As I watched the three-point contest this year, the player that I had my eyes on was Miami Heat Forward Duncan Robinson. Robinson’s path to the NBA has been unlike any others.
I’ve actually known the name Duncan Robinson for a long time. Robinson grew up in New Castle, NH, a town 45 minutes north of where I live. He spent 4-years at Governor’s Academy, a small prep school that is just five miles from my house. Then, he spent one post-graduate year at Phillips Exeter Academy, the school that I currently attend.
Although I never watched Robinson during his time in Exeter, I have heard stories from people who did. He was an absolute sniper from long-range, but he wasn’t even the best player on the team. A Guard named Jordan Hill was the real superstar. Hill spent three years warming the bench at Wisconsin before transferring to Seattle. Meanwhile, Robinson took his talents to Williams, a Division III school.
When Robinson transferred from Williams to Michigan, it was all over the local news. Even though nothing was expected of him, people in the area were excited to see a New England native get recruited to a major Division I college.
But Robinson again exceeded expectations at Michigan. He put up 11 points per game in his first season, as a Wolverine. His minutes and statistics dipped in year 2, but he was still making an impact on the floor.
In his senior year, Robinson put up 9 points per game off the bench and earned Big Ten 6thman of the year honors. Not only that, but Michigan made a huge run in March Madness. They made it all the way to the National Championship game, where they lost to Villanova.
Robinson was a good player on that team, but he wasn’t anything special. I, and every other basketball fan in the Northeast loved watching him play, but we knew that his career would be over once he graduated from Michigan. Once again, he proved everyone wrong.
After spending one-year in the G-League, Robinson earned a fully-guaranteed contract with the Miami Heat. I expected him to warm the bench this year, but he has become a key rotational piece on one of the best teams in the NBA. He’s playing 29 minutes per game and hitting 3.5 threes a night. He earned a spot in the three-point shooting contest.
As I’m watched Robinson hoist up three after three before the seventy-second timer ran out, I asked myself: How is this guy participating in the NBA All-Star festivities? Heck, how is this guy even in the NBA? It’s a pretty reasonable question.
Robinson wasn’t even a starter in his senior year of college. He isn’t a great passer. He isn’t even remotely athletic. At Michigan, he was a defensive liability. He stands at 6’8”, but only averaged 2.5 rebounds per game in college. The answer is simple: he can shoot the three-ball.
In the last five years, we’ve watched the three-point explode. Steph Curry and the Warriors took the league by storm with a three-point tornado, winning three NBA Championships. The rest of the league has followed suit. The Indiana Pacers average 27.8 three-point attempts per game, which is good for last in the NBA. Ten years ago, Orlando was the top three-point shooting team in the league, but they only put up 27.3 per game.
A decade ago, Duncan Robinson wouldn’t have been able to play in the NBA. The two-point shot was simply the best way to score back then. Robinson only attempts 1 two-pointer per contest. His deficiencies in essentially every facet of the game would have caused him to be a complete liability. Maybe he wouldn’t have even got the chance to play at Michigan. But basketball is all about the long-range shot now, and that is Robinson’s forte.
Shifting to the NBA Draft, I expect Robinson’s success to change the way that teams evaluate players. If I had to compare Robinson to one current college player, it would be Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith.
Although he is out for the season with a foot injury, Nesmith made a huge impact for Vanderbilt this season, scoring 23 points per game. He hit 60 of his 115 three-point attempts in fourteen games. That’s a ridiculous 52.2%. Nesmith averaged less than one assist per game this season, and he’s a terrible defender.
But if Robinson can be a high-impact player at the next level, why can’t Nesmith?
Other guys, such as Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe, Alabama’s John Petty, and Virginia Tech’s Landers Nolley II will be drafted because of their shooting ability.
The three-point shot is just so important today’s game. Obviously, the team who scores the most points wins, and the best way to score is to shoot threes.
Photo: Jasen Vinlove / USA Today Sports