BOSTON — After spending two seasons chasing defenders as a shooting guard at Lewis College, a Division 2 school in Romeoville, Illinois, Max Strass broke some news to his coach that wasn’t entirely unexpected. . He said he wanted to move to the major division. I program
For coach Scott Trost, it was bittersweet. He was sad to see Strath leave, but he also knew that Strath was ready for his next challenge.
“And if he didn’t do that, who knows if he would be where he is today,” Trost said.
Seven years after moving to DePaul and nearly four years after entering the NBA G League as an undrafted free agent, Strath three-pointed Wednesday night in a 123-116 victory over the Miami Heat. Sinking the shoot and playing the defense stop. Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
But perhaps the strangest part of his unlikely existence was that it wasn’t strange at all — at least the Heat, which has the league’s most nine undrafted players on its 17-man roster. For. On Wednesday, three of those players — Strath, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin — each scored 15 points and combined for 16-of-27 field goals.
“I think this is something special that we all went through, and I know how difficult it is,” said Vincent, the team’s starting point guard. So we try to inspire each other and push each other forward. ”
The conference finals overlapped with the highest-ranking (and highest-ranking) pre-draft buzz. The San Antonio Spurs secured the No. 1 pick on June 22 at the Barclays Center as the NBA’s prospects began touring Chicago for the league’s scouting combine on Tuesday.
Barring a catastrophe, the Spurs will pick Victor Wenbanyama, the 7-foot-4 teenager from France and the most famous prospect since LeBron James.A talented player with size and skill, plus an innate sense of the game — yes he really was Tip-dunk your own 3-point mistake Wenbanyama could be a transformative force for Spurs early this season.
But beyond Wenbanyama and the other picks of the year, each team has other roster-building options at their disposal. It’s about strengthening the pool of undrafted players. It’s a strategy that’s proving increasingly viable as basketball continues to expand its reach globally and more talent rises to the top teams. water surface.
“When you’re in that position, you’re going to do anything,” said Martin, who was an All-Conference player at Nevada but was undrafted in 2019. “And I think more teams are starting to understand that. ‘ said.
Consider that 126 undrafted players, about a quarter of the league, made it onto the NBA roster this season. But according to NBA Advanced Stats, no team has relied more on overshadowed, underplayed, and underplayed players than the Heat, with undrafted players leading the league in points scored during the regular season at 33.8. getting a percentage. The Nets ranked second in this category, with undrafted players accounting for 24 percent of the team’s points.
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra noted that two of his best players, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, who had been sidelined since the first round with a broken hand, were top picks in the first round. Forward Jimmy Butler, who scored 35 points, seven assists and six steals on Wednesday, joined the team in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019. But he’s a late first-round pick from Chicago, which means the Heat are no different than big-name stars.
Some teams, like Oklahoma City and San Antonio, amass draft picks through trades, but not the Heat. Instead, teams need to get creative with how they fill out their rosters, Spoelstra said. Many of Miami’s undrafted players were acquired through the G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce. Spoelstra said the G League and international players are as talented as the NBA reserves.
“It’s all about the timing and the fit and the fortitude of the athlete,” he said, adding, “If you have big dreams and want a challenge, this is the place for many of those types of athletes. We feel it will,” he added. ”
And if Spoelstra needs help measuring (or increasing) its fortitude, power forward Udonis Haslem, who was undrafted in 2002, spent his first professional season in France, and joined the Heat the following year. can rely on Haslem, now 42, has been in Miami ever since.
“I think organizations are doing their homework rather than just assuming that a player who wasn’t drafted won’t be able to contribute to a win,” Haslem said. “Character, discipline, and accountability cannot be measured at the draft combine, and many of those things are sometimes overlooked.”
Haslem hasn’t played much in the last few seasons, but he’s been an extraordinary force in the locker room, including self-appointed head of the undrafted team. Newcomers to the team have a one-on-one conversation with Haslem about his three championship rings and how all things are possible. But with Haslem watching, they had better prepare to work.
“I personally take it personally that undrafted players come here,” he said. “I want them to succeed because I feel it’s part of my legacy.”
His credit now includes someone like Vincent. torn anterior cruciate ligament He injured his left knee during his junior year at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When Joe Pasternak was hired as the team’s new coach, he was in the early stages of rehab.
“The first call I got was from Gabe Vincent saying, ‘Coach, tell me what you want me to do. Do I need to call the players? Set up a team meeting?’ That left an impression on me.”
Vincent is back in uniform for the start of his senior season. But he entered the G League with the Stockton Kings after averaging just 12.4 points per game. A few weeks into Vincent’s first season, Pasternak had a vacancy for a full-time assistant and offered him the job. Pasternak believed in Vincent as a player, but he also knew he would continue his efforts without any guarantees.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids in the G League go nowhere,” Pasternak said. “But I also thought he would make a great assistant coach because he’s an incredible leader.”
Vincent politely declined the offer.
“I was like, ‘Joe, what are you talking about?'” Vincent recalled with a laugh. “I don’t know why he keeps talking about it. And I said to him, ‘Joe, you don’t look good in this!'”
Vincent signed a two-way contract with the Heat during the 2019-20 season and slowly began to work his way into the rotation. He averaged a career-high 9.4 points per game this season. He will receive a large salary as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Strauss thought he could one day make a living playing basketball in Europe. That was his goal during his time at Lewis College. It wasn’t until his second day on campus after transferring to DePaul that his mind changed. Dave Litao, the team’s coach at the time, said he could have a future in the NBA.
“It was big,” Strauss said. “I’ve never been told that in my life.”
Strath was waived by the Celtics in his first year as a pro in the 2019-20 season, but has since torn left ACL In a game against the Windy City Bulls of the G League. He signed a two-way contract with the Heat the following season. On Wednesday, he grabbed the final rebound of the game.
“I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity they’ve given me here,” he said.