Game Breakdown #10: How Duncan Robinson Cooked Victor Wembanyama & the Spurs with Rim Pressure

Insight4 weeks ago8 min readJohn Jablonka

This was a game. I wasn’t expecting Duncan Robinson to be the best player on the court, the highest scorer, and someone who made play after play in the fourth to seal the win in the end.

Off top of my head, I think this was the best game I’ve seen from him period. There definitely are games where he torched teams better with his 3pt but there wasn’t a complete game like this, as he finished with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists on 4-for-9 from 2, 4-for-7 from 3, and 6-for-6 from the free throw line

Yes, this is going to be a Robinson breakdown.

Before getting into the film, let’s check out some numbers:

With Robinson on:

  • Plus 22 in 39 minutes
  • 107pts on 79 possessions
  • 23-for-47 2pt
  • 12-for-25 3pt
  • 63% TS

With Robinson off:

  • 9 min, -17
  • 11pts on 19 possessions
  • 4-for-11 2pt
  • 0-for-6 3pt
  • 30% TS

That’s quite a significant difference. Obviously, there’s a lot of context needed and it wasn’t just Robinson, but it’s still showing positive signs that he was impactful.

But there was one particular stat that stood out. He had 12(!) drives, went 3-for-6, got to the line once, and added 5 passes out of drives. That isn’t Robinson. I don’t know who that was playing. That’s the key to today’s breakdown.

It’s not right to call him a 3-point specialist in this stretch he just had. He was doing everything else than make shots. He was more impressive putting the ball down than when he hit those four 3s. He added more through everything else that he was doing.

It started off with his usual cutting. You have Jaime Jaquez Jr in the post running the post-split action. Bam Adebayo sets a screen for Robinson, and he finds himself cutting to the rim for free throws. That’s just your typical stuff from him.

This is the first pick-and-roll that they run. I’ve been impressed with his PnR game. On the first screen, Cedi Osman stays attached well, so he keeps the dribble to spin back to re-use the screen. Osman goes under but now Robinson has the clear drive to the rim. Great acceleration where now Osman is trailing. He recovers to contest but an even better finish from Robinson hangs in the air to get a clean look. That was impressive air time.

Here, you have him beating the closeouts perfectly. The Heat are pushing the pace, he draws Doug McDermott to step up higher. Without any hesitation, he puts the ball down and attacks. Good strides to get himself to the rim quickly and draws another foul. For me, it’s how confident he looks doing these moves.

One of the ways he usually gets paint touches is by curling off the ball. Jimmy Butler sets a screen, and he gets the pass but instead of settling for a shot or even looking for a 3pt, he immediately tries to push that dribble to attack. Devin Vassell recovers, but now Robinson finds himself in the paint and draws the defense for the kick.

Similar thing here. Even though it’s a miss, it’s the decision alone that makes it great. Instead of being a spacer only where he’d be standing there hoping to get a pass that it would end up a 3, he realizes that he’s fully open and simply cuts to the rim. That strong cut is a much better decision than standing there.

Here, he comes off a handoff, but again without the 3pt hunting, he immediately looks to attack the paint. He doesn’t stop. He doesn’t hesitate when getting the pass. Now, he gets both feet in the paint, draws Zach Collins, and it’s an open kick to Adebayo(though that should really just be a corner-three).

It’s these plays that make my eyes pop when watching it for the first time. Not much here, apart from Robinson running a PnR with Kevin Love and turning the corner on Vassell. This is someone, whose only time he put the ball down is to take another dribble for a 3. Now, he’s putting the ball to drive right away. He hits Vassell with a little hesitation, accelerates again, and gives a little shove to create space for the high-arching floater.

This again is a miss, but it’s the process that’s more important. Runs the PnR with Adebayo, The side is cleared, so now it’s just a 2v2 action. He doesn’t stop at any time. His defender is trailing, so he continues to attack but is patient enough to notice that first before that hesitation to then attack again. Also, gives a little fake before going up for the shot. All impressive stuff.

This play shows how important it is to diversify your game and how it can help the offense with such a simple thing. Before, if Robinson got this pass and the defense closed out so well, he’d pass it back to Adebayo to flow into a DHO again. Now, the defender closes out strong, but that gives Robinson the baseline drive, which he comfortably takes. That drive draws the defense and that opens up the kick to the corner.

Adding that to the game keeps the possession alive outside of taking a shot. It creates the advantage that puts the defense in rotations. It adds rim pressure.

Another PnR with Adebayo. Again he is smart with it. I’m so impressed with his overall PnR game. Everything looks so smooth how he did this move. Once Vassell goes over the screen, he so casually hits him with a spin move and quickly attacks Collins to the rim for more free throws.

This is another play where he didn’t score himself but it was his drive that set everything off. With Vassell expecting him to flow into something with Adebayo, he surprised even me by taking him off the dribble standing still. Just a quick move and he’s gone. He gets deep into the paint, the defense rotates over, he makes the kick, now the ball moves, and it finds Josh Richardson for 3. That shot doesn’t happen without Robinson.

It’s still weird to think that Robinson has been the guy giving us the most rim pressure outside of Butler. It’s wild to think that this is the point where we’re at with his development where he’s second in drives most games.

I will be diving deeper into his game in another article, but this game is the perfect example of how much he has improved and how different of a player he is.

Finally, to top it off here, are some other highlight plays from him, which include cooking Victor Wembanyama and hitting Jeremey Sochan with a nasty move to hit the triple — the only two 3s that are in this breakdown.