Barry Jackson

Veteran NBA scout assesses Heat’s young players

Miami Heat guard 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 guard 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

So what should we expect from the Heat’s young players and those competing for roster spots when training camp opens Tuesday?

A veteran scout with an opposing organization offered perspective after scouting these players this year and previously:

Derrick Jones Jr., who has a chance to earn meaningful playing time with Tuesday’s confirmation that Dion Waiters is likely to miss the start of the season: “He was the talk of Sacramento summer league. His shooting was better and it looked better. If he can make shots at a fairly reasonable rate to go with his athleticism, that’s a great combination. He was driving in both directions in summer league.

“He’s such a good athlete, but this summer he went beyond being just an athlete. He went from a guy who was a nice guy to develop, a two-way guy, to maybe he’s going to be in the rotation and actually play. I think what we saw is real. He can defend bigger guys. Body looked a little bit better too.”

Bam Adebayo: “They are trying to get him to be more offensively assertive and give him more opportunities to develop his offense [this summer]. He can handle the ball; he showed that. But I don’t think his decisions in summer league were great. He’s not getting those opportunities in the regular season.

“What he showed this summer is he can advance the ball off the defensive board and that’s an asset and he probably has a little more offense than people think and can drive in the half court. But his finishing skills are still questionable. The guy is not a scorer. Al Jefferson scored 45 in high school; that’s not who Adebayo is.

“His defense is fine. His rebounding was a question mark, but he rebounded OK last year. Hassan Whiteside is clearly the better player – the better defensive player, better rebounder, can score near the basket. He’s a step or two above Adebayo.

“On a mediocre and worse teams, Adebayo is a rotation player. If you’re the Warriors, he’s not a reliable rotation piece.”

Forward Duncan Robinson, who was signed to a two-way contract: “He’s a pure shooter. But is he more than Steve Novak? That’s not clear. Novak had a 10-year career based on one skill [three-point shooting]. If he can make shots at a high rate, he will last. He’s a spot up three-point shooter, end of story. It’s not clear he does much of anything else.

“Fair athlete at best. His goal should be to play regularly in the NBA. It’s 50/50 if he’s an NBA player who gets regular minutes. A two-way is a reasonable deal.”

Forward Yante Maten, who was signed to a two-way contract: “Undersized four [power forward]. He can score. Not a great athlete. His chances of an NBA career are less than Robinson’s. Not a pure shooter. He struck me more as a G-league guy or European guy.”

Adebayo and Jones will be on the team, and there’s a possibility that Robinson’s or Maten’s two-way deals can be switched to a standard contract if either is so good in preseason that the Heat is motivated to do so. Otherwise, the four below are competing for maybe one roster spot:

Guard Malik Newman, who was signed by the Lakers to a two-way contract in early July and then cut three weeks later: “A small two [shooting guard], but he has some upside. He can get his own shot. He can score. He doesn’t think like a point guard, but it wouldn’t hurt if he learns to be a point. Among [the Heat’s fringe roster players competing for possibly one roster spot], he has the most upside. Hugely recruited out of high school. Got on peoples’ radar with how he played late last season [for Kansas].”

Guard Briante Weber, who has played 45 NBA games, including one for Miami: “Can defend at a high level. Can penetrate and dish. But forever a limited, marginal NBA player. Not really a shooter.”

Forward Marcus Lee, who played well at Cal-Berkeley last season after three at Kentucky and played summer league for Cleveland: “Athletic, can block shots and run. Very, very poor man’s Clint Capela. Not much of a college player. Limited offensively. G-league guy.”

Forward Jarnell Stokes, who has appeared in 28 NBA games, including five for the Heat in 2015-16 and spent last year in China (where he averaged 25 points and 13.9 rebounds): “Great body. He improved his outside shooting a little bit but he’s not a three-point shooter. Obviously can rebound. If he can make shots, an outer rotation guy maybe. If he makes an 18-footer consistently, maybe you have something.”

Here’s my six-pack of Dolphins notes from Tuesday.

Here’s my six-pack of UM notes from Tuesday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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