Barry Jackson

Heat, seeking another skilled young big man, quietly summons three interesting prospects

Pat Riley addresses the media after the 2016-17 season

Miami Heat president Pat Riley gave his annual state of the Heat press conference on April 19, 2017.
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Miami Heat president Pat Riley gave his annual state of the Heat press conference on April 19, 2017.

The Heat, looking for another skilled young big man, quietly flew in at least four interesting draft prospects to team headquarters for private workouts this week, according to multiple sources.

The Heat summoned Baylor 6-10 power forward Johnathan Motley, Indiana 6-10 center Thomas Bryant, and UCLA 6-10 power forward/center Ike Anigbogu.

As we reported here Wednesday, the Heat also had California 6-10 power forward Ivan Rabb in for a workout.

Bryant was matched against Anibogu in the workout, and Motley competed against Rabb.

Aside from Rabb, none of the other three are projected to go as high as the Heat’s pick at No. 14, Miami’s only selection in the June 22 draft. But it’s possible the Heat could trade for a second-round pick if it becomes particularly enamored with a player that’s still available after the first round.

ESPN’s Chad Ford projects Anigbogu to go between 17 and 35 in the 60-player draft, Bryant to be plucked between 25 and 50 and Motley to be selected between 25 and 40.

Motley, pictured above, averaged 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks as a junior at Baylor last season. He shot 52.1 percent from the field but just 9 for 33 on threes. At 22, he’s older than many of the draft prospects.

“He has all the physical tools NBA teams are looking for in a power forward, with terrific size, athleticism and length,” Ford said on ESPN.com. “His jumper is the major sticking point for teams -- he shot 27 percent from 3 on just 33 attempts as a junior. He's in the Nos. 25-40 range.”

Bryant, 19, averaged 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a sophomore at Indiana last season, shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 23 for 60 on threes (38.3 percent).

“Bryant had a bit of a disappointing sophomore season for Indiana,” Ford said. “On the plus side, he showed off more of his shooting range, hitting 23 3s at a 38 percent clip. That's appealing to scouts. On the downside, his 2-point percentage plummeted, and his below-the-rim post game has scouts worried that Bryant's game might not fully translate to the NBA. He should go somewhere between Nos. 25-50 in this year's draft.”

Anigbogu, 18, averaged only 13 minutes per game in his only season at UCLA, which accounts for his modest averages (4.7 points, 4.0 rebounds). But Anigbogu, who shot 56.4 percent from the field, also averaged 1.3 blocks in that limited playing time, which averages to nearly four blocks per game in 39 minutes.

Miami is intrigued by another UCLA player, skilled-shooting power forward T.J. Leaf, who is projected for the Heat’s range.

“Anigbogu came off the bench for UCLA as a freshman and played limited minutes, but NBA teams see a ton of raw potential in him, especially as a rebounder and shot-blocker,” Ford said. “He already has an NBA body and a great motor; now it's about picking up some offensive skills. Although another year at UCLA could certainly benefit his development and draft stock, most teams have him ranked in the Nos. 17-35 range.”

The Heat likely will add at least two developmental big men during its summer program, either through the draft or after it.

Center Hassan Whiteside is under contract for three more seasons, but backup center Willie Reed is expected to opt out of a contract that would pay him $1.8 million next season.

The Heat very much wants to keep free agent power forward James Johnson, and Johnson wants to stay, but the unknown variable is whether Johnson will attract an enormous offer beyond what the Heat is willing to pay. Teams can make offers to other teams’ free agents beginning July 1.

Power forwards Luke Babbitt and Udonis Haslem are also free agents, though Haslem has indicated a desire to return to the Heat, and president Pat Riley has said he will be welcomed back.

Power forward Josh McRoberts this week opted in to a contract for $6 million next season, but the Heat is expected to try to trade him. Miami also has the option of releasing him and spreading his remaining cap hit over three seasons, at $2 million per year.

Small forward Justise Winslow, returning from January shoulder surgery, also can play power forward.

This is the first in a flurry of posts from me this morning. Here’s another with UM football nuggets, including an explanation for why an unheralded player is still in the UM QB battle, a new UM gig for Jonathan Vilma, a curious tweet from a top UM recruit and more. Please click here for my post with Dolphins nuggets, including a new encouraging development with Ryan Tannehill (not knee-related), an undrafted rookie who impressed this week, and views from the first offseason practice open to the media.

And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz) for instant links and news.

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