In the playoff opener for the Miami Heat, guard Duncan Robinson was outstanding, making eight of the nine 3-pointers he attempted for 27 points. He played 23 minutes in the game and it appeared that, after a rocky season in which Robinson appeared to struggle with his shooting confidence, the postseason might be a different story, a chance to regain momentum and re-establish himself as one of the top shooters in the NBA.
Alas, in the eight playoff games the Heat have played since, Robinson has logged three DNP-CDs. He has played a total 43 minutes and scored just nine points. He has been replaced in the rotation by guard Victor Oladipo, who is not the shooter Robinson is but is also not the defensive liability. But since most do not believe Oladipo is long for the Heat—he is a free agent this summer—the question will remain: What becomes of Robinson?
The Heat did listen to offers on Robinson ahead of this year’s trade deadline, but ultimately held on to him. That might not be the case going forward, though. “You hate to sell low,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “But it’s a bind. They got themselves into a tough spot. They can’t keep a guy they can’t put on the floor in the playoffs. There will be a market for him and they’re going to have to take advantage of that.”
This was the first year of Robinson’s five-year, $90 million contract, a forbidding number that probably is not as bad as it sounds—if, that is, Robinson can get back to being the shooter he was in the two seasons before this one. He shot 42.7% from the 3-point line in 2019-20 and 2020-21, when he was granted the mega-deal from Miami. Perhaps because of the pressure of that contract, Robinson dropped to 37.2% from the arc this year, which is not bad but certainly not worth the money he’s being paid as a one-dimensional wing.
“He is getting $17 million next year,” the executive said. “If you’re getting a guy who makes 45% of his 3s and is taking eight or nine a game, you’ll take that. But it is a big drop to 37%. They’ve got too many other options and too many other guys they need to pay. If you can get off his money, you will take it.”
Easier said than done, of course. If the Heat want to move Robinson, what can they realistically expect in return? The preference is to send him to the Western Conference, of course, to avoid helping Miami’s competitors in the East. Heat fans are hopeful that the team will make a move for Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell this summer, but a package built around Robinson is not going to get that done—Miami could only bring in Mitchell by giving up one of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo, and the team has shown no interest in doing that.
Potential Robinson Western Conference Destinations
So, who then?
Sacramento Kings. There is some logic here, because the Kings are looking to remake their offense with some improved shooting, after knocking down only 34.4% of their 3s last year, 25th in the NBA. “Sending Robinson to the Kings almost makes too much sense,” one general manager said. “The Heat could take back Harrison Barnes, get a good veteran for a playoff push. Barnes has only one year left on his deal, so you’re getting a good fit for your team and getting off the Robinson contract all at once.”
Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic and Robinson? Intriguing. “I would worry about his defense with the Mavs, they’ve come a long way on that side of the ball,” the GM said. “But you know, you want shooters around Luka. I’d love to have Robinson as a weapon next to Luka, they would help each other out a lot. If you’re Miami, you can take back Spencer Dinwiddie and you have a good fit off the bench, a guy who can start when (Kyle) Lowry needs a break.” Dinwiddie is signed for 2023-24, but only $10 million of his $18 million is guaranteed.
Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers are looking to upgrade quickly to show they can be competitive with Damian Lillard on board. They could send Eric Bledsoe to Miami for Robinson, which would allow the Heat to cut Bledsoe (whose deal is guaranteed only for $3.9 million) and simply save the cash on Robinson’s deal. “That kind of thing can be useful if you’re Miami,” the exec said. “It keeps you away from the tax, it gives you some flexibility if you change course and sign Oladipo or some of those other young guys.”
Minnesota Timberwolves. Sure, the Wolves made 14.8 3-pointers last season, most in the NBA. But coach Chris Finch wants to lean into that style of play, wants to keep hoisting 3s. Robinson fits the bill there. “Malik Beasley needs a change of scenery,” the GM said. “You could swap those guys. I think playing in Miami could turn Beasley around a little bit.”
Could the Bulls Be a Destination?
Is there a chance that the Heat could trade Robinson within the conference?
Sure, but it is slim, especially with the East so competitive. The one team that could make a push for Robinson is Chicago, league sources said, because the Bulls will be on the hunt for shooting this summer. But Zach LaVine is due an extension and the Heat would not have much interest in taking back Nikola Vucevic, meaning that the Bulls would either have to get a third team involved or be willing to give up both Coby White and Alex Caruso in a deal for Robinson.
“It is kind of steep for Chicago, they like Caruso and even if they deal White, they’re going to want a good return on their investment in him,” the exec said. “So Miami would have to include (Omer) Yurtseven to make something like that happen. It will be interesting for Chicago because they might have to really see what kind of market is there for Caruso, even though they got a good deal on him last year.”