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What do the Heat have in Omer Yurtseven?

The rookie needed to play with Bam Adebayo and Dewayne Dedmon out. He’s exceeded expectations.

Miami Heat v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

Injuries to Bam Adebayo and Dewayne Dedmon have turned Omer Yurtseven, the 23-year-old rookie, from someone who only played in garbage time to the Miami Heat’s starting center. And he’s helped Miami withstand this tough stretch to now hold the third-best record in the East at 25-15.

Since his playing time increased, Yurtseven has proven to be a monster on the boards. He’s grabbed at least 12 boards in 11 straight games — including at least 16 rebounds in the last four. And last night in a statement win over the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns, the former Georgetown center even dished out eight assists.

Of course, he’s shown the limitations to his game. At times, he’s struggled to finish at the rim or hit jumpers. (He made his first career 3-pointer in the Heat’s Jan. 5 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.) But he’s proven to be a serviceable big man in the NBA. And that has led some to wonder what happens when Adebayo and Dedmon return.

Yurtseven’s emergence is another example of this developmental embarrassment of riches for the Heat. Max Strus and Gabe Vincent both had uneven seasons last year on two-way contracts, but look like quality rotation players now. Miami nabbed Caleb Martin on a two-way contract after the Charlotte Hornets waived him in August 2021.

Asking how the Heat can fit Yurtseven into the rotation when Adebayo and Dedmon come back is like asking where Strus and Vincent will land once Victor Oladipo returns. Will Markieff Morris’ return squeeze into the minutes of Caleb Martin? (Erik Spoelstra said that Morris “was able to go through some practice” on Friday.)

When the Heat’s first- and second-string centers return, Yurtseven will go back to the bench. Dedmon remains a better player as a roller to the basket, a 3-point shooter and on put-backs than the rookie.

But with continued development and another off-season, Yurtseven could become a solid backup center to Adebayo if Dedmon leaves in free agency this summer. And that’s a big win. As I’ve mentioned before, the big contracts to Jimmy Butler, Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson (and Tyler Herro, who is eligible for an extension this summer) make it paramount for the Heat to continue developing undrafted players to fill out the rotation.