Duncan Robinson adds value, and should continue to play

May 8, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson (55) reacts against the New York Knicks in the second quarter during game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson (55) reacts against the New York Knicks in the second quarter during game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

Duncan Robinson should be part of the rotation in the NBA playoffs and beyond for the Miami Heat. His ability to generate offense, space the floor, and knock down shots is truly invaluable.

Although he’s 5 for 25 from 3-point range in this series, the Heat have also outscored the Knicks in Robinson’s minutes. Few players can knock down shots like Robinson, and his presence beyond the arc demands respect and creates space for the Heat’s best players.

Despite being in and out of the rotation during the regular season because of his struggles on the defensive side of the ball, he found himself thrust into important playoff minutes and he’s made the most of them by leaning into his strengths. Whether it’s dribble handoff action or alley-oops, he is a high-IQ player who knows how to get open looks. Robinson’s work ethic and dedication are not secret. His 3-point shooting form is as pure as ever, and he’s sprinkled in a little more diversity on offense, especially during this playoff run.

Now with Game 5 tonight, would it be unimaginable if Robinson sparked the offense and helped the Heat eliminate the Knicks and advance to the Eastern Conference finals? As Duncan has stated multiple times, he just wants to help the team and do whatever he can to make an impact. You can’t expect “ignitability” and productivity if you are not playing.

Back in the mix

Robinson got this opportunity when Tyler Herro sustained a broken right hand in Miami’s first game against the Bucks in the first round. He then helped the Heat move back up in the 3-point shooting ranks after an inconsistent regular season.

Against the Bucks, he shot 76.5% (14-for-19) from deep. Afer the Heat eliminated the Bucks in five games, coach Erik Spoelstra was asked about Duncan’s ability to impact the team and persevere through tough times.

“Things in this league are not always perfect,” Spoelstra said. “Sometimes things just have an incredible flow. But that’s not the real NBA and real life. You have to figure out how to embrace things when they are not going perfectly and still find a way to persevere and Duncan has proven that time and time again. He has incredible fortitude. All of a sudden, something happens and he’s fully in the rotation. If you’re not right or you’re bitter, you can’t capitalize on it when the team needs you. That was not easy to be able to handle it. I am happy for him, he’s gotten an opportunity to play and play well in an important role for us.”

That Robinson is making an impact now is a great story, especially considering the up-and-down road it’s been to get here.

“Not Playing, It Sucks”

During the regular season, Robinson played just 42 games, shooting 32.8% from 3-point range. It was his lowest percentage since his rookie season. Those struggles resulted in reduced minutes before being completely phased out of the rotation.

From early January to mid-February, Robinson missed 20 straight games due to an injury to his shooting hand that he decided to fix surgically. When he returned, his minutes were sporadic and included eight DNP-CDs.

On his “The Long Shot” podcast, Robinson addressed his role change and the frustrations of not playing.

"“It does not matter if you’re playing JV basketball if you’re playing middle school basketball, if you’re playing college basketball, if you’re playing in the NBA at the highest level. Not playing, it sucks in a lot of ways,” Robinson said. Especially when you feel that you’re capable and you feel that you can help win. It’s a really, really challenging feeling to combat, especially when you’re on the cusp and in the midst of a run where your team is playing really well.”"

Stay Ready, So You Don’t Have to Get Ready

Coined by Heat forward Udonis Haslem, the phrase “Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready” is often repeated by Robinson. Duncan recently talked about his role and the importance of staying ready for when he is called to play.

“This season has been a tumultuous one,” Robinson said ahead of the postseason. “Some ups and downs just personally and as a group, as well. And that’s the beautiful thing about this time of the year, you just got to commit everything you can to try to help us win. So at this point, I just feel like I’ve been working to really just stay ready for these moments and do whatever I can day to day to just control my habits, control what I can control. And then when I do have opportunities, just put my best foot forward and try to make the most of them.”

Robinson has shown that he’s been working on his deficiencies. He’s focused on keeping his hands down and out of the defender’s way – he’s gone from being called for 4 personal fouls per 36 minutes in the regular season to just 1.8 in these playoffs.

Robinson’s role and weighty contract have been targets of Heat fans and a storyline since he signed the five-year, $90 million deal two summers ago. One playoff run won’t be enough to extinguish those concerns, but it could put him and the Heat in a better place this offseason.

First thing’s first: The Heat need to finish off the Knicks and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Robinson’s role in this series and, potentially, moving forward will be something to watch.

So far, this sharpshooter has found a way to leave his mark when given a chance.

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