As the Miami Heat’s front office continues to retool the roster in free agency, center Omer Yurtseven began to make his case for an NBA contract.
The Heat opened summer league with an entertaining 80-78 win over the Los Angeles Lakers’ summer squad on Tuesday night at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center as part of the California Classic.
With last season’s Heat two-way contract players Gabe Vincent and Max Strus and undrafted Houston guard DeJon Jarreau held out, Yurtseven was the star of the night. The 7-footer finished with a game-high 27 points and 19 rebounds in 32 minutes.
“Amazing, amazing,” Yurtseven said to reporters during a post-game Zoom session. “All the hard work that I’ve been putting in, being inserted out there and playing in that system, it’s my first five-on-five in about a month. So it felt really good. And first time in a Heat jersey, it was a proud moment for me.”
Yurtseven, 23, shot 11 of 20 from the field, 3 of 7 on threes and made two timely free throws with 6.8 seconds to play and the score tied to lift the Heat to the narrow win. He also grabbed a game-high five offensive rebounds.
The only real blemish on Yurtseven’s performance were his seven turnovers and six fouls. It takes 10 fouls for a player to foul out of a summer league game.
“He was huge,” said Heat assistant coach Malik Allen, who is serving as the team’s summer league head coach. “He was inside, he was outside. Obviously, he’s got a ways to go. But he really was hugely impactful and really, really big in the game obviously with his scoring and his rebounding. He’s always been a very good rebounder. But he went and get some tough rebounds in traffic tonight, which was good to see.”
Through his offseason work, Yurtseven will have a chance to earn one of the Heat’s two-way contracts and possibly a spot on the 15-man roster. Miami’s two two-way deals are up for grabs after the team agreed to terms to sign last season’s two-way players, Vincent and Strus, to standard contracts on Monday.
While Yurtseven has never played in an NBA game, he’s not a stranger to the Heat. He has been in the organization’s developmental program since he signed a non-guaranteed contract with Miami in the final days of the regular season on May 14.
But the Heat declined the $1.5 million team option Yurtseven’s contract on Sunday to make him an unrestricted free agent. Yurtseven still decided to stick with Miami for summer league, but he can now leave to sign a contract elsewhere at any time.
The emphasis for Yurtseven, who was born in Turkey, since he entered the Heat’s program: playing big inside, rebounding, pick-and-roll defense and three-point shooting.
Yurtseven played two seasons at NC State before transferring to Georgetown and went undrafted in 2020. He averaged 15.5 points while shooting 53.4 percent from the field and 3 of 14 on threes, 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.5 blocks in his lone season at Georgetown in 2019-20.
Before signing with the Heat late last season, Yurtseven spent time in the G League with the Oklahoma City Blue. He appeared in 14 games (one start) with the Blue, averaging 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 21.1 minutes while shooting 62.6 percent from the field and 38.1 percent on 1.5 three-point attempts per game.
Yurtseven has focused on improving his three-point shot since leaving college, as he noted when he signed with the Heat in May that he put up 20,000 shots per month for eight straight months from the end of his college season to the 2020 NBA Draft.
In Yurtseven’s summer league debut, he made a game-high three three-pointers as a pick-and-pop threat and kept the defense off balance with his impressive touch around the rim when he rolled to the basket.
“He has got great offensive versatility,” Allen said of Yurtseven’s all-around offensive game. “His skill set with those things, his ability to shoot the ball and his touch inside is really unique for a big now. In some ways, it’s a luxury to have somebody who can do both in terms of pop and roll, and duck in, and can score on the block. And in other ways, you’re trying to figure out what’s the best way to get him the ball in certain situations because he can do so many things when he was going like he was tonight.”
In addition to playing without Vincent, Strus and Jarreau, the Heat’s summer team was also without forward KZ Okpala and center Precious Achiuwa on Tuesday. Okpala has not yet joined the team after recently representing Nigeria in the Olympics and Achiuwa is part of the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade transaction that can become official on Friday.
The Heat continues summer league play Wednesday, completing the two-game Sacramento summer circuit with a matchup against the Golden State Warriors at 8 p.m. (ESPNU). The Heat will then move on to Las Vegas Summer League, which will be held from Aug. 8-17.
Another notable Heat performance from Tuesday’s game against the Lakers:
▪ Marcus Garrett, an undrafted guard out of Kansas, finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. But the most impressive part of his stat line were his five steals.
Garrett (6-10 wingspan) arrived to the Heat’s summer league team with a strong defensive reputation, as he was named the Naismith and ESPN.com Defensive Player of the Year and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a junior.
“He’s a hell of a defender,” Allen said. “He’s tough and he has a great feel defensively. His toughness is the first thing. He takes the challenge on the ball and off the ball. Like he likes to play defense.”