The NBA Draft is the start of a busy few days for the Miami Heat and the rest of the league.
In the hours following Thursday night’s draft, teams around the NBA will work overnight and throughout Friday to receive commitments from those who went undrafted to build summer league rosters and find the next overlooked gem.
There haven’t been many teams better than the Heat at identifying undrafted prospects with upside and developing them into quality NBA rotation players. The list of Heat undrafted success stories includes Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Omer Yurtseven, Caleb Martin, Kendrick Nunn, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson and Udonis Haslem.
That reputation gives the Heat an edge when competing with other teams for coveted undrafted talent once the draft is completed.
“There’s proof that if you go there and you buy in and you spend time in Sioux Falls with their G League team, that gives you kind of a little bit of a leg-up,” ESPN analyst and former Nets executive Bobby Marks said. “I don’t know what the secret sauce is as far as from a developmental standpoint, but they basically identify players that fit what their culture is as far as how Erik [Spoelstra] wants to play.
“If I’m an undrafted player or an agent of an undrafted player and the Heat call me saying, ‘We think this player can fit in, but it’s going to take a year or two,’ I think that certainly gives them an advantage over maybe some of these other teams.”
Among the 38 undrafted players across the league who appeared in at least 50 games and averaged at least 15 minutes of playing time per game this past regular season, an NBA-high five were on the Heat’s roster: Robinson, Strus, Vincent, Martin and Dewayne Dedmon. In other words, Miami’s rotation regularly included five undrafted players on its way to entering the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Robinson, 28, joined the Heat after going undrafted out of Michigan in 2018 and he quickly turned into an elite three-point shooter who signed a five-year deal worth $90 million last offseason. The total value of the contract is the largest ever for an undrafted player.
Strus, 26, and Vincent, 26, reaped the rewards this past season of their work in the Heat’s player development program. Strus averaged career highs in points (10.6), rebounds (3), assists (1.4) while shooting a career-best 41 percent on threes, and Vincent averaged career-highs in points (8.7), rebounds (1.9), assists (3.1) and minutes (23.4) while shooting career-bests from the field (41.7 percent) and three-point range (36.8).
Martin, 26, was waived by the Charlotte Hornets last offseason before signing a two-way contract with the Heat in September. He averaged career-highs in points (9.2) and rebounds (3.8) while shooting a career-best 50.7 percent from the field in his first season with the Heat.
Dedmon, 32, was already a proven NBA player when he arrived to the Heat late in the 2020-21 season. He averaged 6.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 15.9 minutes as Miami’s backup center this past season.
Martin will be a restricted free agent and Dedmon will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
“There’s a lot to it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in February of developing undrafted players. “It’s not necessarily analytics. I’m not really a math guy, so that sometimes confuses me. It’s usually just putting together a plan and starting fresh. It’s not cookie-cutter. It’s not what we’ve done for one player is automatically what we’re going to do with another player. It’s being open to the possibilities and having discussions with the player and having a discussion with the staff.”
Finding value among the undrafted is especially important for the Heat because they don’t often hold high draft picks due to their sustained success over the last 20-plus years. Miami has selected in the top 10 of the draft just four times since 2000 (Caron Butler with the No. 10 pick in 2002, Dwyane Wade with the No. 5 pick in 2003, Michael Beasley with the No. 2 pick in 2008 and Justise Winslow with the No. 10 pick in 2015).
After finishing just one win short of the NBA Finals this past season, the Heat entered Thursday night’s draft with just one pick at No. 27 in the first round.
“For our franchise that hopefully we’re winning a lot, you’re not going to have great draft pick position,” Spoelstra said. “So you’re going to have to find ways to develop players in other ways. Our scouting department, obviously, is just outstanding. They understand exactly what we’re looking for. They’ve adjusted to how we play and what fits best with our current team. That’s from the top. [Senior advisor of basketball operations] Chet Kammerer led it for many years, but [assistant general manager] Adam Simon and his staff have just been amazing in finding the right kind of guys that would fit in here that can handle our program.”
The Heat’s proven track record could be its biggest selling point when recruiting undrafted prospects.
“They’ve told me, they have the outline of like here’s our sales pitch,” ESPN NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Givony said of the Heat. “From the day the draft ends to the training camp, two years after, here’s how your career could like, here’s the platform we’re going to put you on, here’s the development we can give you and here are the success stories. That really resonates. Other NBA teams admire Miami for what they’ve done and agents want their players to be on that treadmill too to getting paid a lot of money.”
SUMMER LEAGUE COACHING TWIST
Heat assistant coach Malik Allen will serve as the summer league head coach for the second straight year, but his coaching staff will include some international perspective.
The Heat confirmed that Tim Cone, who is the winningest coach in Philippine Basketball Association history, will serve as a summer league assistant coach for the team. Cone, 64, has coached in the Philippines since 1989.
Spoelstra, who is the NBA’s first Asian-American head coach, extended the invite to Cone. Spoelstra is of Filipino descent on his mother’s side of the family.
The Heat opens summer league action on July 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers (5 p.m., ESPN2) at Chase Center in San Francisco as part of the California Classic. The Heat is scheduled to travel to the West Coast on Tuesday to begin summer league practices.
This story was originally published June 23, 2022 10:26 AM.
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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.