Tennessee’s Grant Williams at NBA draft combine
The Miami Heat spent the end of last week at the NBA Draft Combine evaluating and meeting with players under consideration for when the Heat picks 13th in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft, trade down to a later first-round position or trade into the second round in June.
Five players Thursday and Friday confirmed meetings with Miami in Chicago. Here’s what you should know about each of the five with a month until the draft in Brooklyn:
Key stats: 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.9 blocks; 60.7 field-goal percentage, 30.0 three-point percentage, 77.9 free-throw percentage
Projected draft range: Late lottery to early second round.
On the surface, Fernando gives off the impression of being a modern rim-running big man. Not quite 6-9, Fernando has a highlight reel filled with alley-oops and monster blocks. Although he lacks ideal size, his athleticism gives him the potential to be an effective pick-and-roll finisher on one end of the floor and an adequate rim protector on the other.
Fernando, who measured 6-8 3/4 without shoes and 6-10 1/4 with, finished near the top of most athletic -testing categories at the Combine last week. The 20-year-old’s shuttle run time of 3.05 seconds and his three-quarter sprint of 3.27 were best at his position, his lane agility time of 11.27 seconds was second best, and his max vertical leap of 33.5 inches and standing vertical leap of 30.5 inches were both third best.
As impressive as some of his blocks were, Fernando was inconsistent as a defender as a sophomore when he had to move laterally out near the perimeter. His athletic testing suggests he has what it takes to be an all-around defender.
“My ability to switch on guards. My size, being as mobile as I am, I can switch on screens, hedge out and just be there to help my guards, and just communicating,” Fernando said. “I think my ability to communicate and be loud on the floor, bring energy all the time is big on the defensive end.”
The ceiling for Fernando, a native of Angola, is even more interesting on offense. The Bradenton IMG Academy alumnus was the focal point of the Maryland Terrapins’ offense last season, running the show from a post. His 60.7 field-goal percentage isn’t all from dunks — he was one of the most efficient player in the country on hook shots — and his 2.0 assists per game almost exclusively came from passing out of double-teams to open shooters. His feel is exceptional considering his basketball education got off to a relatively late start.
And then there’s his potential as a shooter. Fernando only attempted 0.3 three-pointers per game, but feels confident it can become a weapon at the next level. Because of his proficiency as a post player in College Park, Fernando rarely got to step out and shoot jumpers. His 77.9 free-throw percentage, however, suggests his form is sound mechanically and he can become something of a floor spacer, particularly as a screener.
“I really think my shooting ability is something that people didn’t really realize and notice that I can shoot the ball,” Fernando said. “Just because of the situations at Maryland I didn’t really take many shots.”
Key stats: 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds; 46.8 field-goal percentage, 33.3 three-point percentage, 72.7 free-throw percentage.
Projected draft range: Middle first round to early second round.
A former five-star prospect, Reid was a one-and-done for the LSU Tigers who played at his best toward the end of the season. Starting with LSU’s one game in the Southeastern Conference tournament, Reid became a terror and a major reason the Tigers made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
In four postseason games, Reid averaged 18.5 points per game, highlighted by a monster outing against the Florida Gators in the SEC tournament. The freshman center went for 26 points and 14 rebounds in the loss and, most notably, went 3 for 4 from three-point range.
Reid, 19, is a different sort of center than Fernando, whose ceiling hinges much more on his offensive potential. Reid was a solid three-point shooter at 33.3 percent on 2.5 attempts per game, and his 72.7 free-throw percentage is a sign of real potential as a shooter, which will be key to his offensive potential. Reid also measured in at 6-8 3/4 without shoes and didn’t participate in athletic testing, leaving some questions unanswered considering he arrived in Baton Rouge overweight.
“It was kind of something I struggled with and got better with when I was in college,” Reid said. “Just being able to run up and down the floor was a mental thing.”
Position: Power forward.
Key stats: 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.1 steals; 56.4 field-goal percentage, 32.6 three-point percentage, 81.9 free-throw percentage
Projected draft range: Middle first round to second round.
Ten years ago, Williams probably wouldn’t have been viewed as a potential first-round pick. Even after an All-American junior season with the Tennessee Volunteers, Williams measuring in at 6-5 3/4 without shoes at the NBA Combine might have been a death knell. The power forward ran Tennessee’s offense from the post, is a below-average three-point shooter and struggled in some of the athletic testing at the Combine with the second-worst standing vertical leap among forwards.
Players such as Golden State Warriors post player Draymond Green and Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker have given Williams hope, though. Williams, 20, was much better in some of the agility drills at the Combine — he was sixth at his position in lane agility time and 10th in the three quarter spring — and he knows his potential hinges upon what he can become as a defender. The comparison to Tucker, who played for Volunteers coach Rick Barnes with the Texas Longhorns, is one he has heard frequently, and he strives to be the same sort of defender.
“I’ve talked to him a few times throughout this process. He’s someone who I’ve looked to — similar to him and Draymond Green, and maybe Jae Crowder — who are considered those ‘tweeners because of how hard they compete.”
There were signs throughout his time in Knoxville. He already has some of the craftiness on both ends of the floor, and averaged more than a steal and a block per game as a junior despite some of his athletic deficiencies. The forward has also come into his own as an offensive player, bumping up his field-goal percentage nearly 10 percent from 47.3 as a sophomore and his three-point percentage more than 20 percent from 12.0.
Position: Point guard.
Key stats: 24.3 points, 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals; 39.5 field-goal percentage, 35.5 three-point percentage, 83.7 free-throw percentage.
Projected draft range: Late first round to second round.
Edwards was a bit of a polarizing player as a junior for the Purdue Boilermakers. Although he was one of the leading scorers in the country and an All-American, Edwards was incredibly inefficient, shooting worse than 40 percent from the floor while attempting nearly 20 shots per game.
The degree off difficulty was almost always extraordinarily high for Edwards, though, as the only player who could reliably create his own shot. The point guard averaged 24.3 points per game on 19.5 shots. Guard Ryan Cline was second in both categories, and he averaged 12.0 points on 9.8 attempts per game. He was the only other player to score in double figures.
Come NCAA Tournament, Edwards managed to make everyone a believer. The guard led Purdue to the Elite Eight, averaging 34.8 points per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 45.9 percent from three-point range, taking an average of 22.8 shots and 15.3 threes.
There’s no question Edwards could score at the college level. The bigger question is whether he can actually be a point guard. Edwards primarily played off the ball in West Lafayette, yet he measured 5-10 1/4 without shoes at the Combine. For him to be worth a first-round pick, the bowling ball-built 21-year-old needs to prove himself as a creator for others.
“It was kind of tough to for me to show it this year just with my role,” Edwards said. “My role for the team last year at Purdue was just to score the ball and score at a high level.”
Position: Small forward.
Key stats: 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds; 46.2 field-goal percentage, 39.2 three-point percentage, 77.3 free-throw percentage.
Projected draft range: Second round.
Brazdeikis has a lot of what teams look for in a wing scorer. In his lone season with the Michigan Wolverines, the small forward shot 39.2 percent from three-point range with 85.7 percent of his 143 attempts coming off assists. He also proved capable at getting to the basket, shooting 62.0 percent on 166 attempts on the rim with fewer than half of those coming off assists. More than 75 percent of his shots were either threes, layups or dunks.
The question is whether he’s anything more than just a scorer — and whether he can score with a measure of consistency. Brazdeikis averaged just 0.8 assists per game, so when he isn’t scoring he’s not contributing much else on offense other than some spacing, and there were a few too many no-shows for a freshman who was an All-American honorable mention. Six times in his freshman season in Ann Arbor, Brazdeikis failed to crack double figures.
Whomever picks him will hope the peaks are sign of what’s to come for the 20-year-old, who measured 6-5 3/4 without shoes. When he was at his best — like hen he went 9 for 13 for 24 points in a win against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the fall — there were few scorers better.
“I think I bring my confident self everywhere I go. I’m not going to shy away from any moment,” Brazdeikis said. “I think I’m the best player on the court anywhere I step on and that won’t change, so I think I can be an impact player, but I think I adapt very well.”