Barry Jackson

Heat’s “dilemma” at No. 14 and evaluators/analysts weigh in on pick

Heat draft chatter (and a UM/NBA Draft note):

• In a recent phone conversation, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla summed up the problem for Miami in this NBA draft:

“There’s a dilemma at 14. Once you get past 10 or 11, my sense is teams feel like there’s no certain thing.”

And therein lies the Heat quandary. For every Clyde Drexler, Dan Majerle, Peja Stojakovic and Tim Hardaway who are picked 14th, there are more than twice as many players selected at that slot who are busts (Alfrederick Hughes, Yinka Dare, Frederick Jones, William Avery, etc.) or players who have marginal NBA careers (Earl Clark, Al Thornton, Rashad McCants, Mateen Cleaves, Travis Mays, etc).

A few recent ones have at least been contributing NBA rotation players, such as Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris, but there hasn’t been a single All-Star selected 14th this century.

Miami is hoping that one of the potential top 12 players falls, with Gonzaga power forward/center Zach Collins and Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard among those of interest to the Heat.

But the likelihood, at 14, is you’re going to draft someone with flaws. There’s Heat appreciation for the skills of UCLA power forward T.J. Leaf, Wake Forest power forward John Collins and Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell.

But with evaluators leaguewide and draft analysts, there’s nitpicking with each of them - and virtually every other player outside of the top half of the lottery (though Zach Collins criticism has been limited.)

Take Leaf, for example. He’s very much in the mix at 14. He’s a terrific shooter.

But as Fraschilla told me, Leaf “is going to need time to develop before he’s a [major contributing] NBA player. His greatest value to a team who drafts him will be as a stretch four who runs the floor well. I don’t think he’s going to be scoring inside over length of NBA defenses. He shot very well in a small sample size. He will be a work in progress at both ends of the floor. He has to get strong and get better on the defensive end.”

And with Wake’s Collins, even though “you are getting one of best power forward offensive players in the draft – he has a good scoring touch to about 15 feet and good offensive instincts around the basket – the concern is lack of defensive acumen,” Fraschilla said. “He was in so much foul trouble. Would be a second unit four man [power forward]. He is not going to be a stretch four at the moment. It’s possible he could make NBA threes down the road.”

With Mitchell, Fraschilla said “he’s basically a small two-guard” at 6-3 and said he wouldn’t take him 14th.

• We asked three prominent college basketball analysts and two veteran NBA college scouts what the Heat should do at 14. Their feedback:

ESPN’s Dick Vitale: He said if Gonzaga’s 7-0 center/power forward Collins falls, he would grab him instantly.

“I would be shocked if he's there at 14,” Vitale said of Collins, who averaged 10.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 17.3 minutes per game while shooting 10 of 21 on threes in his one year at Gonzaga.

“Zach has such an upside. Would be a great catch for Miami if he slips to 14. If you talk about true potential, he has more potential than anyone.

“Great agility, mobility, great hands, can score, can step back and shoot the three. Just a good inside performer. I would be shocked if he doesn't go in the top 10. Doing the Final Four games for ESPN International, I was blown away with his footwork and unbelievable touch.”

If none of the perceived top 10 players fall, Vitale was asked who he would pick among others such as Leaf, Kennard, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Indiana’s O.G. Anunoby.

“I would go Jackson because of experience and winning mentality, and he’s the more finished [product] of those players,” Vitale said. “Defensively, he's long. Has mental maturity. He became more of a perimeter shooter. Has a good attitude. Won a championship. But a couple of those kids have a great future. Leaf is a baby. Anunoby coming off a knee injury, is very athletic but has to learn to be a better offensive player.”

(Quick aside for a good cause: Vitale’s annual event to raise money for children with cancer, and for cancer research, raised $3.15 million. To contribute, go to dickvitaleonline.com.)

• Two veteran scouts said they also would go with Zach Collins if he’s there at 14. Otherwise, one scout said: “I would go Kennard if he’s there – and he might not be – and then Leaf, then Jackson in that order. Justin Jackson I have doubts about because it was a one-year thing offensively.”

The other scout said if Zach Collins isn’t on the board for Miami, he would pick Leaf. “It’s hard to find size. Leaf can shoot and rebound and he can play with Hassan Whiteside. If he gets beat, Whiteside is there to clean it up.”

• ESPN’s Jay Bilas told me here what he would do (if you missed this post on Monday).

• Fraschilla likes Zach Collins, too, but if he and the other top prospects are gone, he would pick Kennard (if available) or Anunoby.

“If you are looking for the best offensive player, the one elite skill is Kennard’s outside shooting,” Fraschilla said. “If you are looking for the best defensive player, Anunoby will be an elite defender. To get someone with elite skill at 14 [would be ideal].

With Kennard, “He’s an average NBA defender and athlete but can really shoot the ball,” Fraschilla added. “He’s a good ball mover in a team’s offense. Knows how to make the right passes. His toughness will translate to the pros. He was an all state high school quarterback in Ohio. You are banking on can he stand outside the three point line in this space and pace game and knock down shots outside of penetration. Some think J.J. Redick is a fair comparison. I don’t think he’s quite at the level of J.J….

“With Anunoby, you get a combination of a guy who can become an elite NBA defender and potentially guard all five positions. He would be an emergency defender on an elite playmaker. His shooting and overall offensive game still need to catch up and he will be coming of an ACL. But he has the potential to be an outstanding NBA player.”

But as ESPN’s Chad Ford said, some teams aren’t even sure Anunoby will be able to play this season.

• Dwyane Wade is exercising his $23.8 million option with the Bulls, according to multiple reports in Chicago. But a Miami reunion this season wasn’t likely even if he opted out; there wasn’t much of a Heat appetite for a return this season, certainly not at the money he would have been seeking.

• Fraschilla, on UM’s Davon Reed: “Odds are he will have a nice career in Europe. He is a high character kid. Kind of a jack of all trades. He’s a classic D-league all-star. When he gets to 25 or 26, you could look up one day and see him scoring 18 points for the Trail Blazers. There are teams that like him as middle to late second rounder. The poster boy for Reed would be [Heat small forward] Rodney McGruder, who has that same kind of toughness.”

• Quick TV note: Rece Davis, Jalen Rose, Bilas and Michael Wilbon will be on ESPN’s main draft set on Thursday evening, with Fraschilla among several others contributing to coverage.

If you missed it, here’s my post with some contract news on Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry.

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