Barry Jackson

Here are the power rotation players Heat fans should be watching in college tournaments

Virginia Cavaliers forward De’Andre Hunter (12), seen here defending former UM guard Ja’Quan Newton in a game last season, is among a bunch of forwards who could be options for the Heat in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Virginia Cavaliers forward De’Andre Hunter (12), seen here defending former UM guard Ja’Quan Newton in a game last season, is among a bunch of forwards who could be options for the Heat in the first round of the NBA Draft. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Who should Heat fans be watching closely during college basketball tournaments in the next month?

Earlier this week, we examined guards and natural small forwards who could be NBA Draft options for Miami.

Recently we explored Miami’s lottery odds and the players at the top of the draft: Duke stars Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish and Murray State point guard Ja Morant.

Here’s a look at swing forwards and centers projected from the mid-lottery through the teens — players that Heat fans should be eying closely in NCAA postseason:

Virginia 6-8 power forward De’Andre Hunter (15.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 54.7 percent shooting overall and 46 percent on three pointers):

NBAdraftroom.com compares him to the Nets’ Rondae Hollis Jefferson but with a better outside shot.

ESPN’s Jay Bilas told The Richmond Times Dispatch: “Athletically, he matches up with anybody. He’s an NBA first-round draft pick. He’s legit. That dude can play.” He can play shooting guard, small forward and power forward, can defend and has three-point range (29 for 63 on threes this season).

ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givnoy had him eighth in his initial mock draft last month. So he might not be available to Miami in the early to mid-teens.

Texas 6-11 power forward/center Jaxson Hayes (10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 72.8 percent shooting):

Givnoy, who ranked him 11th in his mock draft, said he has “excellent physical profile with a 7-3 wingspan and a big standing reach. Big hands. Terrific frame. Fluid athlete who is highly coordinated and quick off his feet finishing lobs or protecting the rim. Poor defensive rebounder. Generates very few assists. Struggles with foul trouble. Has huge upside, but not ready to play major NBA minutes in the short-term.”

He hasn’t attempted a three-point shot in his one season in college.

Oregon 7-2 center Bol Bol (21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and 13 for 25 on threes in nine games before season-ending knee injury):

SI.com’s Jeremy Woo, who ranks him 17th: “Bol’s season is over as he recovers from a foot injury that may stand as another red flag afflicting his résumé. While in terms of sheer talent he can justify a lottery selection, the implications of foot issues for guys his size coupled with long-term health concerns that stem from his body type are all pointing in the wrong direction. As such, it will be difficult for many teams to justify committing a high selection here when considering the risk.”

Givnoy had him 13th.

Gonzaga 6-8 swing forward Rui Hachimura (20.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 61.3 percent shooting overall and 46.7 percent on three-pointers):

Sports Illustrated’s Woo, who ranks him 11th: “Hachimura continues to intrigue teams with his NBA tools and efficient scoring, and the continued progress of his jump shot is a big key to projecting his value going forward. He’s shot it sparingly from outside, but if he can become a consistent three-point threat (which based on his rapid development in other areas and demonstrable shooting touch, seems possible), he should be able to maximize his skill set as a four-man.”

He has attempted only 70 college three-pointers in three seasons, making 29 (32.9 percent).

Givnoy rates him 14th.

Missouri 6-11 center Jontay Porter (9.8 points, 6.8 points, 1.7 blocks in 33 games freshman last season but is missing all of this season with a torn ACL and MCL sustained in an October scrimmage):

Givnoy has him 15th, but SI.com’s Woo has him just 24th, adding: “Although it’s going to be difficult for him to play his way upward in the draft, he has a terrific feel for the game and strong pass-dribble-shoot skill set for a big.”

Kentucky 6-8 swing forward PJ Washington (14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 52.4 percent shooting overall and 43.5 percent on three-pointers):

Givnoy ranks him 17th in his mock draft and said “Washington got a cold shoulder from the NBA after declaring for last year’s draft, considered a likely mid-to-late second-round pick despite a solid showing at the combine. Fast-forward a year and Washington is banging on the door of the lottery. He has shown significant improvement in every facet of the game.”

He has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and 43-inch vertical leap. The question is whether he’s a small forward or power forward; he’s 30 for 69 on three-pointers this season, a solid 43.5 percent.

Stanford 6-9 swing forward KZ Okpala (17.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 46.3 percent shooting overall and 38.3 percent on three-pointers):

SI.com’s Woo ranks him 15th, adding: “Okpala’s shooting and offensive feel bode well, and coupled with his length and ability to switch screens on the other end, there’s plenty of untapped upside here. After beginning the season as more of a curiosity, he’s widely viewed as a first-round caliber prospect, in hopes he develops into a versatile rotation piece.”

He’s 31 for 81 on threes this season. Givnoy rates him 18th.

Gonzaga 6-8 power forward Brandon Clarke (16.6 points,8.5 rebounds, 60.8 percent shooting overall and 30.8 percent on three-pointers):

The San Jose State transfer, in his first year at Gonzaga, is an excellent defender who’s averaging 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals. Givnoy has him 19th.

Limoges 6-9 power forward Skou Doumbouya. He’s the only international non college player in Givnoy’s top 20, slotted 10th.

“His tools, shooting potential, and long-term role fit as a skilled four-man are all still intriguing, and it’s key to remember that he will likely be the youngest player drafted,” said Woo, who ranks him 12th among all prospects.

BACK TO SIOUX FALLS

The Heat announced Friday that it returned undrafted rookie forward Duncan Robinson to its G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Robinson, who is on a two-way contract and is known for his three-point shooting, has appeared in nine games with the Heat this season. He’s averaged 2.6 points on 6-of-17 shooting from three-point range in the NBA.

Robinson, 24, has averaged 20.7 points on 51.6 percent shooting from the field and 48.4 percent shooting on threes with the Skyforce in 30 G League games.

Players signed to a two-way deal can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams during the season and the rest of the time must be spent with the NBA team’s developmental affiliate.

But after the G League regular season ends March 23, two-way contract players are allowed to spend the rest of the season on NBA rosters regardless of how many NBA days are remaining on their deals. These players are not eligible for the NBA playoffs, however, unless their contracts are converted to a standard NBA deal by the final day of the NBA regular season.

The organization’s other two-way contract player, Yante Maten, remains with the Heat.

Heat point guard Goran Dragic is available to play Friday against the Cavaliers after missing the previous three games with a strained left calf.

Miami Herald sports writer Anthony Chiang contributed to this report.

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Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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