Barry Jackson

Miami Heat, with decision at backup center, summons two intriguing prospects

Creighton's Justin Patton (23) dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Longwood in Lincoln, Neb., Fri., Dec. 9, 2016.
Creighton's Justin Patton (23) dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Longwood in Lincoln, Neb., Fri., Dec. 9, 2016. AP

The Heat, unsure who will back up Hassan Whiteside next season, has invited two relatively inexperienced but talented centers to team headquarters for private workouts in the next couple of weeks, according to multiple league sources.

Creighton center Justin Patton and Texas center Jarrett Allen are both scheduled to work out for the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena, with Allen’s session slated for June 18.

Both are 6-11 big men who turned pro after their freshman seasons.

The Heat has interest in keeping impending free agent center Willie Reed, who recently hired prominent NBA agent Andy Miller, but isn’t sure it will be able to afford him.

As an alternative to offering Reed any of its $38 million in cap space, the Heat also could offer Reed one of two exceptions that it has available – one for $3.3 million and another for $4.3 million – but Reed could command more than that in a market awash with cap space. Exceptions can neither be combined with each other or with cap space.

Patton averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game for Creighton, shooting 67.6 percent from the field and an eye-opening 8 for 15 on three-pointers. But he shot just 51.7 percent on free throws (45 for 87).

“Patton was one of the most efficient big men in the NCAA this season,” ESPN.com’s Chad Ford said. “His ability to score in the post and soft touch from the perimeter put him in contention with Gonzaga's Zach Collins for the best center prospect in the draft. He should go in the Nos. 15-25 range.”

Allen averaged 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his one year in Texas and played more minutes than Patton (32.2 per game, on average). He shot 56.6 percent from the field (missing all seven of his three-pointers) but only 56.4 percent from the line (84 for 149).

“Allen has stayed pretty firmly in the late-lottery to mid-first-round range since the beginning of the season,” Ford said. “His length, athleticism and rebounding were all major pluses during his freshman season in Austin. However, he must add strength and continue to improve his perimeter game. He should go somewhere in the Nos. 13-20 range.”

Ford has Allen going 19th and Patton 22nd in his latest mock draft.

The Heat previously worked out UCLA center Ike Anigbogu, who’s expected to go at least a bit later than the Heat’s pick.

“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 also very likely would have interest in Gonzaga center Zach Collins, but many project him to go before the Heat picks at No. 14.

Ford, however, is among those who have him falling to Miami; he has the Heat picking Collins in his mock draft.

“Zach Collins has the unusual ability to both stretch the floor and protect the rim,” Ford said. “He's a good athlete, he's aggressive and his analytics scores are through the roof. He is in the mix as high as No. 9 to the Mavs. I don't think he slips past [Miami].”

The seven-foot Zach Collins, who left Gonzaga after one season, also could play power forward; he shot 10 for 21 on threes. Three Heat officials watched him closely at an agent-run workout in Chicago recently, but he is not scheduled to come to Miami for a workout.

Duke’s 6-10 Harry Giles, who has a history of knee problems, and Wake Forest’s John Collins are power forwards who also can play center. Both also are in the Heat’s draft range.

As we reported here earlier this week, North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson - who’s under consideration at No. 14 - will work out for the Heat on Thursday.

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