An undrafted player signed by the Miami Heat earned his place in the NBA record books this season. Zach Lowe pointed out in passing, “The biggest overperformer [expected effective field goal percentage]: Duncan Robinson, giving us one of the greatest 3-point shooting seasons in history. Yeah, I said it.” Looking past only 3-point shooting, Robinson was on pace for records of another sort.
No qualifying player (410 FGA minimum) in the history of the NBA has ever surpassed a 2-point FG% of 60%, 3-point FG% of 40%, and FT% of 90% in a season, until Robinson accomplished the feat. Thus far in the 2019-20 season his shooting splits are 2P% .614, 3P% .448, FT% .906 per basketball-reference. Even relaxing the requirements to 2P% > .500, 3P% > .300, FT% > .800, using Lowe’s eFG% criteria, Robinson’s eFG% of .665 tops all qualifyings player in NBA history.
Number two on the list? Steve Kerr’s .651 eEFG% in 1996-97 for the Chicago Bulls. Robinson’s true shooting percentage (TS%) of .678 is tops for balanced shooting prowess, barely beating out the .675 figure by Stephen Curry in 2017-18. As a reference for achievement, what’s the best TS% ever recorded without adjusting for 3P% or FT%? Artis Gilmore .702 (1981-82), Rudy Gobert .700 (2019-20), Gilmore .699 (1980-81), Kyle Korver .699 (2014-15), Tyson Chandler .697 (2014-15) have the top five stats for TS%. Interestingly 4 of those 5 players were over 30 years old at the time, and Gilmore hit the .699 mark in 82 games without a single start.
All the NBA teams with draft rights passed on Robinson coming out of college. Luckily the Miami Heat’s scouting department recognized talent when they saw it and signed him during his Summer League audition in 2018. Comparing him to Seth Curry would give a perspective on his current role in the NBA. Robinson vs Seth Curry: eFG% .665 vs .628, TS% .678 vs .650, 2P% .614 vs .560, 3P% .448 vs .453, FT% .906 vs .841. Both are overlooked assets on teams with other highly visible players.
When Duncan Robinson grabs Zach Lowe’s attention, then something is up. Even given that fact, Robinson didn’t win the 3-point contest, wasn’t even considered for an All-Star berth, has a NBA 2k rating of 77, i.e. he gets no respect from the majority of the NBA community. Over time that view may change for the better.
Noting Robinson is the only qualifying player to ever have a 2P%/3P%/FT% split greater than 60%/40%/90% since advent of 3-point line, the question becomes how to take advantage of those exceptional talents. The Heat have two All-Stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to build the team around. Neither has the pure shooting ability of Robinson, so together the trio compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses wonderfully.
Defense is another matter for Robinson because teams repeatedly get him into foul trouble. Referees don’t have much respect for Robinson either, so he has trouble staying on the court until he masters how to defend without fouling. But with defensive aces Butler and Adebayo on the court, the coaching staff has a responsibility to find a workaround to the dilemma. The solution might make Miami a true contender without a major overhaul to the present roster.
The 2019-20 was the first season featuring Adebayo and Robinson as full-time starters. Add Butler as a newly-minted Heat player, getting everyone on the same page on the fly wasn’t an easy task. But the combinations worked since Miami was a top-four team after finishing in the lottery the previous season. Duncan Robinson still remains the Heat’s mystery man and gets little credit for his contributions, even though he’s in the NBA’s record book for his scoring acumen.
With 2019-20 season halted due to health concerns, there’s ample time to figure out how to best use the Heat’s underrated resources for next season. Going from defending shooters, to having them isn’t an easy adjustment. Actually that transition can feel quite uncomfortable until completed.
Erik Spoelstra and company have the most work to do of anyone on the Miami team this summer. Butler, Jae Crowder, Tyler Herro, Solomon Hill, Andre Iguodala, Meyers Leonard, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala, Chris Silva were new additions who had learn Heat culture from the ground up. The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers all have more continuity among their starters and bench. That gave them a slight edge going into the campaign.
The 2019-20 season for Heat surprised many outside observers with several breakout performances. If the current moving parts continue their acclimation and mesh properly, the best is yet to come for Heat fans.