The Miami Heat are back in the NBA Finals after a remarkable run through the Eastern Conference in the NBA's Orlando Bubble. The Jimmy Butler-led Heat were lovable underdog's throughout the regular season and extended bubble games, but nobody saw this kind of a run coming. In the NBA, the land of the mega-stars and super-teams, #5 seeds aren't supposed to make it this far.
How did Miami do it? Elite scouting and player development.
We view NBA happenings from a Sacramento perspective, and from that lens, the Heat come up is encouraging. Yes, South Beach is a major free agent attraction. Yes, Erik Spoelstra is one of the best head coaches in the NBA. Yes, Pat Riley might be the most respected executive in any front office. Those are features of the Heat organization most can't compete with, but the roster of players Miami rode to the NBA Finals? That's just good old-fashioned scouting and player development.
Let's start with Edrice Femi 'Bam' Adebayo. Bam was the 14th overall pick in 2017 NBA Draft after spending just one promising-but-raw season at the University of Kentucky. Three years later and he's a 22-year old All-Star that's averaging 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists on .571 shooting from the field in a historic NBA Finals run.
Then there is Tyler Herro, the 13th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, also from the University Kentucky, who has stepped his game up in a major way since entering the bubble. In the 2020 playoffs, Herro is averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists on .463 shooting from the field, and his cold-blooded scoring in clutch moments has saved Miami on several occasions. Simply put, Herro has been one of the most impactful rookies in NBA playoff history
The Heat's scouting and development prowess doesn't stop at the NBA Draft.
Sharp-shooting forward Duncan Robinson was on the Heat radar for a long time. Robinson went undrafted in 2018, but Miami's scouting department clearly saw something there. They quickly signed him to join their summer league squad where he earned himself a two-way contract from Pat Riley for his impressive outside shooting.
Robinson has been with the Miami Heat organization ever since. He spent most of the 2018-19 season with their G-League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, before getting a call up late in the season where he continued to impress the Heat with his shooting. Fast-forward to the 2020 NBA Playoffs, and Robinson is giving his organization 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, but most importantly, Duncan has been Miami's most dangerous floor spacer, shooting .400 on in 7.3 three point attempts per game.
So long as we're talking about Miami's scouting and development, Kendrick Nunn is worth a mention here despite the fact that he hasn't been in Spoelstra's regular playoff rotation. Nunn is a bit of a special case as the primary reason he went undrafted in 2018 was because of his dismissal from Illinois after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.
I'm not going to applaud the Heat for taking advantage of Nunn's domestic violence case, but Kendrick's development in Miami is real. Under the guidance of the Heat organization, Nunn went from undrafted in 2018 to 2nd place in the 2020 Rookie of the Year race. He was an integral part of their regular season success.
If you look at the Miami Heat NBA Finals roster, it appears encouragingly replicable for a small market team like the Sacramento Kings in a way the Los Angeles Lakers free agent super team isn't.
You've got one legitimate-but-imperfect star in Jimmy Butler. A 14th overall pick. A 13th overall pick. A undrafted shooter. A very good veteran point guard in Goran Dragic, and attainable veterans entering the twilight of their careers in Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder.
What the Miami Heat have accomplished here is admirable, and it highlights the way Monte McNair's Sacramento Kings need to build their organization moving forward. That means sparing no expense with regards to scouting, and then when you have the right players selected, grant them the opportunity to work with an elite player development staff.
It sounds simple enough, I know, but this hasn't been the case throughout the Vlade Divac era in Sacramento, and the 2018 NBA Draft, along with countless other failed draft picks coupled with consistently poor player development is enough evidence to support that claim. Believe it or not, you can find good players at the end of the lottery. You can find promising undrafted players and develop them with a long-term approach.
Moderate NBA success isn't nearly as hard as the Kings would have you believe, but for most NBA teams, that success relies on good scouting and player development, and the Miami Heat just showed you how far dedication to those core NBA success factors can take you.
Abedayo went 14th in the ’17 draft? We had the #10 pick in that one, yes? So even had we passed on Donovan Mitchell, we could have had Abedayo.
That #10 pick, and what we netted from that strong draft with it, would have been a much bigger talking point around here had it not been obscured by the even larger mistake with the #2 pick of the following year’s draft. This is how bad teams stay bad.
Full disclosure: I would have taken Malik Monk at #10. I know nothing.
Monk was incredibly impressive in Kentucky’s NCAA run that year, it was like he couldn’t miss. I guess not taking him at ten and trading the pick is the better move in retrospect, since it netted Giles (The option. Pick it up, idiot!), and JJ,which helped us acquire Barnes.
But yes, Bam or Mitchell would have been better. Not that it helps, but a lot of teams passed them up.
JJ was salary filler – had he not been here it would have been Skal going to Dallas. So JJ really netted us Caleb Swanigan – yay!
I don’t think it’s fair to say that Miami “took advantage” of the domestic violence issue. Nunn, like a lot of guys, was a free agent. The Heat likely vetted him properly, and thought he was worth a cheap flyer. Even if Nunn faces that kind of charge again (hopefully it was a complete aberration), that’s still not on the Heat. What a player does is entirely on him or her. Not earning a giant NBA salary certainly wouldn’t make a player more or less likely to do violence.
Credit the heat for doing the legwork, and helping a guy rehabilitate himself and his image.
This is what Vivek needs to learn. Instead of trying to be a “game-changer”, learn how the good franchises have become successful.
Someday Vivek may change the game. Maybe he comes up with some NBA 3.0 scheme that eventually succeeds, but his Kings team’s record will be something like 1-19 in 20 years. And then the other teams will catch on to that changed game, and then there will be no advantage. Any kind of advantage he is trying to discover will not give the Kings sustained success.
All of this begins when McNair gets to fill out his staff. We will see how forward Vivek wants to be based on how many subordinates Monte gets to hire. I’d expect that to start within a couple weeks.
and bye bye Anthony McClish. My hopes of McNair being able to properly fill his staff this offseason are steadily dwindling.
Scouting and player development is the way to go, but Miami had to acquire an all star to get over the hump.
but they acquired him via trade, not by free agency. Very important distinction. And Butler wanted to go there based on the structure already present, some based off of the team’s success with scouting and player development.
Monte and the Kings get a chance to start building that structure from scratch.
I think we need to also acknowledge the culture they’ve built in Miami. The Heat identify players that will thrive in a culture that reminds me of like a UFC camp. Players aren’t even allowed to join training camp until they pass their conditioning test. They track every players body fat percentage and post the results in the locker room. If you’re Jimmy Butler, a guy that’s notoriously intense, then Miami is the dream destination because he knows he’ll fit right in.
This gets back to the most important decision that McNair needs to make: does he want to build around Fox? If so, who are the type of players that have the raw skills that can be developed into complimentary pieces? What kind of culture will Fox thrive in that will allow him to take his game to the next level?
Gulp. Please don’t eventually go to Miami, Fox.
Agree. You elaborated on my last sentence. McNair has to view this like he’s building a culture from scratch, because he basically is. The benefits of what he does may not even register for at least a couple seasons.
Of course they used a 2nd pick they scouted and developed into a good player in the trade to acquire him.
I read that they had been targeting Butler back when he was playing in Minnesota. They planned for him. That is what makes them elite.
Really impressive what Miami has done. Wasn’t that long ago I was looking at their cap situation, and thought they were screwed for a few seasons.
I strongly disagree with this article.
The actual process is very simple. Full-pledged scouting is not needed.
Just let the owner spend time on You Tube watching backyard shooting videos of declared draftees. Then meddle in the war room on draft night and not let your coach and GM decide for themselves.
Then when you travel to Europe to personally meet a generational player, you don’t insist on your inexperienced, mistake-laden new GM to pick that player.
Finally, you let that will-never-get-another-job-in-the-NBA GM draft another big, and sign via trades and FA, two more bigs.
Then the organization will again suck bigtime.
Kings also drafted 3 Kentucky players.
Somebody with a red flag since high school.
Another big who’s all talk and shows nothing.
and a good PG who might be asking for a trade if the Kangz mess continues.
Am i debating you now Chris? And not VP Biden?
We need more Utes(youths)!
Interrupting Cow, who?
Most importantly, the Heat have an owner who gave control to Pat Riley, and has left him alone to do his job. Imagine that.
That is the root of the Kings problem.
A controlling owner (who got lucky Stern favored him because of his roots and the $ impact his native country will bring) thought that his Silicon Valley smarts will translate easily to the NBA.
A dismissive , meddling little chap – as someone called him, should have just stayed out of it and give control to whoever is in charge of basketball operations.
So, Vivek should have given Divac total control? That was his mistake?
How great and inspiring the Heat story is for Kings fans, it is also a bit of an outlier. I still think most teams get to be a contender by picking high and picking the right guys, Can you get good players in the mid-teens? Absolutely, but the stats also show that the higher you pick, the more chance you have at getting a difference maker.
And even if it can be replicated, It will take at least 2-3 years to set up a good scouting system, hopefully less to have the G-league team in sync and actually acting as a developmental/farm team for the Kings. So when will you start yielding results; 4 or 5 years down the road, at the best? There will be hits, but also misses.
I still feel that the best chance is to tank hard and get a franchise player in next year’s draft, and build from there.
Having said that, there is still obvious value in getting good players lower in the draft and via the undrafted/G-league pool.
I don’t diaagree with you.
But I think the essence of the article is that you can alao improve your team even if you don’t have lottery picks year after year as long as you have a good scouting department that can find gems laye in the first round and even in the second round. Couple that with a good system of player development then most probably the team will improve their record from the previous year.
Also a realistic vision is very important. Signing old vets year after year for big contracts and other FA retreads to hopefully make the 8th seed had been proven to be a failed exercise.
Well, with what is happening in Stockton it is hard to be optimistic about player development via that avenue. McClish was actually very good.
OT: Kings hurting for cash?
speaking of scouting! Dude was really good at his job. I hope Monte gives him a job in the front office, I think he deserves it.
I also hope Vivek sells the team, as it seems that he can’t afford it now.
That would be great, although I’m wondering–if the Kings cut McClish because they couldn’t pay his Stockton salary…
…how can they afford to pay his salary as a Sacramento King?
I would guess they are dumping the Stockton team period. Maybe they share a G league team with Houston LOL.
Nice to see the Kings are back to Maloof levels of broke ownership. At least we had a few successful years to reminisce about under the Maloofs. This ownership has given us nothing but disappointment and apathy.
Vivek. I will never ever let go of my opinion that he is so basketball-dumb!
I cannot say that to the other minority owners. I hope one of them gets a chance to run this organization
I resent Vivek!
Resent him to where?
I resent Vivek!
Clearly your life has little meaning, outside the Kings ;<)
are they just not going to have a G League team next season? The way Sean words that it seems like they just eliminated the position of GM of the Stockton Kings. It seems like that’s not a position that can be eliminated if you plan on actually having a G League team. Maybe they’re incorporating the duties into a current (or new) position in Sacramento?
Kyle Guy’s going to run the team.
David Stockton is a name that makes a lot of sense as well.
BREAKING: Stockton Kings find replacement GM:
…heck, his salary is already covered.
“Dang it. My paid vacation expired this year…”
K, what I love about this gif is that the lady over Stockton’s right shoulder is just about ready to go in after a popcorn kernel until, at the last moment, she sees herself on the jumbotron.
She deserves a spot on one of the fan Bubble screens that they have during the Pandemic games.
The subtle hand to the chin is priceless. And you just know she was in there full bore while we were watching a Subaru commercial.
She missed a golden opportunity to turn it into a fake yawn though.
She would be famous if she kept after it. Doubt I would have looked up till after I extracted that chunk of ???
At this point, it would not at all surprise me if they fold the Stockton Kings. Wouldn’t it be something the the Kings’ two-way players end up playing on another team’s G-League squad?
Welp, if the Stockton Kings fold, there’s no way the Monarchs ever come back.
Ranadive and Kings owners seemed to want a WNBA team, so where is it?
Yeah, that ain’t happening anytime soon.
But on that note, how about Ticha Penichiero for some kind of coaching role?
I wonder how they do a G-League next season. It could be cancelled altogether. Those guys don’t travel in private planes like the pros, or do they have the same amenities. Maybe they expand the number of 2-way contracts to join NBA teams next season to help compensate?
Could be, but I imagine the teams have contracts and leases with the arenas they play in. Even simply cancelling the G-league season would cost them.
per your original point, I’d imagine actually folding the Stockton Kings would draw too much attention from the league office, who wants a G League team for every NBA team.
I wonder if the league would quietly step in and run the G-League team.
Phoenix sold their G League team to Detroit, so the Kings might sell their G League team to another team.
Yeah who knows. My guess is they are expecting that the G League season will be cancelled. I could see a scenario that’s similar to MLB where they have a taxi squad of sorts and Stockton is essentially just an alternate training facility. That type of set up would not need a lot of the positions a G league team would typically need. You don’t really need scouting, a person responsible for handling various transactions, or people to handle travel logistics.
Some teams have the G League run by someone from the main front office. I’m wondering if an assistant GM will also be overseeing Stockton.
It’s saddening they don’t think McClish can do that. I’d imagine if McNair had plans to move him up to the big team, his name wouldn’t be thrown in a report like this, they’d just announce his promotion.
This is depressing.
So has a lottery pick ever been sold for Cash Considerations before? It might happen this year. Kings will then sell off some 2nd rounders for Cash’s cousins: Money Mentions and Nickels “Piggy” Banks. The good news is, I hear “Piggy” is good at dropping dimes.
Damn, those are great names, Adam. Haha
Can you imagine how much better the Kings ownership would be financially had they drafted a very talented and easily marketable player back in 2018?
Playoff games, jersey sales, global audience revenue….
People would still have their jobs because of his jersey sales alone. What a colossal mistake.
And with the 12th pick the Sacramento Kings pick … the Kings have traded the 12th pick to Golden State for 2020 and 2023 2nd round picks and Cash considerations.
Sports franchises hurting for cash during the pandemic? It’s possible, I guess.
Someone should write an article about that.
Here’s an article about it from The Athletic (I assume it’s behind the paywall):
The Kings are 1 of the teams that’s hurting financially.
Miami is so good at this, they even develop their coaches. Spoelstra started as the Heat’s video coordinator 25 years ago.
Maybe that is why Walton needs to watch the tape?
They develop their front office too. Adam Simon, Shane Battier, etc.
here’s another player I’d like to discuss: Nate Hinton. Is there that much difference between him and projected top 10 pick Devin Vassell?
He’s definitely an interesting prospect. The biggest knock against him are really self-creation and a noticeable lack of explosiveness that makes it difficult for him to create separation any where. He’s also a bit small for a wing. Ultimately, he may play more of a combo guard role than the versatile wing role teams covet. I relation to Vassell? He’s a bit smaller. A bit less athletic. Doesn’t shoot quite as well.
All that said, he’s a smart player that works hard on both ends. Personally, I think Vassell is being a bit overrated this year because some are projecting playmaking upside I just don’t see. I think Hinton has more playmaking ability. He’s definitely among that group of wings that’s really interesting to me in the mid-2nd.
Ultimately, I’d rather have Hinton at 43 than Vassell at 12.
Thanks. Your response is another example of how many players we’d love to get with 2nd round picks, and the scrutiny for whoever we might pick at #12.
Absolutely. But there’s a lot that goes into that though. Putting aside player/prospect quality for a moment. A #12 pick is a much bigger investment than a 2nd rounder. #12 comes with guaranteed money and roster spot. If you love a guy you can get in the second round, you have a lot more flexibility. Which is a pretty good reason not to reach for a guy you can get in the 2nd.
that’s IF you can get that guy in the 2nd. My point was more that the usual tiers we think of when evaluating draft classes have been leveled off. McNair (and whatever scouts are remaining) should be able to pick the BPA based on their own analysis, regardless of what other draft boards say. They are building the team, not The Ringer or nbadraft.net or whatever. That tier is so fluid, I think there’s about 30 players to choose from at #12. If their favorite guy is ranked 25, who cares. Get him at 12. As for the guaranteed roster spot, the limit is already more than the amount needed. I think Adelman only had 13 players, of which two never played a minute.
So I have another question for BHE. Don’t take this the wrong way because I like our exchanges. Xavier Tillman is a player who is ranked anywhere from 25 to 45, yet you have him ranked in your top 15 and can picture him playing for your favorite team the Boston Celtics in a Daniel Theis role. The Celtics pick 14. So why can your favorite team the Celtics pick a guy at 14 even though they can probably get him with their 26th pick, yet if Monte McNair envisions a similarly ranked player having success for the Kings, why can’t he pick that player at #12?
First, I think you’re mistaking me with someone else. I don’t especially like the Celtics, have never related Tillman to Theis or a Theis role in any way, and haven’t said they should take him at 14. But to address your point:
I must have mistaken you for one of the Kings podcast voices. Sorry about that. In terms of drafting for fit, need and scarcity, the same logic that could have the Celtics drafting Tillman at 14 would apply to the Kings potentially drafting Naji Marshall at 12. There just aren’t many wing/forwards with his ability to handle, pass, and score at the rim. Where the Kings need playmakers, especially in the 2nd unit with Buddy Hield, a guy like Marshall could help a lot. Riller I think stands out as a polished 3-level initiator, also something in short supply. However there are concerns about whether he can do that in the nba, and there are a lot of backup PGs that can be drafted in the 2nd round. Tillman could still be an option for the Kings given the scarcity of skilled, team oriented centers, and the team’s lack of bigs signed beyond this year.