Duncan Robinson has been a very hot topic surrounding the Miami Heat this season, and not in the way you’d probably expect. He’s struggled for most of the season until the final two games of the West Coast trip, and there’s no doubt Miami would probably have a positive road trip record if he played his game in LA.
Aside from that, there needs to be some perspective on the topic: Duncan Robinson is currently 5th in the NBA in 3 point makes this season. Obviously he’s not shooting a great percentage, but it has only been 14 games, and his trajectory on the season is rising as we speak.
As I said after his slump buster in Utah, he needed to string two games together to really be “back.” The reasoning is if he struggled in Oklahoma City, that confidence may drop even more since the thought process is the breakout against the Jazz was a fluke.
But clearly that wasn’t the case. He followed that one up with some big shots in the third against OKC without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, coming up big for Miami to close out the trip on a high note.
Now, we know that slump was all mental and in his head, but there seems to be some pondering on whether it had anything to do with his looks shifting.
And well, they’re definitely shifting.
But for the better.
Let’s take a look through Duncan Robinson’s shot profile against OKC, since there are some intriguing points to make.
For starters, there’s something interesting about the usage of Robinson in general, from his first year in the league to now: he’s a first quarter and third quarter killer. Why is that? Well, much like the first drives of the half in football, it’s scripted.
When I asked Tyler Herro about Duncan Robinson the other night, he said, “We try to get him going as much as we can in those first and third quarters.” It’s the adjustment before the adjustment. Robinson turns opposing coaches into defensive mad scientists, so the continued goal is to get him going before the change is made.
Aside from that, looking at the clip above, we’re seeing a very promising connection between Robinson and PJ Tucker. Tucker has really taken control of getting Robinson good looks, much like Bam Adebayo has done in the past, but we see something different here.
An initial Robinson DHO for Tucker. That is seen more frequently. Not because Tucker’s going to cross up his defender and drive to the rim to make a play, but it resets the spot of Robinson.
Tucker immediately hits Kyle Lowry on the wing, as if they’re going to run a PnR, and Lowry instinctively hits Robinson in that corner while all 3 defenders are eyeing him. He fires and knocks it down.
Speaking of players catching eyes when the ball is in their hands, Tyler Herro is the perfect example of that. Just off the pure eye test, it feels like Herro is seeing more doubles than anyone on the roster, which isn’t something I personally expected heading into the season.
Herro has it in the corner, refuses the screen, and drives baseline. With Tucker and Robinson cleared out on the weak-side, one of the defenders come over for the help on the Herro drive. And that’s exactly what Miami wants.
When that is seen, that’s an immediate signal for a Herro pass, a Tucker hammer screen, and a Robinson triple.
That’s exactly what transpired, and that’s exactly why Robinson’s looks are changing for the better. Not only will many of his triples have one less hand in his face, but the spot-up frequency is rising rapidly, thanks to the addition of Lowry and the emergence of Herro.
Robinson’s catch and shoot attempts have gone up from 6.4 a game last season to 7.8 this season. Once again, we’re only 14 games in, but that’s a major jump, and more importantly, a promising jump.
The perfect formula for this team was that Adebayo can be freed up from Robinson little by little, while Robinson can still generate good looks without him. And all credit to PJ Tucker, they’ve figured that out. Now it’s just about actually hitting those shots.
Another action that we saw against OKC that I’d like to see a lot more is Robinson slipping screens, specifically with Kyle Lowry. That’s something I talked about a ton in the off-season, just because Lowry’s respected enough in that department for opposing defenses to think twice on flashing at Robinson.
Guys like Kendrick Nunn were good in their role previously, but the consensus was to force Nunn to make a play and at worst case scenario send two at Robinson. But with Lowry, miscommunications consequently occur.
As seen above, Dort gets caught eyeing Lowry after the slip, meaning Robinson has more than enough room to fire. No help is sent from the other side of him as well, mostly since he’s lined up next to a 45% catch and shoot guy named Tyler Herro.
Options and weapons help Robinson. It means that a team can’t outright scheme him out of the game, since if they do, Miami has plenty of other avenues to explore.
The last thing that should be noted is that the interior game is coming. Not on high volume. Not due to a needed reliance. But when that deep ball begins to fall, it was obvious the two point attempts would quickly follow.
Just because it took Robinson 14 games to shoot his first mid-range jumper, doesn’t mean he didn’t work on it in the Summer. He didn’t add that to his package to become this all-around scorer. He added it as a counter to when defenses send two to the ball.
Looking at the second clip above specifically, this is when you know things are changing.
Aleksej Pokusevski flies out at Robinson, he pauses and side-steps which totally loses him, and begins to drive to the rim. I’ve talked about this resulting in a pull-up mid-range, but Robinson looks to have picked up a shot that the entire Heat team is thriving with: a floater.
PJ Tucker has embraced it as a short roll guy. Tyler Herro has showcased a beautiful tear dropper when going down the lane. And now Duncan Robinson shoots probably the first one of his career.
(Coincidence, I think not)
This isn’t to say that Robinson still won’t have some off-nights moving forward due to him figuring out his new role, but the point is that when he does fully pick up on it, he will absolutely take off.
His new task with the surrounding cast is so much easier than the constant DHO swarming and high PnR ball-handling from last season. Now it’s just about the simplicity of the catch and shoot jumper, which aligns with Duncan Robinson as much as Jimmy Butler aligns with Big Face Coffee.
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