The Miami Heat has a pretty good track record of finding undrafted rookies and eventually developing them into NBA players.
Duncan Robinson could be the next one.
The 6-8, 215-pound forward out of Michigan has been in the Heat’s starting lineup for its first two summer league games and on Tuesday night he showed he can be a valuable offensive weapon making five threes, driving baseline for an eye-opening two-handed dunk and scoring 19 points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat, which will play the final game of the California Classic Thursday at 5 p.m. (NBA TV) against the hometown Sacramento Kings before leaving for Las Vegas, has a two-way roster spot open and Robinson could be an early favorite to land it.
Heat summer league coach Eric Glass has talked a lot about Robinson’s high basketball IQ and mentioned Tuesday how the front office pounced quickly to get him on its summer league roster the moment he went undrafted last month.
“Just his command on the floor, nothing surprises him,” Glass said of what impresses him. “When guys are loud and they vocalize things early it’s because they see things early. The guys that are quieter are maybe the ones that don’t see things as quickly.
“He’s more athletic than you would think he is. He’s more competitive than you think he is. He’s quicker than you think he is. We like his skill set. That was somebody that [Vice President of Player Personnel] Chet [Kammerer] went after right away as soon as the draft was over. And you can see why. Chet doesn’t miss on too many guys.”
Robinson doesn’t miss very often either. He left Michigan fourth on the school’s all-time three-point shooting list (237 made in 115 games) with a career shooting percentage of 41.9 percent from beyond the arc. Although his shooting percentage from three-point range slipped from 42.4 percent as a junior to 38.4 percent his senior year, Robinson said it was a result of being “kind of a marked man.”
“Open shots came a lot fewer,” he said. “I just tried to stay aggressive and shoot through those perceived slumps and I feel like I did.”
In the end, the Heat – and Robinson – believes he’s more than just a shooter.
His dunk Tuesday night, when he blew past former San Diego State forward Malik Pope and over former Gonzaga power forward Johnathan Williams, was evidence of that.
“I'm sure I have plenty of texts from people giving me a hard time saying 'When was the last time I saw you dunk?'” Robinson said with a smile. “It's nice to get one. Hopefully I can get a few more before the summer is over.
“I'm a complete player. I play the right way. I'm unselfish. I play for my teammates. Like you said, I can make shots, but do a little bit more than that. I think I'm capable of that.”
With 11 players under contract and the team’s salary cap figure at $119 million (just below the $123 million tax line), the Heat could offer Robinson, 24, more than just a two-way deal too.
After all, veteran forward Luke Babbitt, a three-point specialist with much of the same skills as Robinson, and shooting guard Wayne Ellington, who set a franchise record for threes last season, are both free agents. In today’s NBA, you can never have enough shooting.