Duncan Robinson’s Major Improvements Don’t Include Shooting

Duncan Robinson has been rolling post trade-deadline, which may tell you exactly why there were some struggles occurring recently. Since the trade deadline, he’s knocked down 14 triples over the course of three games, shooting 58% from beyond the arc.

Although his jumper is looking as good as ever, that’s not the approach I’m taking today when discussing Robinson. He had one of the best all-around games of the season against the New York Knicks on Monday night, mostly due to playing a bit looser than usual on both sides of the floor.

So, let’s get right into it, and dive into Robinson’s major improvements aside from shooting the basketball.

– Play-Making

This play begins with the usual off-ball screen for Robinson, then reversing back into a dribble hand-off to try and find an open look. The only difference is that he is given a wide open baseline, which looks to be open on most nights as teams overplay the three-point line.

So, that means he must make them pay for it, which he did here, as well as many times throughout the game. On this play, he forces the Knicks defense into a rotation scramble, leading to the dump-off to Jimmy Butler on a great cut to the basket, then the extra pass to Bam Adebayo for the dunk.

Although this play ended in a turnover for Miami, that is not the important element to this play. The main part is that Robinson may have recorded a career high in dribbles on this possession, while also making the right read.

He has been much more willing to flow into pick and rolls lately, which is one of the only elements that can truly open up his offensive abilities on the outside. He gets RJ Barrett on his hip on this play, since he’s not expecting a dive to the basket, while also getting Nerlens Noel in the air.

Other than the fumble on the pass, these play-making flashes were fluid throughout the night, which just simply benefits him in the long run.

The defense is expecting the usual pick and pop between Butler and Robinson here, especially since they cleared that side of the floor. Instead, he cuts hard to the basket as Butler hits him in stride, forcing Taj Gibson to step up for the contest.

Robinson makes the correct read once again to find the roaming Precious Achiuwa baseline for the slam. If Robinson can do these types of things consistently, it will allow Coach Spoelstra to get much more creative with the offense. The Heat’s offense wasn’t so dynamic last year just because of Robinson knocking down triples off of dribble hand-offs, but actually since they generated a creative element to their system.

And although teams have eliminated that creative set from their offense, it seems like another one is forming. Victor Oladipo may play a major role in that development, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it includes Robinson being utilized in more actions like this.

This is another one of those plays where the result of the play should not be the part that is harped on. I’ve dove into Robinson’s passing abilities from this game, which is also on display here with a great kick-out on a fast-break, but that isn’t the part that stands out.

They’re two minutes into the fourth quarter at this point, and Tyler Herro just scored 5 straight points for Miami, looking like he was really getting into a flow. So, Robinson not only read the floor, but also the situation, since finding a rolling Herro may not be the worst thing.


– Pocket Pass

The pocket pass from Robinson has been utilized for quite some time now, ever since defenders began to double out on him when he even grazed the ball on the perimeter.

But as seen on this play, that one pass gives Miami a total advantage any time it is utilized. It’s mostly used with Adebayo and Robinson, which I will show next, but the one involving Butler is intriguing as well. Two Knicks defenders are out of the play, leaving the decision making to the high IQ Butler.

He takes it in to get to the free throw line, but this also could’ve led to an open triple. There is one defender on the opposite side covering both Trevor Ariza on the wing and Herro in the corner, which means one kick-out would’ve led to an open three, all because of one bounce pass from Robinson.

Once again, the result isn’t the part that is being observed, since the Knicks actually did a pretty good job of recovering on this play, especially due to a few passes being fumbled across the possession.

But this is the normal Robinson/Adebayo action when running the pick and roll on the wing, since both defenders contain Robinson primarily once again. The reason the Adebayo pull-up jumper is constantly harped on, is because of moments like this, as Robinson hands Adebayo a wide open elbow jumper every time this is run.

This is yet another example of the ability to be even more creative with these actions, like Goran Dragic possibly clearing to the opposite side to give Adebayo enough room to work.

– Defense

Duncan Robinson and defense haven’t been linked together much, unless being addressed in a negative manner, but strides are definitely being made in that area.

Now, although I wasn’t going to dive into Robinson’s jumper here, it plays a major role in what came next. It’s a widely known thing that shots being made on one end lead to elevated defensive effort on the other end, even for below average defenders.

On this play, it was probably one of Robinson’s best sequences of the season, as he nails a three, deflects the ball for a steal, and passes it to Butler for a fast-break opportunity in a matter of 20 seconds. Although there may be some attributes that restrict him on the defensive end, length is definitely not one of them, and it’s something that he must utilize to his advantage on that side of the floor.

Here is one more instance of that offense to defense theory, since that made shot is the primary reason for what occurs next.

As he is being run all around the floor the entire possession, the last part when Reggie Bullock slips the screen for Julius Randle stands out. He shows himself to Randle, but somehow recovers on the pass to Bullock with an open lane, taking the right angle to perfectly cut him off.

The slight Ariza show on the block helped as well, but if Robinson didn’t recover, it would’ve led to an absolute breakdown for Miami on the defensive end.

Another interesting part about Robinson on defense has been the level of containment when guys have the ball in their hands, specifically shooters.

He cuts off Barrett on this play, forcing the kick-out to Bullock, and immediately forces him out of a catch and shoot opportunity without overplaying. These are the plays that weren’t happening a couple of months ago, which is why it’s so important to note.

This play also refers back to reading a situation, since Bullock is a player that you want to force to put the ball on the floor, since he thrives as a set shooter, which Miami learned very quickly in their first match-up against the Knicks back in February.

– The Small Things

When evaluating Robinson from this game, it was very clear that he does a lot of small things on the floor that may not be noticed in real time.

This was the perfect example, since as the other four Heat players on the court began to watch the ball fly off the rim, Robinson sprinted in for the tip-out, while preventing what would’ve been a put-back by Gibson. This is also another instance of utilizing his length to his advantage, since this probably wouldn’t have been possible if this wasn’t the case.

Some of the other small things throughout a game include a screen assist with the amount of off-ball screens that occur, which honestly seems to become much more apparent when shots are dropping. The actual points that are inserted on the score board from Robinson triples isn’t the most essential part, since it’s actually what follows it.

– Clearing up the bench trash talk

There isn’t much to dive into here from an analysis perspective, but it was clear that there was some talking toward that Knicks bench from not only Jimmy Butler throughout, but also Robinson as seen here.

So, here’s what he said about it when I asked him post-game, which you can see what he meant when discussing the occurrence of a corner three:

– Well, let’s take a look at one jump shot

The elements aside from shooting was the primary reason for this piece, but come on, a Duncan Robinson article can’t be complete without diving into at least one jumper.

If you don’t think the mental side of things majorly impact a shooter, you’re just wrong. Even when comments are being made about the sustained confidence and getting shots up, it’s still obvious when a shooter is thinking too much. And shots like this show that shooting without thinking is the best formula, since he just allows his natural motion to do all of the work.

The point is that the recent slump for Robinson was much more mental than it was physical, and if these improvements continue to be made in his areas of weakness, it’ll take this team to a completely different level, especially considering the insertion of Oladipo.

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