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Can the Heat rehabilitate Duncan Robinson?

Miami needs his contract for big trades. He needs to improve his value, whether to stay or leave.

SPORTS-BKN-HEAT-ROBINSON-FL Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Many Miami Heat fans assumed that Duncan Robinson would get traded this off-season — either in a big deal for Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell or a smaller trade for a starting power forward. We’re now in August, and no trade has materialized. Miami may go into the season with Robinson on the roster.

And what does that look like? Will he remain out of the rotation? Max Strus took his starting role late in the regular season, and then Victor Oladipo took his bench role in the playoffs last year. Will he start at the power forward? (Yes, I know that’s a joke.)

It would behoove the Heat to rehabilitate Robinson — whether to keep or trade him. I’d still say it’s more likely than not that the Heat trade him by the end of this season. If the Heat sign Tyler Herro to an extension — signaling they’re moving on from Durant or Mitchell — it becomes problematic to have big money committed to two players who are liabilities on defense.

Miami needs Robinson’s contract for any big trade they’d want to pull off. If Robinson re-emerges as a solid player and one of the best shooters in the NBA, his contract doesn’t look like the albatross it does now.

He’ll get a chance to play. Over the course of a regular season, players get injured. Erik Spoelstra throws out different lineups. We’re about to enter the fourth NBA season with COVID-19 protocols.

It’s easy to say now that Max Strus has firmly supplanted Robinson’s role. But at the end of the 2020-21 season, Robinson had come off a second consecutive year shooting at least 40 percent from 3 on high volume. Strus had just finished an uneven year on a two-way contract shooting 33.8 percent from 3. In late December, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer said, “This season is a positive outlier for Strus in the same way it is a negative outlier for Robinson, who has shot over 40 percent from 3 since high school.” Who knows what happens this season.

Robinson said that his 2022 playoff benching put his motivation at an all-time high. If he has a bounce-back year from 3-point range and becomes less prone to foul on defense, both Miami and Robinson will be better off.