Barry Jackson

Why Thursday might be most significant day for Heat since season ended

Thursday will be perhaps the most significant of any day so far this offseason for the Heat, as team executives and coaches welcome to AmericanAirlines Arena two highly talented players with a more limited college body of work than most other players who are also in the mix for Miami’s 13th overall pick in the June 20 NBA Draft.

Besides bringing in Southern California guard Kevin Porter Jr. for a workout, the Heat also has scheduled North Carolina small forward Nassir Little for that same workout on Thursday, according to a league source.

Nobody questions the talent of Little, a ballyhooed five-star recruit who was the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, out of Orlando Christian Prep in 2018. Same with Porter, who has NBA size (6-6) and athleticism.

But there is a good measure of projection required with those players, because Little averaged only 18.2 minutes in his one season at North Carolina and Porter averaged 22.1 in his one season at USC.

By comparison, several of the other players also in the mix for the Heat’s selection at 13 — including Kentucky power forward PJ Washington and Gonzaga forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke — played multiple years in college. Kentucky swingman Keldon Johnson, another option at 13, averaged 30.7 minutes in his one year with the Wildcats.

But because of their talent and upside and minutes per game averages, determinations on Little and Porter cannot be made off their stats.

Though Little averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds at North Carolina and shot 26.9 percent on threes (14 for 52), he averaged more points per 40 minutes than Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard or Boston’s Jalen Brown did in their final seasons in college (as well as Duke’s Cam Reddish, projected by many to go ahead of Little in this draft).

ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said Little would be a “terrific gamble” at 13 if available, praising his intelligence, work ethic and ability to contribute at both ends.

ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givnoy projects Little to go 11th overall and assessed him this way: “Physical specimen at 6-6, 224 pounds with a 7-1 wingspan. Terrific athlete who is quick off his feet for rebounds and finishes. Has significant potential defensively with his length, strength, physicality and lateral agility, giving him multipositional potential on the interior and perimeter. Fits the mold of what many teams are looking for in the modern game….

“Didn’t convert 3-pointers at a high rate but has promising mechanics and touch. Made 77 percent of his free throw attempts in his lone year in college. Averaged 22 points per 40 minutes despite never truly finding his way offensively. Consensus top high school recruit who may have more potential than he was able to demonstrate at UNC. Consistently lauded for his strong intangibles off the court.

“Didn’t make the impact most expected as a freshman, playing only 18 MPG. Didn’t improve as much as scouts hoped throughout the year in terms of his skill-level and feel for the game.”

Porter averaged 9.5 points and shot 41.2 percent on threes, but his visit Thursday carries significant weight in two regards: Does he show the elite athleticism and consistent jump shot to make him appealing at No. 13? And in his visit with Pat Riley and Heat officials, will he display the type of maturity the Heat wants to see?

Porter, who was suspended briefly last season for a “personal conduct” issue, will have an opportunity to explain the adversity he has faced; his father, Kevin Porter Sr. was shot and killed when his son was 4 years old, and Porter Jr. now wears No. 4 to honor him.

Givony projects Porter to go 22nd but said: “Porter will start getting looks as high as the late lottery, but the question marks about his approach to the game appear to have taken a toll on his draft stock. At this stage of the draft, the rewards likely outweigh the risks, as Porter can become another creator on the perimeter who can shoulder some of the scoring load. Porter has the size and versatility to slot into a variety of lineup configurations.”

Clarke and Washington might be considered safer picks at 13 because of larger bodies of work in college; after all, scouts and executives have more game tape from which to form evaluations.

Little and Porter involve more projection, but the high ceiling makes them both very interesting options. That’s why Thursday carries significance for the Heat.

Though workouts shouldn’t be overstated, Bam Adebayo became even more attractive to the Heat two years ago after draining more than 60 of 100 three-point attempts in his pre-draft Heat workout.

NOTABLE

Trey Mourning, son of Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, worked out for Heat officials on Wednesday at AA Arena, according to a source. Mourning, a 6-9 forward, averaged 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 26 games for Georgetown last season (including 11 starts). He played entirely off the bench his first three seasons with the Hoyas.

Among under-the-radar prospects the Heat summoned to AA Arena for a workout this week is Division II Shaw (Raleigh, North Carolina) guard Amir Hinton, an explosive scorer who averaged 29.4 points last season and shot 48.8 percent from the field.

The Heat will hold a draft party at AA Arena on June 20, with the $1 admission cost benefiting the Heat charitable fund. Alonzo Mourning, Glen Rice and Heat announcers will be among those in attendance.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments