Miami Heat Have 7 Undrafted Players on NBA Finals Roster -- Here's How They've Contributed to the Heat’s Success

Miami Heat Have 7 Undrafted Players on NBA Finals Roster — Here’s How They’ve Contributed to the Heat’s Success

The Miami Heat are among the few teams in the NBA with a defined culture and it’s one of the main reasons why they’ve been in the Eastern Conference Finals three times and NBA Finals twice in the past four years. It’s a culture that was created by Pat Riley when he joined the team in the mid-1990s. 

At that time, he revealed a mission statement that would define the Miami Heat for the next 30 years – a mission statement that demanded his team be the ‘hardest-working, best conditioned, most professional, unselfish, toughest, meanest, nastiest team in the NBA.’ And that’s exactly what Miami Heat have been. 

That culture has helped the Heat make the playoffs in 22 of the past 28 seasons. During that time, they made the Eastern Conference Finals 10 times and won the NBA Finals three times. And they’ve done so in various ways, but it has always been on their terms and the Heat have their culture to thank for that. 

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Miami Heat Are Thriving With Undrafted Players

Miami Heat Have 7 Undrafted Players on NBA Finals Roster -- Here's How They've Contributed to the Heat’s Success
via Instagram (@caleb_martin10)

Over the past few years, the Miami Heat have done what many people didn’t think was possible – build a ‘superteam’ without a Hall-of-Fame cast. In a league where teams are trying to sign as many superstars as possible, the Heat are moving differently and it’s no coincidence that they often find themselves on top.

Just look at the past four seasons. The Heat have made it to the Conference Finals three times, but only have four All-Star appearances to show for it – Jimmy Butler twice and Bam Adebayo twice. And while Tyler Herro won Sixth Man of the Year in 2022, they haven’t had an MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. 

Instead, they’ve had a roster filled with undrafted players who continue to prove their worth in the NBA – despite everyone doubting them. And they’ve done it again this year, making it all the way to the NBA Finals with seven undrafted players on their roster – making up nearly half of their entire playoff roster!

Let’s meet who those players are and how they’ve contributed to the Heat’s success this season. 

7. C Omer Yurtseven

Omer Yurtseven is a 7-foot-0, 264-pound center who went undrafted in 2020 after playing three years of college ball at NC State and Georgetown. He spent a few months with the Oklahoma City Blue – the G League affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder – before signing with the Maimi Heat on May 14, 2021. 

Yurtseven started to impress the Heat during the 2021 NBA Summer League and eventually earned a spot on the team’s roster. He finished with 8 points and 3 rebounds in his NBA debut on October 21, 2021 and made his first start on December 26, 2021 – finishing with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 1 assist. 

He played in 56 games for the Heat in 2021-22 and averaged 5.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 12.6 minutes per game. He finished the season with eight double-doubles, had season-highs of 22 points (twice) and 17 rebounds, and played a role in the Heat making the playoffs. 

Heat fans didn’t get to see that much of Yurtseven this season. He only played in nine games this year and averaged 9.2 minutes per game (4.4 points, 2.6 rebounds). He spent most of the season nursing an impingement, bone spur, and stress reaction in his left ankle – which required surgery in November 2022. 

What was his role during the 2022-23 NBA playoffs? While Omer Yurtseven returned to the roster in March, the Heat didn’t fit him into the rotation and he spent most of the past few months on the bench. He played in eight playoff games this year and averaged 2.0 minutes per game as he continues to develop.

6. SF Haywood Highsmith

Haywood Highsmith is a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward who went undrafted in 2018 after playing four years of college ball at Wheeling University. He bounced around the NBA, G League, Lega Basket Serie A (Italy), and Basketball Bundesliga (Germany) before catching the eye of the Miami Heat in 2021. 

He first signed a 10-day contract with the team on December 30, 2021, but was reacquired by the 76ers’ G League affiliate one week later. He signed a second 10-day contract with the Heat on February 15, 2022 and a third 10-day contract once his last one ended. After that, they signed him to a three-year deal.

Highsmith just completed his second season with the Heat. He played in just 19 games during the 2021-22 season and averaged 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game. He also appeared in eight playoff games for the Heat, but only averaged 1.1 points and 0.6 rebounds in 3.9 minutes per game

He saw his role increase during the 2022-23 season – playing in 54 games (11 starts) and averaging 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 17.9 minutes per game. He recorded a career-high 18 points against the Chicago Bulls on December 20 and had two double-doubles this year.

What was his role during the 2022-3 NBA playoffs? Highsmith appeared in 18 of the Heat’s 23 playoff games (zero starts), but he saw his minutes and role decrease compared to the regular season. He averaged 3.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.1 blocks in 8.9 minutes per game. 

5. PF Udonis Haslem

Udonis Haslem is a 6-foot-8, 235-pound power forward who went undrafted in 2002 after playing four years at the University of Florida. He joined the Atlanta Hawks’ training camp and played for the team in the 2002 Summer League, but was released by the start of the season and played overseas for a year. 

He made his return to the NBA (and return to Miami, where he grew up) after signing with the Miami Heat on August 6, 2003 and has been with the team ever since. He’s one of just three NBA players to spend at least 20 years with one team – joining Kobe Bryant (LA Lakers) and Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks). 

Haslem made an immediate impact as a rookie in 2003 and was the team’s full-time starter between the 2004-05 season and 2008-09 season. He transitioned into a bench player starting with the 2009-10 season and has been in a ‘leadership’ role since 2016 – he has only played in 65 games since 2016. 

Throughout his career, Haslem has averaged 7.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 24.7 minutes per game (879 games, 501 starts). He has also been a part of the team’s three championship runs since 2006 and has appeared in 149 playoff games (84 starts) since joining the team.

What was his role during the 2022-23 NBA playoffs? Haslem only appeared in 7 games during the regular season and only played three minutes in the playoffs, but his role was felt from the bench. Aside from it being his final year in the NBA, he has helped the Heat maintain their unique and iconic culture. 

4. SG Max Strus

Max Strus is a 6-foot-5, 215-pound small forward who went undrafted in 2019 after playing three years of college ball at Lewis University and DePaul University. He spent a few months with the Boston Celtics and one year with the Chicago Bulls, but only played in two NBA games – he had 5 points in 6 minutes. 

He signed a contract with the Miami Heat on November 30, 2020 and played in 39 games in the 2020-21 season – he had 6.1 points and 1.1 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per game. His role grew the following year, averaging 10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 23.3 minutes per game (68 games) in 2021-22.

Strus didn’t have much of a role during the 2020-21 playoffs, but he came up big in the 2021-22 playoffs – where he averaged 10.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 29.1 minutes per game. The Heat made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and he was a big reason why – starting in all 18 games they played in.

His role continued to increase during the 2022-23 regular season, playing in 80 games and averaging 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 28.4 minutes per game. He started in 33 games, recorded two double-doubles, had 2+0 points in 11 games, and had a season-high 31 points in November. 

What was his role during the 2022-23 NBA playoffs? Max Strus was again asked to play big minutes in the Heat’s 2022-23 playoff run, starting in all 23 of their games – including all five games in the NBA Finals. He averaged 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 28.2 minutes per game in the playoffs. 

3. SF Caleb Martin

Caleb Martin is a 6-foot-5, 205-pound small forward who went undrafted in 2019 after playing three years of college basketball at NC State University and the University of Nevada. He joined his twin brother, Cody Martin, on the Charlotte Hornets, where he spent the first two years of his career as a bench player.

In 71 games (4 starts) with the Hornets, Martin averaged 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.7 steals in 16.0 minutes per game. The team waived him in August 2021 and he was signed by the Miami Heat a month later in September. He saw a massive increase in minutes in his first season with the team. 

Martin played in 60 games (12 starts) during the 2021-22 season and averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.0 steals in 22.9 minutes per game. That role diminished in the 2021-22 playoffs, but he still managed to score 4.5 points and grab 2.2 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game (17 games played). 

He continued his rise in 2022-23, playing in 71 games and making 49 starts for the Heat. He averaged 9.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.0 steals in 29.3 minutes per game (all of which are career-highs). He recorded two double-doubles and scored 20+ points in four games – including 24 points in November.

What was his role during the 2022-23 NBA playoffs? Caleb Martin was special this postseason. He played in all 23 games for the Heat and came off the bench in 19 of them. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 0.9 steals in 30.2 minutes per game – he had at least 20 points in four games.

2. PG Gabe Vincent

Gabe Vincent is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound point guard who went undrafted in 2018 after playing four years of college ball at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He spent the first few years of his career with the Stockton Kings of the G League (affiliate for Sacramento Kings) before signing with the Miami Heat.

He joined the Heat late in the season and made his NBA debut on January 29, 2020. He spent a majority of that season in the G League, where he was named Most Improved Player after the 2019-20 season. He slowly saw his role with the team increase over the next three years as he continued to prove himself. 

Vincent went from averaging 4.8 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.4 steals in 13.1 minutes per game (50 games, 7 starts) in 2020-21, to averaging 8.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 0.9 steals in 23.4 minutes (68 games, 27 starts) in 2021-22. He also played a big role in their 2022 playoff run. 

During the 2022-23 regular season, Vincent averaged 9.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 0.9 steals in 25.9 minutes per game (68 games, 34 starts). He scored at least 20 points in seven different games, including a career-high 28 points (10 of 17) against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 12, 2023. 

What was his role during the 2022-23 NBA playoffs? He was the team’s starting point guard during the postseason and one of their most consistent performers. He had 12.7 points, 1.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 0.9 steals in 30.5 minutes per game – including a career-high 29 points against Boston on May 21. 

1. PF Duncan Robinson

Duncan Robinson is a 6-foot-7, 215-pound small forward who went undrafted in 2018 after playing four years of college ball at Williams College and the University of Michigan. He signed a contract to be a member of the Miami Heat’s Summer League team in 2018 and spent most of the year in G League. 

After an impressive G League season that saw him break multiple team records, Robinson became a regular starter for the Miami Heat and played a big role in their 2020 playoff run in the bubble, establishing himself as one of the best shooters in the league en route to losing to the LA Lakers in the NBA Finals. 

Robinson played and started in 72 games during the 2020-21 season and impressed the front office enough to sign a five-year, $90 million contract during the 2021 offseason. His contract became the largest contract for an undrafted player in NBA history – surpassing Fred VanVleet’s contract in 2020.

The 2022-23 regular season was disappointing for Robinson, who only played in 42 games and made just one start – he averaged 6.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 16.5 minutes per game. He struggled with a finger injury that kept him out a little while, but he was also benched for his defensive limitations. 

What was his role during the 2022-23 NBA playoffs? Duncan Robinson appeared in all 23 games for the Miami Heat this postseason, but only made one start. He averaged 9.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 18.2 minutes per game. He showed some improvement, but they still used him sparingly.

What’s Next for the Miami Heat? 

The Miami Heat have a reliable ‘big three’ consisting of Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo – each of whom averaged more than 20 points per game this season. And with the success of their role players, the Heat find themselves in quite a unique position as they ponder what’s next for the franchise. 

While it’d be wise not to move on from their ‘big three,’ you can make a case for trading Herro and several role players or draft picks if it means bringing in a guy like Damian Lillard – especially since their role players bring a lot of value in the trade space, given their continued success in the 2023 NBA playoffs. 

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At the same time, the Heat don’t need to move any of their core players and can continue doing what they’ve been doing – proving that one man’s trash is almost always another man’s treasure. Either way, the Miami Heat are going to remain relevant and Jimmy Butler is going to be the one to make sure of it.

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