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When it comes to scouting players who might slip through the cracks in the NBA draft, a good place to start is with a player with slipped through the cracks.
Enter Keith Askins, the former Heat forward who went undrafted out of Alabama in 1990 and still managed to craft a nine-season NBA career, all with the Heat.
Having moved on to the Heat scouting staff after 14 seasons as an assistant coach with the team, Askins now is an integral part of the Heat draft process, working alongside Adam Simon, the team’s vice president of basketball operations.
“I value Keith tremendously,” Simon said ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft. “I think he’s been someone who obviously played in the league, was a coach for us, has seen every side of this business.
“And it’s wonderful to have him in our meetings when we talk to draft prospects. He went undrafted. He played in the league for nine years, five of them were non-guaranteed contracts. So he had to come in almost every year to compete to make the team. So he’s able to share those stories.”
Currently without a pick in either of Thursday’s two rounds, Askins ultimately may be asked to identify the team’s latest Askins, with the Heat poised to pounce for prospects after the selections are completed at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
“He’s really good at identifying players that are ready,” Simon said. “And the involvement of his eye is to see players that might not be ready right away, that have that upside and potential. And it’s not easy.
“It’s not easy for scouts to understand that, especially players who played in the league, coached in the league, to see that. Not every player is out-of-the box ready.”
Now 53, Askins is in his fifth year in the Heat role of director of college and pro scouting.
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Simon said Askins’ growth as a scout has mirrored his resilience and evolution as a player, equating the progression to how he evolved and how Chet Kammerer, the team’s senior advisor of basketball operations, has emerged from a collegiate coaching career to status as an elite college scout.
“What I know about Keith,” Simon said,“ is he puts in a lot of time watching film. He is very thorough, which you’d expect with the way he has been throughout his career.
“So we all evolve. Chet, when he came in 26 years ago as a coach, he had to adjust to the way he became a scout. And just like me, I think I’m always trying to be better. And Keith, has definitely embraced this job.”
Even without a pick, Simon’s staff still will produce a 60-player draft board for the team’s war room at FTX Arena.
“It’s a talented draft at the top, and then there is a lot of potential and upside throughout the rest of the middle of the draft,” he said. “And it’s interesting at this point to look at the draft. I think this group might not necessarily be as ready, but I think there’s talent throughout the top 60 picks or so.”