For months, Adam Simon and his Miami Heat scouting staff have relentlessly scoured the collegiate and international game in order to provide an NBA draft board to Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg and the rest of the team’s front office.
But then, as Thursday turns to Friday, well after Commissioner Adam Silver turns the podium over at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum to announce the second round, the frenzy begins.
Because few teams seemingly thrive to the degree of the Heat in the post-draft hours.
“It’s very competitive,” said Simon, the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations. “You’re identifying and you’re working through all the situations where you’re trying to show interest that it’s a player you like. And those agents are hoping and thinking their players are going to get drafted. So then if they don’t get drafted, it’s competitive.”
To put into perspective how the Heat both value and thrive when it comes to undrafted players, consider that of the 17 players that finished the season with the team, 10 were undrafted: Dewayne Dedmon, Udonis Haslem, Haywood Highsmith, Caleb Martin, Mychal Mulder, Duncan Robinson, Javonte Smart, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Omer Yurtseven.
Vincent said the Heat’s culture creates a heartening landing spot for those who do not hear their names called.
“I mean if they watched any basketball this year,” Vincent said of those who might go undrafted Thursday, “they saw a lot of undrafted success across the league, a lot of success from guys that played in the G League across the league. Everyone’s route is different. Embrace it and have fun with the journey.”
It is not uncommon for agents to attempt to guide their undrafted players toward the Heat, in light of the team’s success with undrafted players, at times urging other teams during the latter stages of the draft to bypass their clients.
“We look forward to those challenges of finding players who are overlooked,” Simon said. “And I think, collaboratively, through our coaching staff, we try to find the guys that we think they would like to work with, and I think the buy-in for them helps us with the decisions we make.
“Our job is to identify the guys that we think would be a good fit for our coaching staff. And that’s been Max and Gabe and on and on. There’s a lot of variables and you’re just trying to find the right players that you think would be able to fit with our development program.”
It is, of course, also a two-way street, in more ways than one. Some of those agents also are attempting to get their players locked in to two-way contracts, valued at $500,000, or at least a degree of guaranteed cash.
The Heat, for example, were close to signing undrafted Virginia guard Sam Hauser immediately after last year’s draft. Instead, the Boston Celtics swept in with a two-way contract for the first-team All-ACC selection.
By not moving with haste for Hauser, the Heat held back the two-way contact that instead went in September to Martin, who ultimately thrived as a rotation player.
“If they don’t get drafted, then it’s competitive in terms of are you going to offer a contract? Are you going to offer a two-way? Are you going to offer an Exhibit 10 [camp tryout]?” Simon said. “And so now you’re deciding whether to use those mechanisms to acquire those players or not. So every organization has to decide if they want to use those. We’ve lost players the night of the draft for not using two-ways. And we’ve grabbed players that we liked with Exhibit 10s.”
In previous years, it meant the fight for No. 61, with two rounds of selections from the 30 teams. This year, there are only 58 selections, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Heat having forfeited second-round selections due to what the NBA deemed free-agency violations in previous offseasons.
“Every team does it differently,” Simon said of the race for the best remaining undrafted players. “And I think you would have to decide who you want to offer those to, the night of the draft. But part of the reason players come here is we let them compete and try to identify those guys in summer league.”