It has been only 12 games, but early signs suggest that Duncan Robinson might be a problem for the Miami Heat from here on. The 27-year-old wing, who recently signed a multi-year extension of 90 million dollars through 5 years, appears to be stuck in a sort of scoring slump. Even though every good shooter deals with it once in a while, it has been hard for Miami in the winning department.
Is Duncan Robinson a problem for the Miami Heat?
Robinson made his reputation as one of the deadliest perimeter triggers in the NBA. As an undrafted player, he made his way into the Heat’s rotation with a very sharp stroke from the three-point line. His role was always clear: before the current season, Duncan shot over .400 from three for two times straight, in over eight attempts a game. The Heat probably would not make a trip to the 2020 finals without such a steady and confident shooter alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. He is currently leading the Miami franchise in consecutive games with a least one three-pointer made (60 games straight). However, the problem, as of today, is getting past his second make. A pure shooter cannot help a team without his baskets.
Robinson has not found his groove yet since the start of the season. In a career-high in attempts from the field and perimeter (10.3, and 9.1 respectively), Duncan is posting atrocious percentages of 32-31-62. It only has been 12 games, but still, Robinson only shot above .400 from the perimeter in four opportunities. Recently, all of the last three-heavy Miami losses on the road had shreds of evidence of his struggle. Against the Nuggets, Duncan had his worst plus-minus of the season (-16). Playing against the Lakers, he went 4-16 from beyond the arc, missed a layup in a crucial moment, and wasted two free throws down the stretch. Against the Clippers, he was 2-11 on three-point attempts, with several blown wide-open looks.
The Miami offense changed, of course. Yet, one could argue it suits the shooters even better than last season. Most of Robinson’s offensive production came through handoff-generated looks, after running incessantly through screens. The Kyle Lowry factor pushes the pace, opens the court, and creates more opportunities for the shooters. Robinson has 3.8 open threes a game (when a defender is 4-6ft away from the shooter), but he makes only 30.4% of them. Last season, Duncan shot 40% in 3.4 open shots. The looks are not a problem, as he is used to hitting even more difficult and uncontested ones. So what is the issue here?
An elite shooter probably won’t forget how to execute his best attribute. Robinson’s solid shooting mechanics did not change. There was not any physical factor or any relevant injury. It also does not look like a simple slump. Naturally, we must wonder if this is a psychological thing. Duncan just signed a career deal, so how is he dealing with the pressure to perform accordingly to his deal? Is the Miami Heat franchise even worried about Duncan’s hesitancy, or lack of confidence? Are they willing to figure it out, or will they get active on the trade market? It is such a sizable investment to be given up that easily.
We shall see how it turns out. If it eventually works out perfectly, or if it turns out to be another Whiteside situation. But one thing is for certain: there is not much shooting beyond Duncan, Tyler Herro, and Lowry. It’s ok to be streaky, but not completely inefficient. If this roster loses their most reliable sniper, there’s no way that they can hope for a deep playoff run. Miami runs on Duncan, or at least, they must.
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