Miami Heat

These three Kentucky Wildcats could be options for the Miami Heat at No. 13 in NBA Draft

Tyler Herro: For Kentucky players, being a pro starts long before the NBA

Tyler Herro said he learned to be a pro while playing for Kentucky. He takes that knowledge to the NBA.
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Tyler Herro said he learned to be a pro while playing for Kentucky. He takes that knowledge to the NBA.

There’s no obvious direction for the Miami Heat to go with its No. 13 selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Heat could use a point guard of the future, a go-to wing scorer or a floor-spacing post player if the right one is there.

One team could help fill most of these options: The Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky could have three players selected in the top 20, and each of the three makes logical sense for Miami. Let’s take a look:

Keldon Johnson

Position: Guard/forward.

Key stats: 13.5 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals; 46.1 field-goal percentage, 38.1 three-point percentage.

Projected draft range: Middle first round.

Physically, Keldon Johnson has the makings of a dominant two-way wing. He measured 6-foot-6 with shoes at the NBA Draft Combine with a 6-9 1/4 wingspan. He was the defensive anchor for the Wildcats as a freshman, and it’s an obviously translatable skill for him heading to the next level.

The question is what sort of an offensive player he can turn into.

His offensive ceiling hinges mostly on how his jumper develops. Johnson was physical enough to muscle his way to the basket in his lone season in Lexington as he shot 59.5 percent at the rim.

If everything comes together on offense for Johnson, he has the potential to be one of the better two-way players in the league. If not, Johnson’s defense and motor should keep him in the league, even if he’s difficult to play in certain lineups.

Tyler Herro

Position: Shooting guard.

Key stats: 14.0 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals; 46.2 field-goal percentage, 35.5 three-point percentage, 93.5 free-throw percentage.

Projected draft range: Middle first round.

There is nothing more important in the modern NBA than shooting, and Herro is one of the most talented shooters in the class.

The shooting guard isn’t just a three-point specialist, though. Herro shot 53.8 percent on two-point attempts as a freshman and ultimately became a player Kentucky could run its offense through, although it took a little bit of time for him to become a consistent offensive player.

Herro wasn’t expected to be a one-and-done when he joined the Wildcats. The guard, who measured 6-6 in shoes at the Combine, was only a four-star prospect coming out of high school, though of primarily as a shooter, a label he started to shed by the end of his brief college career. Herro got to the rim 84 times and made 66.7 percent of his shot there. It’s possible he could have a Devin Booker-like trajectory, where he was mostly an off-ball player on a deep Wildcats roster only to become a top-flight, all-around offensive player in the NBA.

“A lot of teams haven’t seen what I can do with the ball in my hands,” Herro said May 17 at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “I think I can play in the pick and roll, and make reads off that, score at all three levels.”

P.J. Washington

Position: Power forward.

Key stats: 15.2 points per game, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals; 52.2 field-goal percentage, 42.3 three-point percentage, 66.3 free-throw percentage.

Projected draft range: Middle first round.

P.J. Washington was supposed to go through all this last year. He sort of did.

The power forward was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, the centerpiece of Kentucky’s Class of 2017 and a likely one-and-done. He even scored an invitation to the Draft Combine in 2018, only to decide to rejoin the Wildcats for his sophomore season.

It all paid off. Washington was one of the most improved players in the entire country, turning into an All-American after a somewhat underwhelming debut season in Kentucky.

“Last year, I really wasn’t where I wanted to be. This year, I’m definitely where I want to be,” Washington said at the NBA Combine. “I’m confident in myself and confident in my ability, so I feel like I can go anywhere and play right away.”

Improvement came at all levels for the forward, who measured 6-8 in shoes at the Combine. His scoring jumped from 10.8 points per game to 15.2. His rebounding spiked from 5.7 to 7.5. Washington scored more effectively in all levels — most notably, his three-point percentage leaped from 23.8 to 42.3 — and his defensive improved, too.

While Washington is probably a little too small to be a natural center, he’s a post player with the capability to switch out on the perimeter and the potential to become a real floor-spacing threat, although his 66.3 free-throw percentage is nearly as concerning as his three-point percentage is promising. Washington was still at his best offensively when he was posting up.

Of the three Wildcats, Washington’s ceiling might be the least intriguing, but his floor should have him as a no-doubt contributor, and his sophomore production suggests he could help a team right away.

“I feel like it will translate a lot just because the spacing is better,” Washington said. “It’s a lot bigger court, so for me it’s just staying in shape, and just keep working and developing my shot.”

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