Heat’s Duncan Robinson is a nuclear weapon, and now he’s figuring out how to leverage the fear he strikes

If you’ve somehow missed the memo, Duncan Robinson is a nuclear weapon. He’s threatening Steph Curry’s throne as the most aggressive and overall best off-ball mover in the world, and when he gets his hands on that thing, it’s cash. Robinson sunk six of his eight attempts on 3-pointers in the first half, a Christmas Day NBA record, en route to finishing with a team-high 23 points as Miami defeated New Orleans 111-98 in the first game of the Christmas slate. 

Both teams moved to 1-1 for the season. 

Through the first two games, Robinson, who shot 45 percent from beyond the arc last season, is 10-for-19 from deep and continues to have an almost sixth-sense two-man chemistry with Bam Adebayo. Look at this give-and-go DHO style:

Robinson knows he’s going to immediately follow that pass into a dribble handoff before he even throws it. Adebayo knows it, too. I have argued that defenders should be jumping between Robinson and the ball as aggressively as possible, playing him high side when he starts in the corner and on pin-downs, and even more notably when he passes to Adebayo as an immediate relocation into a dribble-handoff is a virtual guarantee. But whet it happens this quickly, forget about it. 

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It’s not just Adebayo. Miami’s whole team is tuned to Robinson’s frequency, anticipating his movements and eventual landing spot faster than the defense can react. For years, we saw the offensive brilliance this kind of connection between passers and shooter can create with Stephen Curry with Golden State, which was loaded with high-IQ facilitators always looking to set up their guy. We’re also seeing the difference in a Warriors team this season that doesn’t have those same kinds of facilitators. 

Robinson is nothing without the guys screening for him and passing him the ball. Unlike Curry, he can’t create a lick of offense on his own. But as part of this unit in Miami — which uses him as a legitimate go-to scorer, which only increases his gravity –he is absolutely deadly. 

Robinson’s evolution as a playmaker is also becoming more and more evident. As hard as he pursues shots, he doesn’t force them, and he’s slowly developed a great feel for when to put the ball on the floor to leverage the frantic pace at which trailing close-out defenders are pursuing him. 

Dating back to last season, this is a more common occurrence than you’d think:

Miami is full of active movers on the offensive end. Everyone can shoot, pass and dribble, and it makes for an old-Spurs-like fluidity; at times it can look impossible to defend. Miami had 29 assists vs. New Orleans, and that number easily could’ve been north of 35 had a few great shots they crested for one another gone down. 

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As we saw in last year’s bubble playoffs when he was inserted into the starting lineup for Kendrick Nunn (who has since fallen entirely out of the rotation), Goran Dragic can still get into the paint almost at will. So can Jimmy Butler. With Tyler Herro and Robinson moving around that kind of penetration, and Adebayo being one of the best big-man facilitators in the league, the Heat have too many weapons moving in unison to track them all.

But no single one is more feared than Robinson, the newest JJ Redick in Philadelphia — the non-All-Star who, despite being surrounded by bigger names, is actually, arguably, the most central threat to his team’s attack. To think he was once undrafted and started his collegiate career playing Division III ball. This summer he’s a free agent, and he is going to get seriously paid. 


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