Few teams, if any, are better at discovering hidden NBA gems than the Miami Heat, who have nine players expected to face the visiting Chicago Bulls on Saturday night that did not come from the first round of the draft.
Seven of them were never drafted at all.
Five of those undrafted players were in the rotation, and three of them were starters Wednesday night, when the Heat defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 113-104.
Caleb Martin was one of those undrafted starters and he lit it up on Wednesday with a career-high 28 points.
Martin, a 6-5 small forward, who went to both North Carolina State and Nevada, said he is grateful to the Heat coaches for the faith they has had in his game.
“They put me in the starting lineup because they believe in me,” Martin said. “When my opportunity comes, I want to take advantage.”
The Heat’s other undrafted starters were Duncan Robinson and Dewayne Dedmon, who is filling in for Bam Adebayo, a former first-round pick.
Adebayo is one of three injured Heat players who are former first-round picks. The others are Victor Oladipo and Jimmy Butler. Adebayo and Oladipo are out Saturday, and Butler is questionable against his former team due to a tailbone injury.
That leaves just Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro as healthy Heat first-rounders.
The Bulls are working through their own manpower shortage. Derrick Jones – a former Heat wing – became the fifth Bulls player in a nine-day span to go into COVID protocols. He joins DeMar DeRozan, Matt Thomas, Coby White and Javonte Green on the list.
In addition, forward Patrick Williams (wrist) and Alex Caruso (right hamstring) have been out due to injuries.
While Williams is out until at least March, Bulls coach Billy Donovan is hopeful Caruso can return on Saturday. Despite the team’s COVID issues, the game is on schedule to be played.
“The biggest question when you have something that runs through a team (such as COVID) is if you have enough players to go out there and function,” Donovan said. “But I have not heard anything along those lines (of a postponed game).”
Because of their personnel issues, the Bulls have been allowed by the NBA to sign a 16th player. Stanley Johnson was given a 10-day contract and is expected to meet his new team at Miami on Saturday.
If healthy, Caruso would likely join a starting lineup that includes Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine and rookie Avo Dosunmu, a Chicago native.
The bench includes Tony Bradley, Tony Brown Jr., Alize Johnson and Devon Dotson.
Missing DeRozan hurts the most as he leads the team in scoring (26.4 points) and is efficient in the mid-range game. He shoots 52.3 on two-pointers and 88.8 percent on free throws.
The high-flying LaVine is second on the team in scoring (25.8) and is most dangerous in transition. He’s an All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist and a two-time NBA dunk champ.
Vucevic is third on the team in scoring (15.4) and leads in rebounds (10.6).
Ball is fourth in scoring (12.7) and leads the squad in assists (5.0).
–Field Level Media