Barry Jackson

Veteran scouts assess Heat’s potential wing options at No. 14

Duke guard Luke Kennard, left, guards Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in New York.
Duke guard Luke Kennard, left, guards Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in New York. AP

With Thursday’s NBA draft looming, we asked two veteran NBA scouts (from opposing teams) to analyze first-round wing prospects (guards, small forwards) who have been studied closely by the Heat as it mulls what to do at No. 14.

Both scouts requested anonymity because their teams do not allow them to speak publicly.

Their feedback and a thought on each of the players:

• Duke 6-5 shooting guard Luke Kennard: First scout: “I’m a huge Luke Kennard fan. He can shoot, can put it on the floor and create. He’s clever offensively and he’s not just a catch and shoot guy. On the flip side, he is defensively challenged. He would be a good pick at 14, but I think he’s better than that.”

Second scout: “He’s below 14 to me, below Justin Jackson. More toward 20th in my opinion. Doesn’t have the length. Doesn’t have great athleticism. People will be concerned about him defensively.”

The view here: The second scout, for whom we have great respect, is in the minority. Kennard’s stock has risen in the wake of an exceptional pre-draft workout in front of multiple teams.

With his outstanding shooting skills and ability to create, combined with his Duke pedigree, Miami is definitely interested. But some analysts, including ESPN’s Chad Ford, believe he will be gone before the Heat picks. Worked out for the Heat last week and will be very strongly considered if he’s still there at 14.

• Louisville 6-3 combo guard Donovan Mitchell: First scout: “I like him a lot. Great body, good feel. Decent shooter. He has an NBA game and not a lot of downside.”…

Second scout: “Like him defensively, but I don’t see him being picked at 14. I don’t see him as a starting guard on a good NBA team.”

The view here: He impressed the Heat in a workout last week and he’s now firmly in the mix at 14, even though there would be position overlap with Tyler Johnson. Some analysts expect he will be gone before Miami picks.

• North Carolina 6-8 small forward Justin Jackson: First scout: “Really only shot it well one year, which was last year. Shooting is still questionable. He’s going to be a good player but I don’t think there’s huge upside there because he’s not a great athlete. But his defense is underrated. He’s got a pro game. He’s smart. And he’s a better offensive player than Justise Winslow. He will be a better shooter than Winslow.”

Second scout: “Might be a stretch at 14. Does he have the body or athleticism for a three-man? No. Is he a good enough ball handler to play the two? Is he going to be a consistent enough shooter? Not sure about either.”

The view here: Heat has shown some interest but my sense is he’s a secondary option if players ranked higher aren’t available. There are concerns about his quickness and ability to create his own offense.

• Indiana 6-8 forward OG Anunoby: Second scout: “I don’t know what people like about him. I watched a ton of film. He defends but I don’t know what else he does.”

The view here: An option if preferred players are gone, but I would be at least somewhat surprised if he’s the pick. Not a good enough shooter (31.1 percent on threes, 56.6 percent from the free throw line) to be a small forward ready to contribute immediately and perhaps not a good enough rebounder (5.4 per game) to be a power forward. And his ACL injury last season gives pause for thought.

• Shooting guard Terrance Ferguson, the 6-7 wing who played a season in Australia. Scout two: “Very athletic, very quick. Very impressive on film. Can get his shot off, but shot a low percentage. So is that who is he or is that because he’s a young kid playing in a pro league in a foreign country? Unclear. Don’t think he’s as high as 14.”

The view here: There should be better options at No. 14. Averaged 4.6 points in Australia and still very raw.

• French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who most expect will be gone by 14:

Second scout: “A solid player. I don’t know that he’s a great player. It’s so hard to evaluate those guys on film if they’re playing limited minutes against men. Let’s say he’s a freshman at Kentucky. He would probably be a lottery pick. He’s a combo. Can be a good player at either position. But people look at him more as a point.”

The view here: The Heat doesn’t need a point guard and he didn’t come in for a workout. Will be an interesting discussion in the unlikely event he falls.

We’ll have the two scouts’ views on power rotation players on the Heat’s radar, and who they would select if they were Miami, in a column later this week.

In the meantime, I asked them among the players considered consensus top-12 talents, who could fall?

One scout said Kentucky guard Malik Monk, though it’s very doubtful he gets to 14. “Doesn’t defend,” the scout said. “Has a bad body. One dimensional. A small two-guard. Don’t know that he’s a starter on a good NBA team. I also could see [North Carolina State point guard] Dennis Smith falling.”

The Heat has studied Smith closely, sending director of college and professional scouting Keith Askins to a workout attended by six teams last week. Again, Miami doesn’t need a point guard, but like with Ntilikina, there would need to be discussion if he falls to 14.

Here’s my post with Heat notes from earlier, including Jay Bilas’ pick for Miami, an inside look into Heat workouts from a player, Paul George chatter and more.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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