Following a breakout sophomore season from Duncan Robinson, leading into a Finals run in the bubble, it was going to be hard to reiterate that same effectiveness in his third season.
He was on the top of scouting reports, teams were fronting his perimeter movement, and open threes were impossible. With him adjusting to all of this, he had a bit of a rough start to the season. But well, a “rough start” for Robinson is a normal start for others.
He ended up finishing his third season with a very similar stat-line, including 13 points a game, knocking down 3.5 threes a game on 41% shooting from deep. Yeah, I guess that isn’t too bad.
Speaking of those “adjustments,” they were being thrown at him from every direction. Starting his sets a few steps behind the three-point line to maximize spacing, sprinkling in some back-cuts to keep defenders honest, and accepting the decoy role when it was needed.
But there’s still one necessary step to truly elevate his game at this stage. It doesn’t involve excessive dribbling. It doesn’t involve hard attacks to the basket out of his comfort zone.
It’s rather simple: one pump-fake, two dribbles, and a pull-up.
It is something that I even brought up in the previous off-season, but obviously in limited time, that was a high expectation. But although we didn’t see it much this season, there were some glimpses that showed it’ll be easier to develop than originally expected.
When I stated that Robinson had to start certain actions farther from the three-point line, the clip above further proves that. He runs a high pick and roll with Bam Adebayo, which allows him to flow downhill and stop and pop at the perimeter for a pull-up triple.
The reason that’s important to note is to show the mechanics are there. Most of the time for catch and shoot players like himself, the stuff that comes before the actual release is the hardest part when forming a mid-range shot. The ability to have good balance on the abrupt stop, the comfortability with lifting following the two dribbles, and overall body control.
Getting those type of reps are setting him up for that next step of developing a mid-range game to a certain degree. It’s not that he will use it a ton, but it must be an option. If the shot isn’t there, defenses know the next option is a pocket pass or a simple swing. Once that expands, the game becomes much easier for him, yet much harder for the guy on the other side of the ball.
The most important part about this move is that it can be used in many different ways, meaning Erik Spoelstra can have a field day with opening up one of his favorite offensive weapons.
In the first clip above, we see a way it can be utilized as an off-ball threat, as he curls off the off-ball screen and catches in stride. If he can get to the rim, that will always be an option, since he’s very efficient once he gets down there. But there won’t seem to be many opportunities to get down there with ease considering his current skill-set.
Three defenders collapse once they see what is developing, but simply, there’s nothing they can do about that free throw line pull-up.
And by the way, not to stray off the topic too far, but there’s another minor reason this play worked: the Max Strus usage. That off-ball corner distraction pulls away those two defenders from the on-ball action, giving them the space they need. If Strus does end up getting rotational minutes as expected, that is why those two can be used together in beneficial ways.
The second clip above is just Robinson playing freely. It’s an awkward possession after the ball almost rolls past half-court, leading to him avoiding the screen to drive hard, before stopping at a dead spot once again.
Another area his deep ball shooting has really prepared him for is the overall offensive feel with the ball in his hands. As much as we discuss his gravity, that means that defenders are constantly flying around him from every direction. Due to that, he has developed a natural feel to find the spots on the floor that he can fire away.
This one simple move may not seem like it holds high importance, but it absolutely does. He already has the attributes that make him highly effective in this league, but now it’s all about finding ways to open that up more.
And when defenders are sprinting out for contests, mixing in that pump-fake, two-dribble pull-up can change the game for him next season. Obviously improving on-ball defense more and more will be a huge priority, but it wouldn’t shock me if this has been the main thing being harped on this entire off-season.
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