Miami Heat still ‘feel the fire’ when it comes to mentor’s NBA draft evaluation

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Chet Kammerer is too busy chasing the grandkids at this stage to be chasing dollars. Still, the Miami Heat’s draft mentor admits he did take notice last spring when former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy offered a tribute.

“Someone told me about that,” Kammerer said with a laugh to the Sun Sentinel. “That was quite nice.”

While working as an NBA TV commentator before his recent hiring as coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, Van Gundy was asked about the Heat’s success in not only drafting players such as Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, but also unearthing undrafted prospects such as Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn.

“This guy has hit on Udonis Haslem, undrafted, and then lesser guys that people forget about, Mike James, Malik Allen,” Van Gundy said. "Like, he’s hit on all these guys. It’s been Chet Kammerer for years and years and years.

"Now, Miami’s smart enough, they know what they have. They’re not going to let him go. But, man, somebody should have said, ‘Hey, I know Chet Kammerer is getting near the end of his contract. Get the word out to his agent. We’ll pay him $5 million a year to come here.’ "

As it is, Kammerer, at least on paper, stepped back in July 2018, when the team announced he had decided to reduce his role, with a revised title of senior advisor of basketball operations.

But the draft never stopped coursing through his blood. So he was there to advocate for the selection of Herro at No. 13 in 2019 and sat alongside General Manager Andy Elisburg urging the pursuit of Nunn months before Herro was selected.

Now in his 25th season with the Heat, the work remains ongoing in advance of the Nov. 18 draft, where the Heat hold the No. 20 selection.

“Man, it’s hard for me to put in words how much Chet means to me and our organization,” Adam Simon, who stepped into Kammerer’s shoes in 2018 as the team’s point man on the draft, told the Sun Sentinel. "That guy is an unbelievable sounding board, unbiased, unswayed, doesn’t hear the noise. He has an ability to identify talent.

“And I think things I do well, I think I complement him.”

Known to insiders with 30 years in the game prior to joining the Heat, Kammerer has long been respected for his evaluation insight. But with the Heat advancing to this past season’s NBA Finals, the praise now transcends basketball’s inner circle.

Still, there is a reason for having stepped back. So when asked about his Heat progeny of Adebayo, Herro, Robinson and Nunn, Kammerer said his first team remains grandchildren Maverick, Mason, Charlise, Cord, Ryder, Stetson, Natasha and Chase.

“You know how I have to answer that one,” he said, with another laugh, of his favorites. “I have eight of them, and I could not put the players ahead of them. But it has been fun. It has been enjoyable, because you can be wrong in this business so easily. And to be right a few times, to see them blossom and to see them develop their games and see them improve and having fruitful success, I think is fantastic. I’m really happy for them.”

Now all that is being asked . . . is for more.

“Chet’s been involved,” Simon said of the team’s second build up to the 2020 NBA draft, which previously had been scheduled prior to the coronavirus pandemic for June 25. "We give him the latitude to be flexible with his schedule and his family and his grandkids, but he’s in on every call that we’ve had. We do these calls with our scouts breaking down players, and he’s involved.

“I think that the travel has been a little bit less, but, believe me, you can still feel the fire in him when he hasn’t seen a player in person and wants to give an evaluation. He’ll dive into it and watch as much video and he’ll get on the phone and talk to people that he really leans on, that he trusts, to get good intel, and that’s invaluable to the Heat organization. Yeah, we value him tremendously.”

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