Barry Jackson

Heat examining options for one or two center openings


With the Heat unsure if it will be able to retain Willie Reed in free agency, Miami potentially will be looking for two reserve centers this summer – one as a backup to Hassan Whiteside and another as a third-string developmental project.

The NBA’s new labor deal allows teams to keep two additional players beyond the previous 15-player limit. Those players, who must have no more than three years of NBA experience, will sign two-way contracts that limits them to playing no more than 45 days in the NBA that season, with teams controlling their rights all season.

The Heat could use one of those slots on a center that needs time to develop.

According to sources close to the players, the Heat has booked at least five pre-draft Miami workouts on centers who are expected to be outside Miami’s draft range at No. 14, meaning lower in the first round (North Carolina’s Tom Bradley), somewhere in the second round (Indiana’s Thomas Bryant) or potentially undrafted (Connecticut’s Amida Brimah).

The Heat doesn’t have a second-round pick but could easily trade for one using up to $3 million in available cash, per NBA rules.

A quick look at those developmental centers the Heat has summoned to South Florida, players who aren’t projected for Miami’s range at 14:

• Bradley: UNC’s first one-and-done player in nearly a decade, the 6-11 Bradley averaged 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 14.6 minutes per game. A McDonald’s All-American in high school, he backed up Kennedy Meeks, a four-year player who also has drawn some interest from the Heat.

ESPN’s Chad Ford has him going 24th to Utah: “Bradley is a mixed bag. While he's a terrific rebounder with the requisite size and length to play in the league, teams worry about his heavy legs. Does he have the mobility to thrive in the NBA?”

• Kornet. The 7-1 center (pictured above on defense) played four years at Vanderbilt and averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last season. He shot only 40.6 percent from the field but has three-point range (32.7, 53 for 162 last season) and made 120 of 140 free throws (85.7) last season.

“I can pass the ball really well,” he told me. “I can set screens.”

His Heat workout this past Wednesday was his 11th pre-draft workout and he could be a two-way player option if he performs well in Summer League.

“I didn’t have a great senior season, [but] I was hurt right before the season,” he said. “There will be so factors [in where I sign]. The biggest thing for me is finding somewhere that has a role or idea for me…. The Heat has a pedigree. They definitely have a championship type attitude.”

ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said Kornet is “more of a stretch five but has made the most threes in NCAA history for anybody over seven feet tall. I think Luke Kornet will be early second round.”

• Caleb Swanigan: The 6-9 Purdue power forward also has the bulk (250 pounds) to play center.

He averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds as a sophomore at Purdue, shooting 52.7 percent and 44.7 percent on threes (38 for 85). He worked for the Heat on Wednesday, along with Kornet and Wake Forest power forward/center John Collins, who’s an option at No. 14.

“Swanigan lost a significant amount of weight this summer, and it paid off in a big way,” Ford said. “He was one of the best players in the country as a sophomore, with a sophisticated inside-outside game offensively. He's also a force on the glass on both ends of the floor. Teams worry a little about whether he'll be able to maintain his conditioning in the pros once he signs a big contract. He's currently in the Nos. 25-40 range in the draft.”

• Amidah Brimah. The Connecticut 7-footer averaged 7.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 24.7 minutes per game as a senior, shooting 57.3 percent from the field. He never attempted a college three pointer.

• Thomas Bryant. The 6-11 prospect 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.”

The Heat also brought in Baylor power forward Jonathan Motley for a private workout.

Among players booked to visit Heat offices, those aforementioned prospects are the big men projected to go well after Miami’s pick at No. 14 or in some cases, go undrafted.

Among power rotations players in the Heat’s draft range, the Heat appreciates the considerable upside of Gonzaga 7-0 center Zach Collins and has worked out UCLA power forward T.J. Leaf (both are strongly in the mix at 14), Wake’s John Collins, Kentucky power forward Edrice Adabayo and UCLA center Ike Anigbogu.

Creighton’s Justin Patton and Texas’ Jarrett Allen – two potential mid first-round centers – were scheduled to work out for the Heat on Sunday. But while Patton will work out, Allen will not because of an injury, according to a source close to the player. Allen is expected to interview with the Heat instead.

Duke’s Harry Giles, another power rotation player in Miami’s draft range, canceled his Heat workout last week.