It’s no secret that the Miami Heat arguably boasts the best player development program in the entire NBA right now.
The franchise’s amazing track record in honing talent pretty much speaks for itself, as they’ve managed to turn a lot of undrafted players and G-Leaguers into serviceable role players over the years.
Players like Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones Jr., Chris Silva, and Gabe Vincent are just some of the unhidden gems that the Heat managed to develop in the 2019-20 campaign.
The Heat has enjoyed a magical 2020 campaign and is just one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.
While Miami’s enigmatic president, Pat Riley, and brilliant head coach, Erik Spoelstra, often get the recognition, there are several other figures that make the Heat culture stand out from the rest.
These underappreciated mentors work quietly and tirelessly in the sidelines in order to bring the best out of their players.
Let’s have a look at three people most responsible for the Heat’s player development.
Chris Quinn (Assistant Coach/Director of Player Development)
A big reason why Chris Quinn has been able to communicate with his players is that he wore the same shoes just a few years back. The now 36-year-old mentor, after all, used to play as a back-up point guard for the Heat from 2006-10.
As a player, he had to fight each day in practice just to earn every minute of playing time. After spending time overseas and the D-League (now G-League), Quinn found his real calling in coaching.
He found his big break with Northwestern University as a player development coach in 2013 before his old team came calling just a year later.
Quinn has been all over the place for the Heat organization, also spending time with its G-League affiliate, Sioux Falls Skyforce, and as head coach of the 2017 Heat Summer League team.
This allowed him to establish a relationship with players across all levels and already have a great understanding of their capabilities by the time they are recalled by the Heat.
Quinn was also reportedly assigned to oversee rookie Tyler Herro’s development from Day 1.
“Ever since I did my pre-draft workout here, he was someone that I built a relationship with. I put my trust in him. He trusts me, “Herro said of Quinn.
“We continue to put work in every single day. We watch the film, jot down notes on what we see. We share it with each other. We look at what I’m doing wrong and continue to try and get better at that and improve my weaknesses”.
Octavio De La Grana (Assistant Coach/Player Development)
Quinn is not alone in making sure Heat role players are ready, as fellow deputy Octavio De La Grana has had a hand in their development as well.
The Cuban-American coach has certainly paid his dues with the organization, having been with the team since 2006. In fact, his journey is a lot like the Heat’s coach Spo, starting out as a scout for the team for three years.
He eventually rose the ranks from player development to assistant head coach.
De La Grana was initially ruled out from joining the team in the bubble but was able to get back at the last minute. Spoelstra greatly attributes Miami’s success at Walt Disney World to De La Grana’s assuring presence.
“When you’re in an environment like this, so much of being in the bubble is camaraderie and your relationships and the authenticity to them. And Coach O is all about that,” he said.
Adam Simon (Vice President of Basketball Operations/Assistant General Manager)
While Quinn and De La Grana hone players in practices, Adam Simon assists Heat scouts in finding the right talent who will fit in their system.
Apart from fulfilling his front office duties, Simon also loves to watch G-League games in hopes of unearthing am unheralded talent. Heat’s long-time scout Chet Kammerer usually finds diamonds in the rough for Riley, but Simon has also had his fair share.
Miami’s undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn is proof of Simon’s great eye for talent. Simon practically pestered Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg to sign Nunn before other teams could pluck him.
Nunn, of course, played much better compared to some of last year’s lottery picks. He finished second in the Rookie of The Year voting behind Ja Morant.
Simon was so good at his job that the Chicago Bulls tried to poach him by offering him keys to their front office. The Heat executive, however, showcased his loyalty to South Beach by declining the offer.