5 Miami Heat players making a case to be the next developmental success

The Miami Heat have achieved victory by finding diamonds in the rough and developing undrafted talent, which has turned it into a unique advantage. Here are 5 players who could be the organization's next developmental success.
Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat
Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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In a league that comprises 510 roster spots and only 60 draftees per season, it is a common practice for every team to utilize undrafted players. Last season, the Miami Heat remarkably emerged as the fourth team in league history to employ a minimum of five undrafted players in at least 65 games, as per research conducted by ESPN Stats & Information. Amongst these four teams, the Heat stood alone with a winning record. 

Miami has truly mastered the skill of finding diamonds in the rough, as proven by undrafted players such as Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and Caleb Martin, to name a few.  The Heat have achieved victory by turning their necessity of player development into a unique advantage.

The Heat exemplify their commitment to player development by showcasing the highest percentage of points scored and minutes played by undrafted players compared to other playoff teams. With many undrafted players on their roster, Miami stands out as a team that values overlooked prospects and projects. These players do not see themselves as undrafted, but rather as integral members of the team who carry a chip on their collective shoulders. Here are five players making a case to be the next developmental success.

5. Haywood Highsmith 

After his two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers and their G League affiliate team, the Delaware Blue Coats, Highsmith joined the Heat in December 2021 as a reserve player. Since signing a standard three-year contract in March 2022, he has emerged as an exciting and promising talent. His defensive skills, versatility, and occasional offensive brilliance have made him a favorite among fans. In addition to his natural talent and abilities, Highsmith's unwavering self-belief has transformed him from an underdog to a strong contender for a spot in the team's rotation.

He quickly earned the respect of Miami’s coaching staff. He impressed them with his versatility on both ends of the court, and exceptional defensive abilities, including his proficiency in guarding positions 1 to 4, protecting the paint, and defending the 3-point line. 

Like his teammate Caleb Martin, Highsmith is an undersized forward, but he doesn't let that hinder him. With enhancements in his offensive game and a more well-rounded skill set, he has the potential to be a dominant force on the court. Highsmith's versatility in defense, shooting, and rebounding makes him a valuable role player. 

As a strong and athletic forward, Highsmith is also a reliable rebounder for his size.  Although he is already recognized as one of the team's top defenders on the perimeter, having an outside shot that opponents respect would also make him a formidable threat on offense. 

While Highsmith's tenacity in guarding the ball is commendable, his 3-point shooting percentage of 37.1%, along with his volume of shots were relatively low, never exceeding 37 3-pointers in a single season during his previous three seasons. Highsmith worked on his 3-point shooting a lot last season and at training camp.

Highsmith has proven that a willingness to improve and work hard pays off. This season, he’s shown a drastic improvement in his 3-point shooting and is more of a valuable role player and key contributor on the wing. Arguably, he is currently experiencing the most impressive stretches of his career in terms of 3-point shooting. Previously considered a non-factor from beyond the arc, he is now a major reason for Miami’s 3-point shooting success alongside sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

In a recent three-game stretch, Highsmith made 12 of 13 shots from beyond the arc. If he can build upon his promising performances from last season, it could greatly benefit the Heat in the playoffs. Haywood’s growth and development could prove to be advantageous for the team in the long run.

Highsmith’s chances of making it into the Heat’s playoff rotation have greatly improved with his ability to defend, but mainly due to his consistency on both offense and defense. Following the forward’s impressive performance of scoring 20 points by making 5 out of 6 shots from the 3-point line in the Heat's dominant 60-point victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, Spoelstra commented that Highsmith is currently playing the best basketball of his entire career. 

“It means a lot coming from coach Spo,” said Highsmith. “This is the time of year you want to play your best basketball, end of the season, going into the playoffs.”

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