Between traveling back and forth from Miami to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and just adapting to the NBA game as one of the Heat’s two-way contract players last season, Duncan Robinson admits his rookie year was overwhelming.
“Last year I was just trying to keep my head above water, in all honesty,” Robinson said, with the Heat set to continue its preseason with a home game against the Hawks on Monday. “There’s so much being thrown at you. It’s like drinking through a fire hose, sort of. But this year, I just feel like I’m much more comfortable. Then it just becomes, how can I help this team win? Whatever that means, I’m willing to embrace.”
By “this team,” Robinson is referring to the Heat. After spending the majority of his rookie season in the G League with the Skyforce as a two-way contract player, Robinson signed a standard NBA deal just before the end of last season and is set to spend his second NBA season with the Heat.
With $1 million of his $1.4 million contract for this season already guaranteed, Robinson is basically a lock to make Miami’s regular-season roster. The rest of his deal becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the Heat’s roster at midseason.
What does the Heat like about Robinson’s game?
The three-point shot is No. 1. Coach Erik Spoelstra called the 6-7 forward “one of the best shooters on this planet.”
“He just has to prove it now,” Spoelstra said. “He has put in the work, he has put in the sweat, he has put in the grind. He’s a Miami Heat player. He is hungry, driven, ambitious. That stroke, three-point shot is not there by accident. There’s a lot of hours behind the scenes when no one is watching. Now he just has to put it to the wood when the games count. I think he’s ready for that.”
Robinson, 25, made just 10 of 35 threes (28.6 percent) in the 15 NBA games he played last season. But he averaged 21.4 points on 51.4 percent shooting from the field and 48.3 percent shooting on threes, 4.3 rebounds and three assists in 33 games for the Skyforce.
Robinson has made 5 of 16 threes over the Heat’s first two preseason games, and he has started in both.
During Jimmy Butler’s introductory press conference with the Heat last month, he took a moment to compliment Robinson’s shooting ability.
“Duncan can shoot the hell out of the ball,” Butler said. “Incredible shooter”
The Heat has confidence in Robinson’s game, and that support has helped him in his transition to the NBA after going undrafted out of Michigan in 2018.
“It means a lot. I feel it from everywhere,” Robinson said. “The confidence that this locker room and this coaching staff has in me, that’s huge. Just knowing that those guys have your back and are supportive, and want you to be aggressive. I obviously have a belief in myself, as well. But it’s nice to know those guys are in my corner, too.”
Robinson knows three-point shooting isn’t enough to get NBA minutes, though. He has added 15 pounds since last summer and is now at 215 pounds.
That added weight has helped him become a more sturdy defender against bigger players. Among the other things the Heat wants to see from Robinson moving forward: that he can keep defenses off balance with the dribble and make plays for his teammates, and that he has improved as a rebounder.
“He has put on 15 pounds, literally of muscle,” Spoelstra said. “He probably looks as visibly different from the last day of the season to now as anyone on our roster. That’s a credit to him spending his whole summer with [Heat strength and conditioning coach] Eric Foran, worked on his diet, worked on the weights four days a week hard. ... That’s going to help him defensively, it’s going to help him against bigger players, and it’s helping with his confidence.”
That added weight is also going to help Robinson stick around the NBA. After moving between Miami and Sioux Falls last season, he’s ready to settle down in one spot.
“Definitely getting more and more comfortable with Miami,” Robinson said with a smile. “It’s nice to be able to settle in and unpack your bags.”
▪ Heat guard Dion Waiters was away from the Heat on Sunday for the third consecutive day due to personal reasons. But Spoelstra expects Waiters to play in Monday’s game against the Hawks.
▪ Spoelstra expects forward James Johnson to be available for Monday’s contest, despite Johnson only rejoining the Heat on Friday after being sent away at the start of training camp due to conditioning issues.
▪ Heat forward Udonis Haslem missed Sunday’s practice due to a sprained left wrist. Haslem is expected to be out for about a week.