The Miami Heat Are Already Regretting Their Ill-Advised $90 Million Investment in Duncan Robinson

Back on Nov. 6, the Miami Heat defeated the Utah Jazz to improve to 7-2. By all accounts, the Heat looked like one of the best teams in the NBA and a legitimate title contender.

But the season has deteriorated since, as Miami is now 13-9 and without All-Star Bam Adebayo for the next four to six weeks. To make matters worse, Duncan Robinson looks like a shell of the player Miami agreed to pay close to $100 million.

The Miami Heat gave Duncan Robinson a hefty contract

Robinson is one of the more unlikely underdog stories in the NBA. The 6-foot-7 shooter started at Division III Williams College before transferring to the University of Michigan. After going undrafted in 2018, he joined the Miami Heat’s Summer League team and eventually earned himself a two-way contract.

In 2019-20, Robinson was tasked with a significantly larger role on the team, and he answered the call. Dunc appeared in all 73 of Miami’s regular-season contests, starting 68 games and playing just under 30 minutes a night. While on the court, he averaged 13.5 points on his way to becoming an elite 3-point specialist, draining 44.6% of his shots from beyond the arc.

Following similar production in 2020-21, Robinson became a restricted free agent. Fearful of losing his marksman-like ability from three, the Heat re-signed the 27-year-old to a five-year pact worth $90 million. The deal, which is the largest ever given to an undrafted player, pays him $15.6 million this season and gradually increases each following year.

Robinson’s production has fallen off of a cliff

The Heat were banking on $90 million buying them elite shooting for several seasons. Twenty-two games in, they’ve purchased a generous amount of bricks.

Robinson’s spot in the starting lineup has remained steady, as have his minutes. But his shooting success has vanished, averaging 10.4 points on 34.9% shooting. The most glaring concern stems from his failure from deep, where he’s hitting 31.8% of his 9.0 attempts per game.

The fourth-year veteran had his worst showing of the season on Wednesday night. With Adebayo and Jimmy Butler out, Robinson finished with zero points, missing all six 3-point attempts and one 2-point attempt. He also failed to register a single rebound or assist in 20 minutes of action. Thanks in part to Dunc’s struggles, Miami was crushed by the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-85 at home.

The Heat are hoping it’s just a temporary slump for Duncan Robinson

With Robinson playing worse than he ever has, it’s easy to question whether the Heat regret offering him $90 million over five years. Especially considering how that money could have been used elsewhere to improve a team just two seasons removed from an NBA Finals appearance.

Rather than pushing the panic button, Robinson’s teammates and coaches believe it’s nothing more than a prolonged slump.

“I know Duncan is a heck of a shooter,” Kyle Lowry said to the Miami Herald after Robinson went 1-of-9 from three in Monday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. “We all understand what he is, what he’s doing and how he can get the ball off, and how many shots he can make.”

“He had some good looks tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the same game. “He just has to stay with it.”

“Duncan knows exactly what he’s doing,” Max Strus added. “He just got paid $90 million. I think he’s good enough. So he’s an unbelievable shooter. He’ll be fine. Trust me, it will all come around. It’s just a slump, and he’ll get out of it.”

The Heat are rightfully emphasizing patience with the talented shooter. But the window for contention is tight for veteran-heavy Miami. Eventually, Robinson will need to deliver on his lofty contract by becoming the 3-point assassin the Heat know he can be.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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