MIAMI — Duncan Robinson went undrafted last month, but it didn’t take long for him to find an NBA home.
The 6-foot-8 sweet-shooting forward out of Michigan signed a two-way contract with the Heat on Tuesday in the middle of an impressive summer-league audition. Robinson has started all six Heat summer-league games so far, averaging 12.3 points on 54.3 percent shooting (25-of-46), including 58.8 percent (20-of-34) on threes.
Playing under a two-way contract means that Robinson is expected to spend most of the season with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Two-way contracts were introduced in the collective-bargaining agreement that took effect last offseason. These players don’t count against the salary cap and can’t be poached by another team, as they can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams and the rest of the time must be spent with the NBA team’s developmental affiliate.
Here are five things to know about Robinson …
1. Robinson took a unique path to get to the Heat. Coming out of Phillips Exeter (N.H.) Academy in 2013, he didn’t receive any Division I offers. So Robinson ended up choosing to start his collegiate career at Division III Williams College in Williamstown, Mass over a scholarship offer from Division II Merrimack College. After playing one season at Williams in 2013-14 (averaging 17.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while making 81-of-179 threes), Robinson transferred to Michigan prior to the 2014-15 season. “He didn’t have any offers, but he picked Williams because he really wanted to go to there,” Jay Tilton, Robinson’s high school coach, said to MLive. “Am I surprised at the success he ended up having there? No. No one has more passion for the game than Duncan. … He was always in a search to get better.” And Robinson now has a chance to become the first Division III player to play in the NBA since Devean George, who last played in 2010.
2. Even in just one season at Williams, Robinson made quite the impression … and not just on the court. Before away games, Robinson made sure to carry trainer Lisa Wilk’s heavy bag of supplies from the bus to the locker room, along with his own bag. And after games, he would carry it back to the bus. The bag weighed about 50 pounds. When Robinson decided to leave Williams after one season, some of his friends made a funny video to try to get him to stay, and they placed water droplets on Wilk’s face to make it look like she was crying. “I was a freshman, and I tried to help out wherever I could,” Robinson said to Sports Illustrated (which wrote a great in-depth story on his journey). “That bag was too heavy for Lisa.”
3. How did Robinson catch the attention of then-Williams coach Mike Maker during the recruiting process? During a tryout camp for high school basketball players with superior academic records, Robinson “moved fluidly and shot like a machine.” Maker said to Sports Illustrated: “I thought of him as a baby [Mike] Dunleavy. I fell in love with him. I recruited him hard.” That effort paid off, as Robinson ended up committing to play for him. But Maker quickly learned that he needed Robinson to take on a more assertive personality on the court. In the Sports Illustrated story, Maker said he remembers that Robinson would thank him after practices for working with him. It got Maker to call Tilton, Robinson’s high school coach, and Tilton said: “Yeah, he’s going to keep doing that.” So, Maker called Robinson into his office and said, “Step on toes. We need you to step on toes.” Robinson became more assertive as that season went on and his potential began to show. “This guy is like, 6’7″, and we’re shooting threes, and he hasn’t missed a shot in 10 minutes,” Robinson’s teammate at Williams College Mike Greenman said to Sports Illustrated. “I remember saying to some of the other guys afterward, ‘What is Duncan even doing here?'”
4. The 24-year-old Robinson now stands at 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds. But he went through quite the growth spurt to get there. “When I was a freshman in high school, I was 5-6 / 5-7,” Robinson said to 247Sports. “I was short and then I kind of got that growth spurt and put on … I grew what a foot in four years. I was kind of lucky in that regard, also kind of developed the guard skills and the height came after. So that was good.” But Robinson has always been a shooter. “I like to shoot. That’s been my thing from the start,” he said to 247Sports. “I love being in the gym and getting as many reps in as possible.”
5. While Robinson is known for his ability to make 3-pointers (he made 237 threes at a 41.9 percent rate in three seasons at Michigan), he’s spent the past few years working on other areas of his game. Specifically on defense, which probably helped to catch the Heat’s attention. After one of the Big Ten tournament games in 2017, Michigan assistant coach Billy Donlon told Robinson that he played a nearly perfect defensive game. “Doing defensive drills in the summer, he always stayed and asked questions after, in a good way,” Donlon said to the Detroit Free Press. “I thought it showed his commitment, and he thought it was important, not only in his game but with our team. Because he’s always been a good coach of others. But when you look at his (defensive) position, it’s really good. He gets to spots. He’s had some significant gap steals in games.” According to Donlon, Michigan coach John Beilein would tell Robinson: “You’re a good basketball player that’s a really good shooter. You’re not just a shooter.”