovic over Robinson as well. He’s a bigger, better offensive player and has spent many minutes developing chemistry alongside Thad Young in Brooklyn.

Yet if it were up to me, GRIII would likely be the starter on day one - not because he is better, but because he could be a piece to this puzzle for a long time.