How is Duncan Robinson Being Defended?

Duncan Robinson is probably the most misunderstood player on this Miami Heat team. Even after struggling for this long stretch, there still isn’t much of a drop-off in his usual three point numbers. He went from making 3.7 triples a game on 8.3 attempts last season, to making 3.3 triples a game on 8.3 attempts this season.

Robinson may be looked at as a one-dimensional three point specialist, but there are some things that aren’t seen in the natural flow of the game off the ball. So, here’s a look into how Robinson is being defended lately, and the impact he has even when the shot isn’t falling.

– Non-stop off-ball screening

As Mitchell Robinson began to drop back on the driving Jimmy Butler, Robinson set him a hard screen to allow Butler to get to the cup and draw the foul. This is something I will point to a few times throughout this piece, since it’s one of his most underrated attributes.

When he sets a screen, it rattles a defense a bit since he’s a threat to pop out to the perimeter for a three pointer. This then allows Miami’s two stars, Butler and Bam Adebayo, to do what they do best, which is get to the rim and draw fouls.

– “Good looks” for Robinson aren’t “good looks” for many

The idea that many of his shots are “good looks” seems to be a bit confusing. The reason a lot of them seem this way is because his elite abilities to shoot over the top of people make it seem pretty easy.

But the truth is, these shots are far from being easy shots. He has a 6’8 Julius Randle contesting his shot in the best way possible, leading to a missed triple.

Once again, the 6’10 Nerlens Noel stays on Robinson off the Adebayo dribbe hand-off, leading to a smother three at the end of the shot clock. And although I used words like contested and smothered in these two plays, both shots had a chance at going in, which makes the overall shooting impact so interesting.

There were two shots in the fourth quarter that were actual “good looks” and didn’t fall, but the last thing you should be worried about is Robinson making wide open triples.

– The Butler- Robinson drive and kicks are essential for Miami’s flow

At this point in the game, Miami’s only offense was Butler getting to the free throw line. And the way he was getting to the charity stripe was by charging toward the basket right into defenders.

The defense was clearly waiting for this to occur again, which led to Elfrid Payton turning his head to look toward the driving Butler, which is something a defender never does when guarding Robinson. Although he missed the shot, these drive and kick moments prove to be most effective when Butler has it going when attacking the basket.

And as mentioned previously, those shots won’t be missing for long.

– More screen-setting impact

Giving Adebayo just enough room to put the ball on the deck and get to the basket is exactly what Miami wants. But when you realize who is usually giving him those opportunities, it’s Robinson.

The dribble hand-off sets are clearly beneficial to Adebayo when two defenders fly high on him, but even normal pick and pops grant him that room. If Adebayo didn’t lose control on this possession, it would have led to a wide open Robinson three, and it would have been generated by his own involvement off the ball.

– Finding other ways to get shots for Robinson

On this play, Robinson slips off the screen for Tyler Herro at the end of the first quarter, and slowly slides to the corner. As Adebayo comes up to set the screen, he just chose the wrong guy to pick. If he set the screen on Derrick Rose who was guarding Robinson, he would’ve had a wide open three in the corner.

The reason I bring this up is because there needs to be a bit more diversity at times with offensive sets for Robinson. He’s being figured out in a way because the same things are being run on basically every possession. The dribble hand-off between Robinson and Adebayo was so effective before since it was sprinkled in unpredictably, so they need to find that offensive upper-hand once again.

– Giving Miami many options

Here’s another example of Robinson being utilized in these offensive sets. He sets a pick to allow Adebayo to get the ball on the baseline, then immediately screens for Andre Iguodala as he cuts back door. Adebayo then has the option to hit him in stride, or immediately go into a DHO with Robinson in the corner.

If Obi Toppin didn’t foul Iguodala, it would have led to a layup, which further showcases the different things Robinson does for a free flowing offense.

– A main attribute that must be added

There have been some things that I have discussed involving ways to improve Robinson’s effectiveness, such as a one-dribble pull-up, but it’s time to look at ways to evolve his catch and shoot game in particular.

And there’s one thing that can do that: A pump-fake to catch defenders in the air to draw the foul. Foul calls and Robinson don’t really seem to go hand in hand, but that’s just in the normal shooting motion. Defenders constantly overplay and swarm him, which means that pump-fake can definitely get them out of position.

He uses the pump-fake a lot, but usually follows it with a side-step into a shot. But instead of avoiding the defensive aggression, he must embrace it, and once he begins to draw those fouls, it will give him much more room to operate on the perimeter.

– A natural feel for spacing and cutting

Robinson is once again being denied as he runs around the floor, but what he does next must be noted. He has a very good feel for spacing and timing, which is showcased on this very play.

As Iguodala drives baseline, he notices that he’s about to get stuck in the air, which leads to him instinctively cutting to the basket. And due to the many Knicks players in the area, he dumps it off to Adebayo for an easy layup.

These types of plays prove that comments involving him not making shots means he’s useless are just absolutely untrue.

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