Why the Bulls should look at the Miami Heat if they want to fix what is wrong with franchise
Maybe you noticed one team dominated all phases of All-Star Weekend in Chicago.
We're talking about the Miami Heat, which was present in every event.
Kendrick Nunn scored 16 points in the Rising Stars game, Bam Adebayo won the skills challenge, Derrick Jones Jr. won the dunk contest, then both Adebayo and Jimmy Butler played in the All-Star Game.
If the Bulls are looking for role models as they try to fix what has gone wrong with the franchise, Miami's a pretty good example. The Heat has a long history of finding players who are under the radar and turning them into useful pieces.
This season, Miami is using two undrafted starters -- Nunn, the Simeon grad who spent three years at Illinois before being dismissed from the team, and 3-point contest participant Duncan Robinson. Jones also was undrafted and is more of a role-playing reserve.
The Heat have many other success stories. Josh Richardson, who went to Philadelphia in the Butler sign-and-trade, was a second-round pick, and Miami got some mileage out of undrafted guard Tyler Johnson around the same time.
Wheaton native Randy Pfund was a longtime Heat general manager and has insight into what makes the team so successful. He thinks it starts with having a clear, singular vision provided by team president Pat Riley.
"I think that's the basis of the whole thing," Pfund said. "There's a dynamic that takes place in every franchise. You've got the front office and the scouts, and then you've got the coaching staff, and that's not always aligned on who you want to bring in. It's not always aligned on what they think of guys once they are there."
With Riley in charge, there was never a question about who had the final say or what type of players the team was searching for.
"Pat was looking for toughness," Pfund said. "I learned over the years, if a guy didn't have a level of toughness to live up to the culture or the work ethic, then it was going to be really hard.
"Pat would tell players he wanted them to stay around in the summer and work, and it was a huge bone of contention with the agents. I used to have to go to the agents and put it in the contract that the guy would spend so many weeks in Miami (in the summer). Even though Miami's a fun place, most guys wanted to be in L.A. or their hometown or wherever. It tends to be a little hot and rainy in Miami in August."
Robinson, the former Michigan sharpshooter who averaged 9.2 points as a senior, originally was a two-way player for the Heat and spent most of his rookie season in the G-League. Now starting full time in Miami, he reached 200 career 3-pointers faster than any player in NBA history.
"The Heat has been a huge part of my development," Robinson said at all-star media day. "They kind of saw something in me that I didn't necessarily see in myself. I think above that, they gave me the opportunity, which they have to get a lot of credit for. A lot of teams can talk about it, but they were actually willing to put me out there and develop me and invest in me."
Miami is one team that doesn't keep its G-League team in proximity. The Heat still uses Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as its affiliate but, keeps an eye on what happens there.
"Coach Spo (Erik Spoelstra) was always reaching out to me when I was in the G-League and giving me feedback and he was watching my games," Robinson said. "So I feel that level of investment for a guy who's just playing in the G-League was pretty cool."
At another table, Butler was asked what he's added to the culture around the Heat.
"That culture was already there. It just fit me," Butler said. "More than anything, just the fact that everything I heard about Pat is legit for real. He's straight to the point, direct, involved in everything, and I love it. That just shows me that he cares and he wants to win. He wants to win now."
Butler was an under-the-radar success story when he first hit it big with the Bulls, as a No. 30 overall draft pick. Lately, though, that's become a weakness for the Bulls.
Ryan Arcidiacono is the only guy who fits that mold on the current roster. Maybe Chandler Hutchison will if he stays healthy.
So what is more important -- scouting and identifying those players, or developing them once they're on the team?
"I think scouting is very important," Pfund said. "Who is the best guy who fits what we need, the coach we have, the salary slot we have? It's not just the talent.
"I'd say the talent sets the table and then having a purpose to what you're doing. If the front office and coach are in line on who this player is and what role they could play, that increases a guy's chances of going from diamond in the rough to contributor, from contributor to starter."
Then maybe from three straight years in the lottery to playoff contender.
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