The NBA Draft Combine is in the books, which means the pre-draft process is officially here. Plenty will change in the next month, but two days in Chicago was the first real opportunity to get some insight into the Miami Heat’s potential plans for the No. 13 pick. Here’s some of what we learned at Quest Multisport:
Who did the Miami Heat meet with at the NBA Draft Combine?
NBA teams are allowed to meet with 20 players each in Chicago throughout the week of the NBA Draft Combine. The Heat typically like to use all — or close to all — its allowed meetings, although only about half a dozen players said they met with the Heat at the Combine.
Most of the players were potential first-round picks, including Maryland Terrapins center Bruno Fernando, LSU Tigers center Naz Reid and Tennessee Volunteers power forward Grant Williams. Although Miami doesn’t currently have a second-round pick, the team also met with potential second-round options like Purdue Boilermakers point guard Carsen Edwards and Michigan Wolverines small forward Ignas Brazdeikis.
What was more surprising might have been who the Heat didn’t meet with. Although Southern California Trojans wing Kevin Porter Jr. and Duke Blue Devils wing Cam Reddish both said Thursday they had meetings scheduled with the Heat, the Sun-Sentinel reported Friday neither actually wound up meeting with the team. Indiana Hoosiers shooting guard Romeo Langford and North Carolina Tar Heels small forward Nassir Little both said they hadn’t met with Miami, either.
In the case of Reddish and Little, both were once projected as potential top-five picks and hope to be off the board by the time the Heat picks. Agents will sometimes decline interviews with teams they feel are outside their clients’ range.
Not meeting with Porter and Langford is a bit more surprising. Obviously, both hope to go before Miami picks, but most mock drafts project them in the Heat’s range.
Porter has been linked to Miami in a number of mock drafts since the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday solidified the Heat’s position at No. 13. Porter was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, but had a disappointing freshman season for Southern California, averaging fewer than 10 points per game and serving a suspension for “personal conduct issues.” It’s not clear how far some of the off-court problems could send Porter tumbling — it’s possible to find mock drafts with him going in the second round — and he could be a worthwhile gamble for Miami.
“Before everything that happened, I was considered a top five, so I feel like I’m still a top five,” Porter said Thursday. “After this whole experience and everything I feel like I’m going to be back to where I was supposed to be and what people expected me to be.”
Langford similarly had a disappointing season at Indiana. A thumb injury hampered the former five-star prospect and he shot just 27.2 percent from three-point range. He’s one of the most frequent prospects linked to the Heat in mock drafts and he could be the sort of scoring wing Miami needs.
“I don’t want to use my thumb as an excuse for the way I shot, but it did bother me a lot and affected me in a huge way when it came to my shooting,” Langford said. “But my form still needs a couple of things to tweak here and there, but I can still shoot the ball, there’s no if, ands or buts about that.”
Some other potential options skipped out on Illinois altogether or at least didn’t speak to the media at Quest. Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura and French forward Sekou Doumbouya were the most notable players absent this week, while Oregon Ducks center Bol Bol, an intriguing option at No. 13, didn’t talk.
What do the Miami Heat meetings tell us about its targets at No. 13?
It makes sense for the Heat to take a best-player-available approach and based on its meetings Miami doesn’t seem to be discriminating. If the Heat was to draft for need, a point guard or wing would probably make most sense, so it’s somewhat surprising Miami didn’t meet with Porter, Langford, Reddish or Little.
There are myriad reasons teams might not meet with players, but Langford and Porter are players who could easily slot into the Heat’s range, as opposed to Reddish or Little, both of whom might have to slip a little more than expected to be there at No. 13.
A best player available approach, however, could lead Miami to pick a center even though post player Bam Adebayo is theoretically the future of the position for the Heat. Miami met with both Reid and Fernando, both of whom could move into the late lottery in the pre-draft process.
More realistically, though, Fernando and Reid will end up going a bit later than No. 13 at it seems clear the Heat is keeping options down. Brazdeikis and Williams fit into a similar range, somewhere in the late teens or early 20s. In a draft with no clear hierarchy beyond the top 10 or so, trading down could make sense, especially if it helps the Heat get off one of its bad contracts and lets Miami get a player it prefers to some of the conventional options at No. 13.