Offseason Thread 2016: Duncan Robinson

Here’s his report card… what do you guys expect from Duncan Robinson this summer and next year?

What has Robinson shown that would make him a guaranteed starter at the 4? He can shoot threes, which yes, is helpful in our offense, but he can’t defend the paint or wing, create for himself or others, or play in the post at all. We know Young is a good shooter so if he can do any of the other things required to be a Big Ten power forward that Robinson can’t (Which seems likely from the recent video) and he’s comfortable with the offense then I see no reason why he wouldn’t be able to jump Robinson.

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Saying Robinson can shoot threes is sort of like saying Matthews is going to bring athleticism. He’s so much better at it than anyone else on the team and makes him an instant weapon. He made the third most makes and had the sixth best percentage over the year in Michigan history. He also showed an improved ability to pass and even put the ball on the deck. By his RS Sr year he’s going to be very hard to plant on the bench.

I think you’re more likely to see a lineup of Simpson, Matthews, Robinson, Young, Wagner (with MAAR on the bench) than Simpson, MAAR, Matthews, Young, Wagner (with Robinson on the bench). But whether or not it’s the starting five, I’d expect to see the lineup of Simpson, MAAR, Matthews, Robinson, and Wagner a fair amount in '17. Especially with another year for Robinson to build his strength. And who knows, maybe Matthews will be able to take some of that work.


Shooting threes becomes a lot more helpful when you’ve shown any ability to not have to rely on others to create them for you a la Stauskas, who showed that skill in his freshman year too. Robinson is a decent passer but won’t be able to be used in the pick and roll game like Young would be able to as a roller. He’s still the worst defender on the team currently. If Beilein is truly feeding into this more defensive strategy then there’s no way you can say Robinson is a lock to start.

I disagree. Nobody emphasizes defense more than Tom Izzo, and yet Forbes, who couldn’t guard my house (as was extremely evident during the Middle Tennessee State debacle, as well as at other times), started all year and played heavy minutes. Forbes also was utterly incapable of creating his own shot. Why did he play so much? Because he was a floor spacer, gave their inside and outside players room to maneuver, and buried open 3s. You can’t have too many guys like Forbes or Robinson on the floor at one time, but you also can’t have too few.


I guarantee if MSU didn’t have someone who consistently drew 2 defenders at a time in Valentine, who demands the attention of the defense, that Forbes wouldn’t be close to the player he was. This was sooooooo evident this past season with Robinson. He was great floor spacer when LeVert was playing, shooting close to 50% with him in there, but 35% without LeVert creating for him and drawing attention. Who’s gonna be our LeVert the next two years that makes you think Robinson will get as many open looks as he did the first half of last year? I would also argue that Forbes does a MUCH better job than Robinson at moving without the ball, whether from screens or just knowing where to be, and allowing himself to get open. During conference play it seemed like the only consistently open looks Robinson was getting from three were from being a trailer on the fast break. Forbes had the 4th best offensive rating in the country last year. Robinson’s was 60th. Obviously 60 is very good too, but you’re much more willing to give up defense when there’s only 3 more efficient players in the entire country who could be playing.Lastly, it’s not like MSU had many other options in the first place. Who else were they gonna put there, Matt McQuaid? He’s just as bad of a defender and a worse shooter. That’s the only other shooting guard they had who played consistent minutes.

With UNC the last couple years I’ve learned first hand how important it is to have knockdown shooters on your team and the perils that come with everybody on the damn floor being unable to shoot, but I don’t think it’s something to have someone like Duncan in the starting lineup as long as you have enough decent shooters who can do other things well.

I agree that a player like Valentine made Forbes a better player. But I’ll tell you this as well–Forbes helped Valentine too (not to the same extent, obviously, but he did) precisely because Forbes was such a threat. Valentine was the Big Ten POY last year–it’s unlikely we’ll have someone as good as him–but if we’re truly going to use the athleticism of guys like Simpson, Matthews, et. al. going forward, we have to have a floor spacer. I agree that Robinson has to move better without the ball, and that Forbes was better at that, though to be fair, Forbes was playing his fourth year of DI ball last year while Robinson was playing his first. I disagree that Robinson’s dip in percentage in conference was due solely (or even largely) to not getting good looks–he missed a ton of clean ones including many of the transition ones you identify. Personally, I think he wore down.

If we get a shooting forward in the class of '17 and he can make Duncan into a super sub, great. But, he has to be a very good shooter, and he has to play defense at a significantly higher level than does Duncan. That doesn’t seem like a high bar, but Duncan has a year to get better, and the competition is going to be a true freshman, many of whom are also clueless defensively. Unless we get Jackson, I’d be somewhat surprised if he’s not starting in '17-'18.


Excellent post. Creators and shooters help each other. You can have great receivers, but, if your QB is erratic, they are stymied. And vice versa. Nik was the rare guy who went from shooter one season to being able to create the next season, mostly on PnR. Still, his threes were not set up by one on one moves tom free him up but by utilizing high ball screens and kick outs.

I would be interested in reviewing that. Seemed like Stauskas got more on his own than you remember. Against MSU in Crisler a lot was isolation, his game winner against Wisconsin was iso.

I get that they are both great shooters, but I don’t really get why people constantly want to compare or project Duncan with Nik.

I think they project to different sorts of players, but that doesn’t mean where Duncan projects is any less important. If Duncan can improve his consistency/stamina over a whole season and make incremental defensive improvement, that’s a huge weapon. His shooting threat and spacing will make Michigan’s offense much better and make life far easier for the other options on the roster.

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Almost every shot he took on the perimeter in that video utilized a high ball screen to get separation. Having said that, I don’t think that Duncan has yet shown the ability to utilize screens as well as Nik or shoot off the dribble like Nik. The question is how much he can improve in those areas. Regardless, having a 45+% three point shooter is worth a lot in and of itself. I’ve brought up the Diebler comparison before. No ability to create, not quick, but his three point shooting made him a starter on some very good teams.

Yeah, the argument seems to be that he’s not Nik and therefore he’s not good, but there is a long list players who had shooting as their most notable skill and were quality starters even if they weren’t B1G player of the year.

Another reason I feel pretty bullish on Duncan is that he finished well and was clearly trying to vary his game and play better D. Against IU in the B1G tourney, in the last two minutes, Duncan had a huge and-one (taking advantage of a closeout) and then a three. The game before that against NU he had 21 and a late 3 to tie before Zak’s shot. He had 13 and 11 against Tulsa. He had his hot start and then a dip in the middle of the B1G (along with the rest of the team), but came on pretty strong.

And this was his first year against B1G competition and on a so-so team. Forbes was a RS-Sr last year and scored six more points per game and shot 6% better from three than the year before. I think a somewhat improved Duncan on a somewhat improved team could look pretty solid over the next couple of years.

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I agree with you, in that I think Duncan will remain a starter because he is SO good at shooting and shooting is SO key to our offense. A lineup of X, MAAR, Mathews, Young, Wagner just doesnt have enough shooting, barring improved/better-than-expected shooting from X, MAAR, and Mathews.

I am curious, though, if Mathews will be able to beat out MAAR for the starting spot, with MAAR as a senior. Without seeing Mathews play a minute in a Michigan jersey, we still project him as our higher motor/best defender, and he might be. But that’s a full season (and for MAAR, a full season of 30 minutes per game, real game time) away from now, leaving MAAR with 2 more seasons of experience.

Regardless, having one of MAAR, Mathews, or Duncan coming off the bench will be a luxury. I just think there’s something to having experience and proven commodities.

I am not big on comparisons you bring up Diebler but if you look at the supporting cast he had during his years of success it reads like this.


I that group you had guys who could get their own shot, had quickness some space eaters down low. I don’t think this group compares well to the quality of that group, heck you had a national player of the year on the one team. I was going to say to Dylan that Robinson gets his off his teammates penetration or ball screens the problem is Michigan doesn’t have real good finishers inside. Walton was one of the poor finishers inside would you as a defender help when Walton got into the lane and leave Robinson?

Between X, MAAR, Poole, Matthews, Duncan and Ibi that’s a lot of minutes at the 1-3 spots already taken. Wondering how that affects our potential recruitment of Cain, as opposed to other prospects who are more natural 4s.

That’s a good point. The 4 spot/Zak’s spot is the only position totally up for grabs, and most think Mathews will walk into that. Ibi is still enough of a question mark that, at least at this point, maybe potential recruits at the 2/3 wont be deterred by him; and then Poole is assumed to take the 2 spot, after MAAR leaves.

Looks like non-4 recruits will have to relish the competition and/or understand they might have to wait a year or two to get big minutes. And even 4 recruits might have to beat out Duncan/Matthews for the 4.

I don’t know of anyone that thinks of Matthews as a 4. Same with Duncan.

I think that Duncan could be. He has the size, but would obviously need to learn to play stronger and probably bulk-up his lower half. Of course we are hoping to bring in an instant-impact 2017 recruit at the 4, but with the 2017 roster/commits as is, the only real options are Duncan or DJ (and maybe Mathews vs smaller lineups).

But, if we land one of Jackson or Young (and maybe Tillman), or somebody of equal fit/talent to those guys, then I could see one of MAAR, Robinson, or Mathews (most likely, IMO) going to the bench. It’s just asking a lot of a freshman to outproduce multi-year starters and/or someone who has played a year at Kentucky/practiced for a year with Michigan already.

I think Poole will mostly be a two. I don’t think Cain should be too worried about Ibi (unless he has a great freshman year) as Ibi’s skillset is not as diverse as Cain’s right now. Same with Duncan.

And even though Cain isn’t a 4 at all (due to lack of strength), JB has never been afraid to put in a wing to defend the four (because our four is a wing on offense, so Cain definitely has the skillset to play there when he have the ball), even if it’s a mismatch.