Spoelstra: “This season without question would be the growth of our young players”
With just more than a month remaining before the NBA Draft held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, coaches, executives and scouts are in Chicago this week for the NBA Draft combine.
The means a Heat contingent that includes president Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg, vice president of player personnel Adam Simon, coach Erik Spoelstra, CEO Nick Arison and vice president of basketball development and analytics Shane Battier is in Chicago to interview and evaluate prospects in preparation for the No. 13 pick in the June 20 draft. Miami doesn’t hold a second-round pick this year, but it does have cash available to buy a second-round selection on draft night if there’s a prospect on the board that it covets.
The combine includes 5-on-5 scrimmages and shooting and agility drills Thursday and Friday at Quest Multisport. But with 66 players expected to attend, most of the top prospects will only be in Chicago for interviews with teams and measurements.
Teams are allowed to interview up to 20 prospects at the combine this week, and the Heat usually arranges for the maximum allotment.
With the Heat coming away from Tuesday’s lottery with the No. 13 overall pick, most of the players projected to be selected in Miami’s range are expected to be at the combine.
That includes Southern California shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr., who averaged 9.5 points on 47.1 percent shooting and four rebounds in 21 games as a freshman this past season.
At 6-foot-6, Porter has the potential to turn into a dynamic offensive wing player because of his athleticism and shot-making skills. But there are off-court concerns, as he was suspended at USC in the middle of the season for “conduct issues.”
Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated have the Heat selecting Porter at No. 13 in their latest mock drafts.
“Most every team is well aware of Porter’s impressive gifts as a ball-handler and athlete, and there’s only so far he can really be allowed to slip on draft night,” Sports Illustrated wrote of its Porter-to-the-Heat prediction. “But he’s going to require some significant nurturing to reach his potential, as teams continue to hold concerns about how seriously Porter approaches the game and whether he’s ready to handle being a professional. He would be a fit with an organization like Miami that trusts its internal culture and has been unafraid to take risks.”
Of having Porter going to the Heat at No. 13, Bleacher Report wrote: “Time, pro coaching and improved confidence could help unlock obvious talent with the explosive 6-6 wing. Porter will require patience from the Miami Heat, as he’ll struggle early with his decision-making and getting into the flow of games. G League reps will help during his rookie season. But long-term, Porter should look like a gamble worth taking for Miami outside the top 10. The Heat can view him as Dwyane Wade’s long-term replacement at the off guard slot.”
Who are other candidates for the Heat at No. 13? ESPN rates these as the eighth through 18th best draft-eligible players: No. 8 French 18-year-old power forward Sekou Doumbouya, No. 9 Texas center Jaxson Hayes, No. 10 North Carolina shooting guard Coby White, No. 11 Indiana small forward Romeo Langford, No. 12 Gonzaga power forward Brandon Clarke, No. 13 Oregon center Bol Bol, No. 14 Porter, No. 15 Kentucky power forward P.J. Washington, No. 16 North Carolina small forward Nassir Little, No. 17 Kentucky shooting guard Tyler Herro and No. 18 Gonzaga power forward Rui Hachimura.
The latest ESPN mock draft has the Heat taking Bol, the 7-foot-2 son of former NBA center Manute Bol. This is a surprising prediction, considering the Heat already has a logjam at center with Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside vying for minutes at the position.
“Bol brings much-needed 3-point shooting and rim protection. He’s a top-five talent in this draft, finding himself this low due to a season-ending foot injury, which is certainly a concern,” ESPN wrote of Bol, who averaged 21 points on 56.1 percent shooting from the field and 52 percent shooting on threes in just nine games for Oregon this past season before suffering a foot injury. “... Bol might not be an ideal fit with this team’s culture, considering the questions about his approach to the game, but there is little doubt that his talent looked worthy of a much higher selection than the late lottery before he broke his foot in December.”
The Athletic’s latest mock draft has the Heat selecting Washington.
“For Miami, they’re about as good as any team in the league at getting guys into optimal shape and putting guys into position for success,” The Athletic wrote of Washington, who averaged 15.2 points on 52.2 percent shooting from the field and 42.3 percent shooting on threes to go with 7.5 rebounds as a sophomore at Kentucky this past season.
“Washington is a player that got into terrific shape last season, and experienced a legitimate jump in his game and the way he enforces his athleticism on the game because of it. He could use a team that helps him to stay in such shape. This isn’t exactly what I’d call a sexy, high-upside pick for an organization in desperate need of such swings, but this part of the draft is not really loaded with those type of players and Washington is a player that would fit on their roster and give them some added size, toughness, and perimeter shooting. His length could also help them in the smaller lineups that they enjoy employing.”
Whoever is selected at No. 13, the Heat hopes that player can help it be a better team next season. With currently no cap space and a payroll that’s right around the luxury tax threshold, the draft is the one clear way Miami can improve its roster this offseason.