Who is Duncan Robinson?

Duncan Robinson shoots for Miami Heat Summer League team

Duncan Robinson may not be a surprise to anyone that followed the Michigan Wolverines during their March Madness run to the championship game. Though the team would eventually lose to a stacked Villanova Wildcats team in the Finals, the top Michigan players garnered a lot of national attention for their unlikely run to the title. Even with that increased visibility, no one would have expected Robinson to get an NBA contract.

That’s to say that anyone involved in sports betting would not have bet on Duncan to play in the NBA.  Now It’s looking increasingly likely that Robinson, the undrafted 6-8 sharpshooting guard/forward from the University of Michigan, will get some form of official agreement with the Miami Heat.

Robinson’s play during the NBA Summer League has opened eyes and not just because he’s making threes. That’s because his superior outside shooting and range is what primarily got him into the league. What’s impressed and surprised league officials is his efficiency, his athleticism, basketball IQ and defense.

A Very Uncommon Path to the NBA

There’s no shortage of NBA stories about circuitous routes to the league. And we don’t want to overstate how unlikely Robinson’s chances were to even be invited to the NBA Summer League, much less making an NBA roster. It’s not that he’s not talented, it’s just his resume foretold playing overseas than it did NBA.

That’s because Robinson didn’t even start out in a Division I school. With no offers from Division I or Division II schools, Robinson starred as a Freshmen at Williams College avergaing 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. After some connections got him noticed by Michigan, Robinson transferred and is believed to be the first Division-III player to get a scholarship at a Division-I school.

Duncan wouldn’t be the first NBA player that started at a D3 school, he’s in really good company considering that the four players to make that jump ended up as an all-star or a starter. Those players? Terry Porter, Jack Sikma, Devean George and Vern Mikkelsen

From there, Robinson became a rotation player for the Wolverine; playing every game during his three years there. Not once was he the star player. During his time there, he played with future NBA players in Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr. and D.J. Wilson. In this last season, he was the fifth most-important player on the team behind Mo Wagner (who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers) then Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakman in no particular order.

Yes, Robinson was named the 2018 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, but in the context of this conversation, that’s not an award that anyone looks as a needle-mover in terms of NBA potential.

From the Bench to NBA Summer League

Being the sixth man as a Senior on a decent team doesn’t usually translate to the NBA. So how did Robinson even get an invite to the Miami’s Summer League team? Turns out that the MIami Heat’s Head Coach Erik Spoelstra was paying attention and called him directly.

“(Erik Spoelstra) called Duncan, personally,” Duncan’s mom Elisabeth Robinson told the Detroit Free Press. “I was surprised when I heard that. Somebody said, ‘An NBA coach called Duncan. I was like, which coach?'”

On top of the Heat’s interest, the Los Angeles Lakers and a couple other teams showed interest in Robinson signing a non-guaranteed contract to play on their Summer League teams. That just shows that the Heat, Lakers and the other teams that contacted Robinson knew what they’re doing. After five Summer League games, Duncan is averaging 12.4 points, hitting 63% of his threes (17-27) in about 25 minutes of play per game. Here’s the breakdown of his averages in the two Summer Leagues he’s played in:

Sacramento (3 Games): 30 minutes, 11.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 57% from the floor
Las Vegas (2 Games): 26.5 minutes, 14 points, 3.5 rebounds, 59% from the floor

He’s playing so well that even that Miami might not be able to keep him as they may only offer a two-way contract. Robinson’s play may require a standard deal, with a potential six-figure guarantee. If for some reason he doesn’t get an offer from the Heat, no doubt another NBA team will sign Robinson. Not bad for a former D-III player.

 

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