1. Justin Champagnie and the Miami Heat
You can’t write something like this and not include the Miami Heat, who just made the NBA Finals for the second time in four years while having undrafted players taking on significant roles for them in the playoffs. While many of us have taken our fair share of jabs at Heat Culture over the past few seasons, there is no denying that there is some legitimacy to those words. The Heat are doing something differently, and it's working. There’s an element of luck to making rotation players out of undrafted free agents, as there are with all amount of success in the NBA, but it's also a combination of tangible work and regimen that the Heat have mastered. So who could benefit this season?
The Heat struck out on Damian Lillard and then also Jrue Holiday. There is yet to be a full report on how invested they got in either of those players, but they certainly had interest. As they toiled on pursuing a star guard, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus signed with the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers respectively.
This leaves minutes at the wing and guard spot up for grabs, and undrafted Pittsburgh alum Justin Champagnie could be the next beneficiary of Heat culture. Going undrafted in 2021, Champagnie has spent most of his time in the G-League where he averaged 19.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three on 199 attempts. At 6-foot-6 and over 200 pounds, he could potentially offer defensive versatility.
In the Heat’s preseason loss to the Victor Wembanyama-led Spurs Champagnie managed to grab 11 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. Anyone will tell you that NBA teams always have space for a good rebounder, always. With his potential defensive versatility and three-point shooting ability, it’s easy to see where a world where Champagnie becomes the Miami Heat’s next undrafted and non-guaranteed gem. He’s no Lillard or Holiday, and not even a consolation, but could still be another steal for the organization.