In the Miami Heat’s third game of the season, visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves, Duncan Robinson scored 21 points on four 3-pointers — what was then a career-high. That was the last time Miami played without Jimmy Butler thus far. In Miami’s very next game, Robinson played just 87 seconds of mop-up time. With Butler back in the lineup, Robinson went back to the bench.
But since then, both Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones Jr. have been out. That’s given Robinson another chance to play. And he’s made the case that he deserves a permanent rotation spot for the rest of the season.
Last year, Robinson was a rookie on a two-way contract with the Heat. He played in just 15 games, spending most of the year with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Now, he averages 9.7 points per game and shoots 41 percent from beyond the arc through 12 games. He’s also shooting an absurd 19-for-26 on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers. He mixes his game with the occasional drive to the basket to surprise defenses.
BUZZER BEATER ALERT— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 17, 2019
. . .AGAIN pic.twitter.com/FuaKdFhK9X
Duncan taking it right to the Pels #NOPvsMIA: Your @MiamiHEAT are out to an early 17-14 lead. pic.twitter.com/Qdf0wLescQ— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 17, 2019
And Robinson hasn’t been a defensive liability. According to FiveThirtyEight’s new NBA metric, Robinson has an overall RAPTOR defensive rating of -0.0. For comparison, Butler and Bam Adebayo lead Miami in defensive rating at 6.4 and 4.4, respectively. Goran Dragic is last for Miami on defense with -4.1.
Winslow will take Robinson’s starting spot when he returns from the concussion he sustained in Miami’s blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets two weeks ago. Although Butler has admirably filled in as the Heat’s point forward — he’s averaging a career-high 7.2 assists per game — the Heat need to see how Butler and Winslow can play together offensively. They can be a superior defensive duo, but working well on offense could unleash the Heat to another level.
And if Robinson becomes a steady part of Miami’s second unit with Dragic, Tyler Herro, Kelly Olynyk and Chris Silva, where does that leave Derrick Jones Jr. or even James Johnson? Erik Spoelstra has only played Johnson as a situational piece, even while Winslow has been out.
Robinson’s emergence could lead the Heat to make a trade. Last season, Miami had a glut of two-guards — Dwyane Wade, Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington. The Heat traded Johnson and Ellington last February. Could we see the Heat make another move in a few months?