Coup's Notebook Vol. 59: Duncan Robinson Goes Ultra Instinct, The Art Of Doing Nothing, Kevin Love’s Outlet Entry, Spanish Jimmy Butler And Christmas Movies

The Miami HEAT are 8-5, No. 5 in the Eastern Conference with a Net Rating of +0.1, good for No. 17 in the league. They have four games remaining on their current trip, including a Play-In Tournament match on Friday against the Knicks. Here’s what we’ve been noting and noticing.


Much of what you hear at Media Day and during Training Camp is quickly nullified once the season begins. There isn’t anything nefarious going on, that first week is just the equivalent of New Year’s Eve for the NBA. Everyone has their resolutions, but we all know what happens to resolutions in January. Still, there are always a handful of quotes that stick with you throughout the season. This year, one of those came from Duncan Robinson.

“My goal is to come out and be aggressive to the point where I’m noticed and needed,” he said. “That’s a goal of mine for sure. We’ll see where the chips fall after that.

“Having awareness over who I am and what I do. A big part of this past offseason, everyone makes a fuss when I dribble the ball twice or make a layup, that is what it is. For me part of the offseason has been about getting back to really what I feel I can be elite at, floor spacing, catching and shooting. In the past I’ve been so obsessed with trying to expand this that or whatever. But instead of really honing in on what makes me me and unique from other players. Trying to tap into that for sure has been an emphasis.”

Now, you might read that and think Robinson, after a season where his three-point rate and percentages dipped as he dealt with a finger injury that eventually required surgery only for him to emerge as one of Miami’s most important offensive players in the postseason, was trying to refocus his game on his shooting. You also might read that and think it doesn’t track at all with what we’ve seen from Robinson this year.

When we say Robinson’s three-point rate dipped last season, 81 percent of his field goals came from three, down from three straight years over 85 percent as he took over three two-pointers per 100 possessions for the first time since his 15-game rookie season. That was enough to be noticeable at the time, but this year only 66 percent of Robinson’s shots have come from three as he takes over six two-pointers per 100, nearly double what had previously been his career high. On top of that, only 71.4 percent of those two-pointers have been assisted – his career average is 84 percent – 19 percent of his shots are coming within three feet of the basket, triple the rate of last season, and he’s driving 9.3 times per 100 possessions, up from 6.6 last year which itself was double the rate of the season before.

Robinson is still taking 12 threes per 100 possessions and making 41.1 percent of them – he’s taking more shots per game overall, which is how all the other increases are possible with the threes still going up – and he’s still one of the league’s most prolific handoff operators. He just doesn’t look like a player who previously appeared to be thinking that he had focused too much on expanding his game, considering this is the most expansive his game has ever been.

Does this look like the Duncan Robinson you a couple seasons ago?

Notebook 59: Duncan Up And Under Craft

We followed up with Robinson to get a sense of where he was at in the context of his preseason goals. After all, none of these changes are a bad thing. Just different. Aliens isn’t Alien and Army of Darkness isn’t Evil Dead II. They’re still great, all of them.

“The biggest thing is being a basketball player and trusting my instincts as a player,” he said. “I think my feel and my instincts are a strength of mine. Not getting so narrow minded over, ‘Oh, I’ve got to shoot this shot.’ Having the freedom between the ears to just play. In the past there was clarity because it was like, ‘Just shoot threes. Come off of stuff, fly off of stuff and shoot threes.’ Now I have clarity where I can just be who I am as a player. That just makes it a whole lot easier on that end.”

That said, does he see his overall three-point rate being down as a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing?

“It's more important to look at how the offense is functioning,” he said. “For me, I want to really focus on taking good [threes]. Good ones might look different in different games, depending on how teams are playing, depending on how the offense is flowing and moving. So there are stretches where I have to be more aggressive. We have so many talented guys, we can play a very unselfish brand of basketball. There’s no reason I have to shoot challenging ones with two guys on me or whatever. There’s going to be times when I shoot them, but for the most part we can work to get a better one.”

There’s merit to this, statistically. Sure, Robinson is shooting 41.1 percent, his best percentage since his breakout second season, and making over half his threes off the dribble – only 33.9 catch-and-shoot, strangely, though that will normalize as the pull-up percentage drops – but perhaps the most important thing happening for him, beyond all the increases inside the arc, is that Robinson is enjoying the best Shot Quality of his career. Robinson’s expected effective field-goal percentage relative to league average is 54.5, according to Second Spectrum, a huge spike from a previous high of 51.6, and from three his expected eFG is 51.7, also his highest mark in a full season. Using the version of Shot Quality that uses Robinson’s historical performance puts it more in line with career norms, though still well above where he’s been the past two seasons when his spot in the rotation was often in flux. Granted, Miami hasn’t faced many top tier defenses to this point, but good process generally leads to good results against weaker opponents. Given how the league has scouted him, with plenty of top-locking guards chasing him off the line, and the counters he has had to develop, indications are that he’s taking the right shots at the right time in his career.

We can also throw all the numbers out and say this is clearly, from an observer’s perspective, the most comfortable Robinson has been with his game and where it fits in Miami’s offense in a couple years. Slotting into the starting lineup during Tyler Herro’s injury, where he can play a ton of minutes with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, might have something to do with it. Erik Spoelstra will certainly have to sort out his rotation puzzle sooner than later. For now, Robinson has his swagger back and that’s worth any amount of change, or refocusing, it takes to get there.


This might surprise some of you since we’re getting to the point where Bam Adebayo’s rookie season doesn’t feel like it was just yesterday anymore, but back in 2017-18 Adebayo’s was not a very good play finisher. Yes, he was an athletic dunker. Anything else was, as with all things for a rookie, a work in progress.

On all paint shots that were not jumpers that season, Adebayo shot 56.4 percent. In the restricted area, where he routinely hovers around and above 70 percent, he was at 62.7. In the upper paint, he was all the way down at 25.4 percent. It’s common for high-level athletes, guys who have essentially been able to rise and dunk over anyone for their entire lives, to struggle a bit when they encounter the mobile redwoods which cover the league. Still, some players never quite figure that part out. Adebayo’s finishing numbers were at least worth a raised eyebrow and regular check-ins.

Something else happened that season which helped push him along. At the trade deadline in early February, Miami re-acquired Dwyane Wade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. We’ll let Adebayo tell the rest.

“When I was on the team with D-Wade, I would always rush. And D-Wade pulled me to the side one day and was like, ‘Let the defense make the mistake. Slow down, be patient.’ Literally it was just like a wakeup call for me.”

By the next season, Adebayo’s only full year with Wade on the roster, his percentages rose across the board. Up to 68.8 percent in the restricted area and 40.9 in the upper paint. Still not where he would eventually reach in either zone, but more than enough to allay any mild concerns that existed before.

From that second season on, Adebayo’s free-throws per 100 possessions rose every season until the most recent one. Not a coincidence that the drop – .466 free-throws per field-goal down to .361 – coincided with Adebayo finding his groove as a scorer against all coverages, and with that a dramatic rise in upper paint and mid-range jumpers. A year later, Adebayo is still getting to the rim less than he used to, even less than last season, but he’s finishing more efficiently than ever and his free-throw rate is right back in line with career norms.

Adebayo looks as patient as he ever has in the paint, where he’s adopted not just the same pump fakes – before playing Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn made a specific point about staying down on Adebayo’s fakes – of Wade and Jimmy Butler, but also their ability to simple wait and do nothing. If you pump fake five times in succession, the defense can call your bluff. If you do it once and then wait a beat or three, there’s no rhythm. It doesn’t take much for Adebayo or Butler to get antsy defenders back in the air.

Notebook 59: Adebayo Patience

We’ll see where Adebayo’s free-throw numbers end up. While he’s at a career-high 7.3 per game, much of that is due to 12 he took in the fourth quarter against Memphis when Miami was already in the bonus. Considering his current career-high usage rate and field-goal attempts, the free-throw numbers look like what they used to look like.

Where this patience and control might really matter is in the playoffs against teams like the Knicks who regularly sent third defenders Adebayo’s way when he caught the ball in his comfort zones – not straight doubles, just extra attention to speed him up.

Naturally, slowing down while still processing at a high speed is a natural counter to that sort of coverage. And sometimes there’s no better way to slow down than to just do nothing.


It should surprise nobody that Kevin Love currently leads the league in outlet passes per 100 possessions (4.4) traveling at least 20 feet in the air. Love is, at the very worst, one of the 10 greatest outlet passers that have ever passed through the NBA, and he’s probably Top 3. When Miami isn’t turning the other team over, early, open court passes from Love and Kyle Lowry are often the only way for the team to get out in transition.

We’ve talked about all that before, including how Love’s outlets outright won Miami a postseason game in New York last year. What we want to highlight instead is a Love pass against Brooklyn recently which didn’t lead directly to a score but did get Jimmy Butler right into a post-up.

Notebook 59: Love Outlet Entry

If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that Butler isn’t even posting up while the ball is in the air much less actually facing the pass. Love throws the ball away from the rim, trusting that Butler will turn in time to go and get it. It’s a remarkable little bit of veteran chemistry, like a quarterback throwing an out route to their favorite tight end before the receiver has even broken off toward the sideline.

Nightly viewers of the rest of the league will know that some teams struggle mightily with even simple entry passes, committing crushing turnovers against moderate pressure leading to a reticence to attempt post-ups in high leverage situations. It may seem rather simple that Butler, one of the best matchup hunters in the league, could just post up anyone he wants after drawing a switch, but he still needs someone to get him the ball. Having veterans like Love and Lowry who can deliver the pass early in the clock is a luxury most teams don’t have.


A few minutes into the third quarter against Chicago, Miami ran a set that looked very familiar – a simple backscreen lob for Butler, which you can see him signaling for as he brings the ball up, run just about perfectly.

Notebook 59: Jimmy Lob vs. Bulls

Miami will break this out every so often – it worked a few times in the playoffs, and typically once every few weeks in the regular season – and Duncan Robinson is often the screener as his gravity freaks the other team out. Other teams use it, too, but in the context of Miami it’s the same action Philadelphia used to catch the HEAT with a couple times a season with Ben Simmons.

Notebook 59: Simmons Lob vs. Miami

And sure enough the 76ers under Brett Brown ran the same thing for Butler during his short time there.

Notebook 59: Jimmy Lob Sixers

(He missed that one but it was the cleanest example with J.J. Redick screening.)

This isn’t complicated stuff. Erik Spoelstra and his staff could have easily come up with on their own, especially with similar concepts growing in popularity around the league. You just need an athletic wing, a big that can handle the ball up top that defenses respect enough to bring a center out of the paint for, and a shooter who doubles as a good screener. But knowing how the league works and how much film every coach watches, especially during the offseason when they acquire someone new, it’s very possible that Brett Brown took what was working with Simmons at the time and translated it to Butler, only for Spoelstra and his staff to catch on and keep it in their back pocket after the trade. Or, maybe not and everything happened independently. But a little X’s and O’s forensics is always fun and for what it’s worth, we can’t find evidence – with only the 2013-14 season available via tracking data – that Miami used to run the same with LeBron James. That tracks as these are all elements of Spain Pick-and-Roll actions – shooters setting back screens for a dive man, though the most traditional version has the screener in a pick-and-roll receiving that pick – and those didn’t start to become popular in the league until the later 2010’s.


We have a rule around here. If a HEAT player asks a question about movies on social media – if we see it – then we are morally obligated to try and answer it. So when Adebayo posted recently, there was no course but to spring into action.

Subjectively, the answer is yes. You’re welcome to your own opinion, but you’re also welcome to be wrong. That’s also no way to prove a point, so let’s try to answer this with data. Fortunately, movies have scripts and scripts are relatively easy to find. The word ‘Christmas’ is spoken 38 times in the script for Home Alone, written by John Hughes. That puts it right in line with It’s A Wonderful Life, where Christmas comes up 36 times. But wait, there’s more. Not all scripts are made the same, so we need to adjust for word count. Because Home Alone’s script is significantly shorter than It’s A Wonderful Life’s, it has a significantly higher Christmas per 100 words rate, 0.38 compared to 0.17.

Let’s not stop there. Here’s how Home Alone stacks up in Total Christmas and Christmas per 100 with both generally accepted Christmas Movies and those that are a bit more on the bubble, at least when it comes to their divisiveness.

MovieTotal ChristmasChristmas/100
The Grinch541.49
Muppet Christmas Carol981.09
Christmas Vacation550.75
Love Actually710.59
The Santa Clause500.51
A Christmas Story480.47
Nightmare Before Christmas300.44
Home Alone380.38
Friday After Next330.29
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)300.24
Trading Places210.24
Batman Returns110.24
Holiday Inn240.24
White Christmas330.23
Die Hard180.21
It's A Wonderful Life360.17
Lethal Weapon110.14
Black Christmas60.08

This is hardly a perfect process. We tried as best we could to use dialogue transcripts rather than full scripts with stage direction and scene descriptions, but even then most of these movies have diegetic Christmas songs playing throughout - including one being a main plot point in Love Actually - and the lyrics to those songs are often on the page of even a straight transcript. While your mileage may vary, but we would draw the line at It’s A Wonderful Life, which at least tracks with previous beliefs that Die Hard is a Christmas movie while Lethal Weapon is not. Justice for Gremlins, also, which crams a ton of Christmas into a very short transcript since Gremlins mostly speak in gibberish.

Anyway, a writer has got to have a code.


- Miami's Offensive Rating of 131.9 against Brooklyn on Friday would have been their 7th best last season, when they were 15-0 with an Offensive Rating of 127+.

-The HEAT’s five makes in the restricted area against Chicago on Saturday are tied for the third-fewest of the Butler era (since 2019-20) and were the fewest since 2021.

-While Estimated Plus/Minus, from dunksandthrees.com, just became available Sunday morning – it takes a little time for sample size to build up – and will still fluctuate in the near term, Adebayo debuted with a Defensive EPM of +1.5, good for 17th in the league. Considering teams are shooting 39 percent from three while he’s on the floor, probably the thing he has the least control over, he’s in good shape. Averaging a career-high 2.5 stocks a night certainly helps.

-During Miami’s ultra-clutch 2022-23 season, 32 (72.7 percent) of their 44 wins were within single digits. All eight of their wins so far have been single digits.

-The Heat had the second-best Shot Quality in the league during their seven-game winning streak at 54.4 expected eFG, per Second Spectrum. All seven of their wins were against defenses currently ranked No. 19 or lower, so salt away, but this is an area they're typically average-ish in.

-On a related note, Miami has the best Shot Quality in the league at the rim this season, at 67.9 expected eFG, while they drop down to league average on all other shots and No. 25 on shots logged as jumpers. For a team that doesn’t generate a ton of rim pressure – No. 28 in the percent of attempts coming at the rim – their cuts and otherwise offense-derived attempts at the rim which come off defensive breakdowns are incredibly important to keeping their scoring efficiency above water.

-Adebayo is allowing 0.45 points per isolation, still No. 1 in the league even as players have hit a few shots on him in the past week. One of those players was Torrey Craig on Saturday night. Craig had scored 0.74 points-per in 104 ‘used’ career isolations before that play, and was shooting 26 percent on pull-up mid-range jumpers.

-While Miami has seen an uptick in their Offensive Rating after their streak, enough to get them up to No. 19, they are No. 19 against Middle 10 ranked defenses (five games) and No. 20 against Bottom 10 defenses (six games). On the other side, they’re No. 10 defensively against Top 10 offenses, but we’re only talking three games. The sample sizes are too small for it all to mean anything yet.

-While the HEAT are 2-0 in Group Play, because they only beat Washington and Charlotte by single digits they have a worse point differential (+13) than the 1-1 New York Knicks (+16). It’s all a moot point if Miami beats New York and Milwaukee and wins their group to advance to the quarterfinals, but if they take one loss, especially if it’s to the Knicks, and end up in the Wild Card race – there’s only one extra spot – that point differential is going to matter.