Barry Jackson

Heat would have intriguing options if it picks 14th, which is likely

UCLA forward TJ Leaf (22) drives against Kentucky forward Derek Willis (35) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament South Regional semifinal game Friday, March 24, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn.
UCLA forward TJ Leaf (22) drives against Kentucky forward Derek Willis (35) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament South Regional semifinal game Friday, March 24, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. AP

If the Heat doesn’t get lucky and land a top three pick (there’s only a 1.8 percent chance of Miami moving into the top 3, compared with a 98.2 percent chance of picking 14th), what players are projected for their draft range of 14?

Names to keep in mind: Duke forward Harry Giles, UCLA forward TJ Leaf, Indiana forward OG Anunoby, Kentucky forward Edrice Adbayo, Duke guard Luke Kennard, Wake Forest forward John Collins, Australian forward Terrence Ferguson, North Carolina forward Justin Jackson and three centers: Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, Texas’ Jarrett Allen, Creighton’s Justin Patton.

Not all of these players have announced if they’re turning pro. (Leaf - pictured above - is among those who have said he’s turning pro.) Michigan State’s Myles Bridges, who would have been an appealing late-lottery option, announced last week he’s not turning pro.

ESPN’s Chad Ford has Miami picking Leaf in his mock draft last week.

“The Heat already have an elite shot-blocker in the middle, so drafting a skilled [power forward] like Leaf seems like a sound option -- especially after seeing how [impending free agent] Luke Babbitt fits with the team,” Ford wrote. “Leaf draws Babbitt comparisons because of his inside-outside skill set, but he's tougher and a better athlete. He would be a long-term upgrade for Miami.”

Leaf, 6-10, averaged 16.3 points and shot a lofty 61.7 percent and 41.6 percent on threes (27 for 58).

Giles, 6-10, might be a gamble because of three knee procedures since 2013, and an ACL tear in high school.

Because of the knee and slow development, he averaged only 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited playing time (11.5 minutes average) in 26 games.

“Based on sheer talent, Giles is one of the three best players in the draft,” Ford said. “If he checks out medically, Giles has a chance to be a monster player in a few years.”

Anunoby, 6-8, averaged 11.1 points in 16 games before a season-ending knee injury and “might not even be able to play as a rookie,” Ford said. “But his talent level as a two-way player is off the charts.”

Adbayo, 6-10, averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds and shot 60 percent but doesn’t have a three-point game.

“When he plays with toughness as a rebounder and finisher at the rim, he looks the part of a lottery pick,” Ford said.

Kennard averaged 19.5 points and shot 43.8 percent on threes (88 for 201).

“He is the highest riser on our draft board, despite the fact he really struggled in the NCAA tournament, shooting just 4-for-18 from the field,” Ford said. “Teams are in desperate need of elite shooters, and virtually every scout I spoke with in Portland said they had him in their top 20, and a few had him in the lottery. His toughness and ability to run the point make him more valuable than just a sharpshooter.”

Ferguson, the Australian prospect, “lacks the poise and production of Kennard, but he's a better athlete,” Ford said. “It will be interesting to see which player gets his name called first. I think these two will meet in a lot of workouts.”

Collins, 6-10, averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds but has no three-point range (0 for 1).

His “efficiency as a scorer combined with length and athleticism make him a solid choice in the second half of the first round,” Ford said. “None of the scouts I spoke with see a super-high ceiling for him. But his work ethic and physical tools also point to someone who should be able to carve out a long career in the NBA.”

If the Heat believes it will lose Willie Reed, then Zach Collins, Allen and Patton are worth considering in that range to develop as a backup to Hassan Whiteside.

It would be surprising, but hardly unprecedented, if any of the players widely considered the draft’s top 10 prospect fall to Miami’s range. Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, NC State’s Dennis Smith, Kentucky’s Malik Monk, Kansas’ Josh Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum assuredly won’t.

The others: Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox, Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen, French guard Frank Ntilikina and FSU forward Jonathan Isaac.

Miami does not have a second-round pick.

The NBA lottery, when the draft order will be set, is May 16. We’ll solicit views from scouts on possible Heat picks closer to the draft.

Here’s my NFL Draft post tonight, one of many this week, about a meeting the Dolphins arranged with a prominent UM player this week.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 
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