Somehow, someway, the Miami Heat seem to always manage to mine
unknown players, dust them off, and turn them into gems. In the
2021-22 season, that new gem was truly unveiled in the absence of
Bam Adebayo, who returns from his six-week absence on Monday.
Omer Yurtseven began his professional basketball career in
Turkey at the age of 15, in 2013, with the country's prestigious
club Fenerbahce. Yurtseven developed extraordinary pro experience
when many at his age were still playing other high schoolers. In
2016, Yurtseven left Fenerbahce in search of more playing time,
which landed him at North Carolina State. He started immediately
for the Wolfpack, but he wasn’t putting any scouts on notice. After
his sophomore season, Yurtseven decided to transfer to Georgetown
for his final collegiate season. There, he put up career-best
numbers under former NBA legend Patrick Ewing, averaging 15.5
points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Yurtseven made a great final impression, but it still wasn’t
enough to get drafted. The 7-footer decided to go the G League
route where he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s
A few months later, Yurtseven signed with the Miami Heat. From
there, his NBA journey went an entirely different route than anyone
could have expected.
Fast-forward six months and Yurtseven has been an integral piece
in the Miami Heat’s success this season. Once Adebayo went out with
a thumb injury, Yurtseven was thrown into the fire as a backup big
alongside Dewayne Dedmon. Over a fast-growing sample size of
minutes and games, Yurtseven has passed his first NBA test with
He will likely slide into a scaled-back reserve role after this
weekend as Adebayo soaks up heavy minutes at center, but he’s now
become an intriguing long-term development piece for Miami.
Heading into Friday’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, the
Heat have carried an above .500 record at 13-7 without their
All-Star big man. Miami’s ability to stay afloat is closely linked
with how many underrated pieces stepped up for the team along the
way. It should be noted that even during this stretch, Jimmy Butler
was in-and-out of the starting lineup multiple times as well.
Tyler Herro looked the part, once again, of an instrumental
building block for their young core. Duncan Robinson snapped out of
his season-long shooting slump. Kyle Lowry’s offseason addition
loomed large as his veteran presence was massive for the
However the most impressive player in my eyes was the unheralded
Turkish big who has now carved out a golden opportunity for himself
Since Yurtseven became a fixture in the Heat’s rotation, he has
averaged 10.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 28.7 minutes
per game. That’s a big enough sample size over 12 games to parse
through the unique elements Yurtseven brings to the Heat’s
Yurtseven has displayed elite rebounding traits, placing him in
the upper-echelon alongside well-known board gobblers (Rudy Gobert,
Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela), as well as showing promising
floor-spacing potential. More recently, though, Yurtseven has
brought intrigue via an ability to find open shooters, often
operating as a high-post facilitator. Over his last three games,
Yurtseven has dished out 18 assists. That’s more dimes than
Yurtseven put together since the stretch when he originally entered
Miami’s rotation (17).
Yurtseven’s blossoming all-around development has of course
caught the eye of Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
“He has good vision," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after
Yurtseven’s career-high 8 assists against the Phoenix Suns. "He has
size. and he's had some games for us where he's been able to find
open cutters, dribbles out to shooters. He's really improved in
that aspect of helping somebody else get an open look. He’s earned
more touches in those situations to be able to do a little bit of
playmaking for us.”
Add it all together and it's obvious the 23-year-old big man is
just now beginning to scratch the surface of what his potential
could truly become in South Beach.
Miami hit the lottery again with their renowned player
development program. Omer Yurtseven is a keeper, and he’s well on
his way to being a vital piece in their puzzle.