ASK IRA: Has Duncan Robinson become more necessity than luxury for the Heat?

Q: Ira, when will Erik Spoelstra recognize that Duncan Robinson has to start? No one gives us the spark that he adds with his 3-point shooting. If we’re going to play small, at least have a chance from outside, right? – Emo.

A: This is like so many questions that come this way, in regard to leaving out the other part of the equation, namely who then doesn’t play. So let’s start from there. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo assuredly start. Tyler Herro has spent his entire career working to start. And Terry Rozier was not acquired at the cost of a first-round pick not to start. So the only way you get Duncan Robinson into that starting group with those four is to start Jimmy Butler at power forward. And, well, we all know how he feels about that (while also willing to move to that spot as the Heat cycle through their rotation). So I would put it this way: When any of the three among Butler, Herro or Rozier aren’t available, then by all means give such consideration to Duncan Robinson. And there should be ample opportunity in coming games, including Wednesday night in Philadelphia. But, otherwise, it looks more like Duncan as spark off the bench.

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Q: What is up with Erik Spoelstra, he either starts or won’t play Nikola Jovic? He’s messing with the kid’s head. – Edwin.

A: Put aside for a moment where Nikola Jovic was drafted and instead accept the reality that this is what happens to players at the back end of the roster. It’s all about opportunity and opportunities that need to be seized. Erik Spoelstra could just as easily have started Kevin Love or Haywood Highsmith on Tuesday night. Instead, he saw a situation where Nikola could be of value, including with his ballhandling, in the absence of Terry Rozier. Mostly, keep in mind that Nikola does not turn 21 until June. So consider this more growth curve than necessarily growing pains. The bottom line is the Heat know what Nikola Jovic can become. And once he fully becomes that, there will be no question about a role, only an obvious answer.

Q: The Heat seem to shoot together or slump together. That was a crazy game. – Lo.

A: Which is why Erik Spoelstra insists on the defensive component, so there still is a path to victory even when the threes aren’t falling. But that is who the Heat become when Jimmy Butler is out, for better or worse.