Report Card: Duncan Robinson

Dylan Burkhardt

Now that the roster has settled after a tumultuous month of May, we’ll be diving into our 2015-16 Report Card features, breaking down the season that was for the returning players on the Michigan roster. Today we start with Duncan Robinson.

Duncan Robinson arrived in Ann Arbor with real questions to answer as to whether he could play Division I basketball. Making the almost unheard of jump from Division III to Division I was never going to be easy, but the 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore did everything that was asked of him during his transfer year and hit the ground running.

He added muscle and learned the Michigan offense during his mandated year on the scout team and it only took him 10 games to find his way into the starting lineup once he was eligible this season.

From day one, Robinson excelled at the one thing that everyone said he could do — shooting the basketball — now the question is what type of player can he develop into over his next two seasons in Ann Arbor. The Williams College transfer reached unparalleled three-point shooting heights for his first year of high-major hoops — only Louis Bullock (101) and Glen Rice (99) made more three pointers in a season at Michigan than Robinson’s 95 makes in 211 attempts — but his first season in Ann Arbor felt like it was just scratching the surface of what kind of player he could become.

Michigan was 21-6 when Robinson managed an offensive rating of 100 or better and just 2-7 when he finished below that mark. When Robinson was knocking in threes, more often than not, Michigan was winning games.

It’s no coincidence that some of his best performances came in some of Michigan’s biggest wins — 5-of-9 three-point shooting vs. Maryland and 4-of-5 three-point shooting vs. Texas stand out — but he was also conspicuously absent in many forgettable losses.

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  • Three-Point Shooting: By just about any metric, Duncan Robinson was an elite shooter in his first year of Division I basketball. He shot 45.2% from three-point range for the season, good for 26th in the country, on 210 attempts. According to shot tracking data from Shot Analytics, Robinson was the No. 7 shooter in the Big Ten against expectations by shot location and No. 23 among high-major conference players. He was also the most effective corner three-point shooter in the country.
  • Passing Ability: Robinson isn’t a natural playmaker with the ball or a guy that’s going to create offense for others, but he’s a plus-passer and showed the ability to read the game. He threw more confident backdoor passes and made quicker reads to find the open cutter than most of Michigan’s other options. He was loose with the ball at times, but his ability to see the floor should grow as his career progresses.

Room for Improvement

  • Defense: Robinson was a poor defender in most situations for the Wolverines. He was below average closing out on shooters and contesting jump shots and he was a liability off the dribble as well. While Synergy’s defensive metrics are far from perfect, Robinson graded out as a below-average defender overall and struggled significantly defending spot-up shooters and players coming off of screens.
  • Diversified Offense: Just 28% of Robinson’s shot attempts were twos and he connected at just a 48% clip inside the arc. Robinson was below average shooting off the dribble (32 eFG%) and in the mid-range (32%) and never quite developed an alternative to the three-point shot. He demonstrated a great pump fake that could draw defenders off guard, but he’ll need to improve in his ability to attack after getting the defense off balance — even if that just means knocking in a 16 footer off of two dribbles.
  • Stamina/Consistency: Robinson appeared to lose his legs as the season wore on and his shooting numbers followed. The increase in competition certainly played a part — as did the loss of Caris LeVert — but there was no doubt that the once automatic Robinson seemed to lose something whether it was stamina, confidence, or better distribution over the last half of the season. Here’s a look at a five-game rolling average of his three-point shooting percentage over the season which tells the story.

Bottom Line

As a redshirt sophomore, Robinson had one great skill, but he wasn’t a great player. Like most of Michigan’s rotation he played significant minutes — checking in at No. 22 in the Big Ten in percentage of minutes played — and probably more than would have been ideal in his first year of Big Ten basketball given the holes in his game.

That being said, any team in the country would take a shooter like Robinson in their rotation to stretch the floor. John Gasaway recently wrote that Robinson was the rare player who could shoot 45% from three and make it seem like a floor rather than a ceiling and it’s tough to disagree. Despite a significant shooting slump down the stretch, Robinson was still one of the elite shooters in the country.

Robinson’s future is intriguing because there are correctable flaws in his game that could elevate his game to the next level with just incremental improvement across the board. If he can become an average defender who can use the pump fake and hit the mid-range jumper, he’s suddenly a significantly better player.

Michigan doesn’t need him to make some sort of Nik Stauskas-level jump from shooter to playmaker in his second year, it just needs him to continue to progress and space the floor for the other options on the roster.

Shining Moment

17 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting vs. Maryland

Almost made the cut: Late Big Ten Tournament threes vs. Northwestern, Indiana

  • Barth Applefeld

    The leveling off/slight uptick at the end is the most encouraging sign: it showed that Robinson and the team could learn from experience.

  • Champswest

    I expect Robinson to improve this year and become a key player.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    after a year of D1 basketball; I expect Robinson to continue to improve, he was a great transfer, and was a vital part in our success last year, I think he does have the ability to be Nik Stauskas 2.0 this year, if not he’s senior year…great addition to the team, great year, I didn’t know what to expect from a D3 transfer

  • Wayman Britt

    Looking foward to watching Duncan next year. I hope he practices his defense all summer long. He just needs to become an average defensive player.

  • Mattski

    Not to be a liability on defense, and to have the stamina to hold up season-long (which likely means more shots made), those would be huge for the team, and likely cinch us several more wins this upcoming year.

  • bobohle

    I echo the comments below.

  • bobohle

    Good luck to Kam Chatman as he plays at U of D for Bacari Alexander.

  • Lanknows

    “Just scratching the surface” – not much evidence of that for a guy who is older than Irvin and Walton. Hopefully he can improve on the below average shooting he exhibited in big ten play after teams had a chance to adjust. Rarely did he shoot well against top 100 Defenses.

    The best thing you can say about Robinson is that he is a very good role player. He forces defenses to pay attention to him and he spaces the floor for his teammates. But he doesn’t generate offense for himself and is a huge liability on defense. It’s really a shame he can’t follow in the footsteps or Novak and Irvin and work hard enough on defense to play the 4 spot, but he’s simply not athletic or strong enough.

  • section13row15

    Robinson completely disappeared during the middle of the season last year. At times I was curious why Aubrey didnt play way more given what ge brought to the team as a freshman. What would be your letter grade for Duncan last season, Dylan?

  • dan limon

    He’s an elite shooter with unlimited range. You can attribute his mid season drop off to being put in less comfortable positions, not great defense from opponents. His potential is outstanding. Who else shoots like that? The NBA loves shooters and if he continues to improve, he’ll find a home. He’s got a great attitude and a great work ethic. He just made the rare jump from Division III for Chrissake! He’s probably has the best potential on the team.