Barry Jackson

Here’s what the Heat learned in summer league, both good and bad

Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. tries to drive past Milwaukee Bucks center Thon Maker in a January game. Jones was very impressive in NBA summer league before sustaining an ankle injury.
Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. tries to drive past Milwaukee Bucks center Thon Maker in a January game. Jones was very impressive in NBA summer league before sustaining an ankle injury. AP

LAS VEGAS - For a team without a draft pick, the Heat made the most of two weeks of summer league participation, uncovering a skilled shooter in Duncan Robinson, watching Bam Adebayo develop his post game, admiring Derrick Jones Jr.’s enormous strides before an ankle injury and observing enough encouraging signs to offer contracts to undrafted rookies Daryl Macon and Yante Maten.

Macon, the former Arkansas point guard, and Maten, the ex-Georgia power forward, haven’t decided whether to accept offers from the Heat or other teams, according to their agents.

As Chet Kammerer, the Heat’s vice president of player personnel, looks back at Miami’s eight-game, two-city summer sojourn – which ended with Saturday’s 74-72 loss to Boston - this much is clear:

“The most encouraging development over the past two months has been the improved play of Derrick Jones,” Kammerer said. “That’s basically because, in my opinion, he has bought into the Heat culture, philosophy, work ethic, commitment, focus, all those things have blended. [Credit] our staff. They have done an outstanding job.

“That was borne out when he played in Sacramento and one quarter here [in Las Vegas before his ankle injury]. That’s without question the most encouraging development of the summer. Other than that, guys have had their moments over the course of the summer.”

As for Adebayo, he struggled with his shot, closing at 36.3 percent from the field (20 for 55) in five games, but made forceful moves in the post, drew fouls (30 for 39 from the free-throw line) and was solid as a rebounder and defender.

“You’ve seen the improvement that Bam has made in terms of his skill level and running an offense through him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Being a little bit more offensive minded.”

Here’s how some of the Heat’s other notable players fared:

Robinson: Came out of “nowhere,” as summer league coach Eric Glass said, to impress everyone and earn one of the Heat’s two two-way contracts.

“Duncan is a player that our coaches have totally embraced because of his ability with his size to be able to shoot the ball,” Kammerer said. “He has done a little bit more than we expected, frankly, in other facets of the game. That’s encouraging, too.”

But barring injuries, don’t expect Robinson to have a significant role on the Heat in his 45 permitted NBA days next season. The Heat’s rotation is already clogged.

Point guard Derrick Walton Jr. struggled with his shot for most of summer league but played better after Miami withdrew its qualifying offer to him on Wednesday, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Though a return to Miami hasn’t been completely ruled out, other teams have shown some interest and Walton figures to explore those opportunities.

“It’s really hard in this game especially when you’re a shooter, when your shots are not going, to find a way to impact the game,” Glass said. “He’s done that. He’s focused on giving to his teammates and competing on the defensive end of the floor and that’s all you can ask for.”

Macon, the 6-1 point guard, had some good moments, including an 11-assist game in Sacramento. On Sunday, he was trying to decide among four NBA offers (including one from the Heat) and opportunities overseas.

“He’s got a nice floor game,” Glass said. “Good on pick and rolls. Really competitive on defense.”

Maten, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year at Georgia last season, “has got a nice skill set, can pop out to three, hit the threes, can roll to the basket, solid defender,” Glass said. His agent, Austin Walton, said the 6-8 Maten is considering offers from 15 NBA teams, including Miami.

Landry Nnoku. Undrafted in 2016 and a preseason cut by the Pistons in 2016, Nnoku was named the G League Defensive Player of the Year last season at Grand Rapids. He played well for Miami this summer but remains property of the Pistons, Kammerer said.

Jarrod Jones’ 31-point, 8-rebound, 4-assist game Thursday was eye-opening for a player who seemingly had fallen off the NBA radar since going undrafted out of Ball State in 2012. But his age (28) in some ways works against him.

Rashad Vaughn. Though he flashed in spurts, Vaughn wasn’t consistent enough to suggest he’s ready to jump-start his career after playing for three teams – and averaging just 3.0 points - since being drafted 17th overall by Milwaukee in 2015. He shot 26 for 68 from the field in summer league (38.2 percent).

Other Heat summer leaguers, including Notre Dame point guard Matt Farrell (who shot 6 for 24 from the field in Las Vegas), seemingly didn’t do enough to warrant moving forward with Miami.

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