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Caleb Martin: How Heat Guard Went From Undrafted to NBA Playoff Hero
- Caleb Martin has proven to be the unsung hero for the Miami Heat in the 2023 NBA playoffs
- He played a key role in the Eastern Conference finals as they booked their NBA Finals berth
- Sports Brief looks at how the undrafted guard became one of the Miami Heat's key players
The Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2020, after dismantling the Boston Celtics in Game 7 on the road.
The Heat were in danger of becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 lead in NBA playoff history but got the job done in Boston.
Jimmy Butler has been the story of the 2023 NBA playoffs, with his performance against top seed and title favorites, Milwaukee Bucks earning him universal acclaim.
However, the Heat have unsung heroes who've played key roles during their playoff run and Caleb Martin is probably on top of that list.
Martin was outstanding in Game 7. He finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds on 11-for-16 shooting, including 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. In 18 playoff games, the Heat guard has averaged 14.1 points per game.
In the conference finals, he averaged 19.3 points, shooting an incredible 60% from the field, including 22-for-45 (49%) from 3-point range.
But how did Martin get to this point? He was almost out of the NBA a few seasons ago, but now, he's playing a key role for the NBA finalists.
Martin goes undrafted in 2019
The 27-year-old played college basketball first at North Carolina State between 2014 and 2015, before moving to Nevada in 2017/18, where he played two seasons alongside his twin brother, Cody.
In his two seasons at Nevada, he became a prolific 3-point shooter, which earned him the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year award in 2017/18.
Despite all that, he went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft but ended up signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Charlotte Hornets in July 2019, per ESPN.
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He then signed a multi-year deal with his home-state team, but his joy didn't last long.
By August 2021, the Hornets waived him, and Martin was probably scratching his head, trying to think of how he could get back into the league.
How Martin landed in Miami
After his unceremonious ending in Charlotte, the Heat gave Martin a lifeline, but it came with an assist from Grammy Award-winning rapper, J. Cole, per Sporting News.
Cole, who is also a North Carolina native, made a phone call to former NBA star and the Heat's assistant coach, Caron Butler.
"It was just one of those things where I was like, 'He actually called me about this kid,' and he's like, 'Yo, seriously, he needs that [opportunity]'," Cole said, via ESPN.
Butler then offered Martin a chance to practice with the Heat. Since then, he has not looked back.
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He was officially back in the NBA on September 14, 2021, after signing a two-way deal with the Heat. In July 2022, he signed a three-year $20.4 million deal, per NBC Sports.
Martin's contract details
$7,126,900 (Player Option)
Unrestricted Free Agent
The Heat have thrived with undrafted players in these playoffs.
Apart from Martin, the Heat have other top undrafted players in their ranks: Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are starters, along with Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson.
Can they lead the Heat to their first NBA title since 2013?
Miami dismantles Boston in playoffs
Sports Brief earlier reported on the Miami Heat demolishing the Celtics 103-84 at TD Garden to book their first NBA Finals trip in four seasons.
Jimmy Butler scored 28 points and received the Eastern Conference finals MVP. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for only 33 points.
Miami made history with their win, becoming the first No. 8 seed to play for an NBA championship since the New York Knicks back in 1999.