The Launching Pad: Summer League Edition

Insight4 years ago9 min readNekias Duncan

Welcome to the Summer League edition of The Launching Pad, a weekly roundup (for the most part) of Miami Heat basketball. Who’s playing well, and who should pick it up? What numbers should you be watching? What was that beautiful play Miami ran in the second quarter? You can find all of it right here.

The Stats

• Offensive Rating: 101.8
• Defensive Rating: 102.7
• Pace: 102.7
• True Shooting Percentage: 50.9 (yeesh — summer basketball, everybody!)

Team Leaders:

• Points: Derrick Jones Jr (14.6)
• Rebounds: Bam Adebayo (9.2)
• Assists: Derrick Walton Jr (6.4)
• Steals: Derrick Walton Jr. (2.0)
• Blocks: Bam Adebayo (1.5)

Story of the Summer: Duncan Robinson has a shot — literally

As we know (and collectively moaned about), the Heat didn’t have a draft pick this summer. In a vacuum, that wasn’t a big deal; this year’s class was pretty deep on “if he develops X skill” prospects, and Miami has made a name for themselves as of late by hitting the undrafted and G-eague markets.

The one guy Miami locked in on during the draft process — as told by our own @Lefty_Leif — was Michigan’s Duncan Robinson. The 6’8 wing was very much a specialist during his college career. He had one job — shoot the leather off the ball from deep. To his credit, he did exactly that, leaving Michigan boasting a 41.9 percent clip from three on 4.9 attempts. Roughly 72 percent of his shot attempts came from beyond the arc.

He was one of the most efficient players in college basketball last season, ranking in the 97th percentile in overall points per possession (1.145 PPP). He was equally effective in the half court as he was in transition, ranking in the 94th percentile in both areas. In a massive upset, Robinson was at his best as a spot-up shooter (88th percentile). His adjusted field goal percentage (58.0) on spot-ups ranked among the best in the nation.

My favorite note: Robinson used 25 possessions in isolation, pick-and-roll (as the ball-handler), and post-ups combined last season. 25! That includes passes, by the way. He was very much Michigan’s Wayne Ellington in that regard.

Robinson showcased pretty much the same skillset during the summer circuit. In seven games, he averaged 12.1 points while shooting 55.3 percent from three (21-of-38). No, that’s not a typo. Neither was his 71.4 true shooting percentage.

It’s a seven game sample so expectations should be tempered, but Robinson didn’t seem to be bothered by the longer line at all. He has a smooth, replicable form that he combines with great footwork and balance. Much like he did in Michigan, he was able to roam off-ball for catch-and-shoot opportunities, or get busy off of movement.

Pay attention to how Robinson accelerates as he pops up, decelerates as he prepares for the pass, then executes “the hop” right into a triple. This is fluidity at its peak.

Here, we get an example of Robinson’s ability to get himself open. He displays nice patiences after the decoy screen, then gets skinny as he curls around the pick. A simple one-two gather flows into another effortless three.

Now we get into Robinson’s understanding of spacing. He does a nice job of relocating, floating to the top of the arc as the on-ball action sucks the defense inside. Robinson cashes home the three with ease, but his ability to read the floor bodes well for his future in a drive-and-kick offense like Miami runs.

Here, he leverages his gravity as a shooter with a strong pump fake. He attacks the defender’s front foot and blows by, then displays nice touch (and some weird footwork and pace) on the floater. This is something we didn’t see much of from Robinson last year. I have stats on this that are pretty nerdy, so I’m giving you time to either prepare yourself, or to scroll past them.

(Go ahead, do what you have to do.)

(Really, I won’t feel bad.)

(Just a few more seconds.)

(Alright, here we go.)

Via Synergy, Robinson scored 31 points on 37 “spot-up drives”, with over half of those drives going to his right like we saw in the clip above. He only attempted two floaters, knocking down one of them. So, yeah, him attacking closeouts is a pretty rare thing; him finishing off one of those attacks with a floater is even more rare. I have no idea how much he can grow that part of his game, but he’ll need to if he plans to become a rotation piece.

The biggest issue with Robinson is on the defensive end. If there was a way to boil down his defensive troubles to three words, they would be “all of it.” A running list:

• He isn’t strong

• He isn’t a leaper by any stretch of the imagination

• He doesn’t possess quick hands

• He doesn’t anticipate things well

• His wingspan is pretty “meh”, to be kind

• He is very much a flat-footed defender; not only does he struggle to move quickly, he doesn’t accelerate or change direction well because of how he uses his feet

• I was actually in Vegas to watch the Heat take on the Charlotte Hornets in their match up, and poor Robinson had no chance defending Miles Bridges the few times they were matched up.

I mean … just look at Robinson here. He basically shades Bridges right, and still gets beat with relative ease.

God help us.

If there’s a bright side, it’s that Robinson truly tries and is, by most accounts (meaning the few people I asked about him), a smart player. There’s a pathway to him becoming a decent-enough team defender. He’s not even a Kyle Korver-level athlete, though, so even that kind of comparison should be taken with a grain of salt.

Overall, I like Robinson. Guys that can shoot off the catch and off movement are incredibly valuable in today’s NBA, even if they still have a ceiling. The Heat (and the SkyForce) will run him through the ringer, get him in better shape, and drill him on defensive principles. This is a nice flier on a two-way — one that I expect to pay off in some capacity, unlike Matt Williams.

Key Notes

Derrick Jones Jr.: More than a leaper?

DJJ graduated from two-way territory this summer and now finds himself on the active roster. In Pat Riley’s end-of-year press conference, he alluded to signing someone early that could be seen as a first-round draft pick; considering the DJJ signing was Miami’s first move, and the fact that he’s somehow only 21 years old, it’s safe to say he fits the description.

That may frustrate some that want(ed) the Heat to swing bigger — trust me, I feel you — but some of those concerns should’ve been erased during DJJ’s summer stint.

(Insert obvious caveat about summer play here.)

We know about DJJ’s alien-like athleticism. ESPN’s “The Jump” was probably inspired by his YouTube videos. As such, DJJ gave us plenty of jaw-dropping highlights, like this dunk:

But what also stood out was his shake off the bounce. He was able to get to his spots with relative ease and draw quite a bit of fouls. For those who were worried about his jumper, his release looked a little smoother, and he shot 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) from three across four games. Defensively, he used his length quickness to stifle opposing wings and guards (in a pinch). There were still “calm down pls” lapses, but overall, he looked a tad more disciplined.

It would be lovely if DJJ was able to develop into a 3ish-and-D type with the ability to attack closeouts with ferocity. That man is terrifying as it is when he’s using the baseline as a runway; imagine defenders having to close-out on him because he’s become a reliable corner shooter?


We’ll see.

Bam Adebayo can dribble

Year two of the summer circuit for Adebayo was … fine, I suppose. He didn’t do anything that wasn’t expected; he demolished the glass, dunked everything he could, missed everything he couldn’t, and got to the line a ton. His averages — 14 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.8 free throw attempts — were indicative of his aggressive play style.

For the second straight year, the Heat took the training wheels off and let Bam handle the rock. That led to possessions like this:

Here’s hoping that Head Coach Erik Spoelstra gives Bam the freedom push after misses this year.

Quick Hitters

• Jarrod Jones intrigues me. He shined in a 31-point, 8-rebound game against the Pelicans where he flashed some three-level scoring. If the three-point shooting ever becomes real, he could be, I don’t know, a Mike Scott with a little more juice off the bounce? But he’s 28, so the upside probably isn’t there.

• Rashad Vaughn is still very much a walking bucket. An inefficient bucket, but a bucket nonetheless.

• I love the way Derrick Walton Jr. plays. Poised, very vocal, very deliberate, and works his tail off. He isn’t that explosive, and he shot terribly from three. If the shot never comes, it’s hard to see a Heat future for him — or an NBA future for that matter. I still have faith that he sticks as a backup point guard somewhere, though.

• Mostly liked what I saw out of Yante Maten, who somehow led the non-Derrick Heat in PER (32.7). The Heat must’ve liked him too — he earned a camp invite (as did Daryl Macon) and will probably end up with Sioux Falls.

• Macon was one of my favorite guys to watch. He was incredibly active on both ends and did a nice job of penetrating the lane. If the Heat end up cutting the cord with Walton Jr, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them shift gears to Macon. He should get plenty of reps in Sioux Falls

• I, uh, don’t see it for Matt Farrell. I don’t think he’ll ever be able to create enough separation to force defenses to react.