Barry Jackson

Here’s what evaluators say the Heat is getting in Stanford forward KZ Okpala

“We’re getting younger. Finally,” says Miami Heat president about team

Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks to the media after the NBA basketball team's draft party, early on June 21, 2019, in Miami.
Up Next
Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks to the media after the NBA basketball team's draft party, early on June 21, 2019, in Miami.

For the next two weeks, Stanford forward KZ Okpala will be the player the Heat cannot mention, because of NBA rules that prevent Miami from completing — or discussing — his draft-night acquisition until July 6.

But others have a lot to say about the 6-9 Stanford forward, the 32nd overall pick on Thursday who averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 rebounds last season while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 37.5 percent on three-pointers.

Some of the feedback:

▪ ESPN’s Jay Bilas: “He’s a long, thin wing that has a really good handle, and he can drive it. Really good footwork. Uses fakes really well. He’s got a good middle game... Improved his shot while he was at Stanford. I think he can be a good defender. Did have a negative assist-to-turnover ratio [99 assists, 140 turnovers in two years at Stanford].

 

“The thing I like about him is he shot 22 percent from three as a freshman, upped that to 37 percent as a sophomore. Got to the free-throw line 173 times [but shot only 67.1 percent from the line, making 116 of them]. That was fifth in the Pac-12 last year.”

 

▪ ESPN’s Jonathan Givony: “Impressive physical profile at 6-7 ¼ barefoot with a near 7-2 wingspan and 8-10 ½ standing reach. Terrific frame that will fill out nicely in time. Has significant upside to tap into both physically and skill-wise.

 

“Brings the size and length of a power forward, but was utilized as a big playmaker tasked with significant shot-creation responsibility at Stanford, operating out of isolation or pick-and-roll. Improved perimeter shooter. Has multipositional defensive versatility with his size, length and ability to cover ground fluidly at his size.”

On the flip side, Givony said Okpala is “still fairly raw in terms of his feel and overall polish. Doesn’t demonstrate the type of court vision or passing ability you hope to see from a modern wing player. Shot selection and decision-making leave something to be desired. Made just 67 percent of his free throws in college. Inconsistent mechanics with a slow, low release. Mostly a spot-up, catch-and-shoot player at this stage. Didn’t always have the defensive impact you might expect, particularly off the ball. Lacks a degree of physicality and toughness at times.”

▪ NBA TV’s Andy Katz: “He was projected to be maybe five spots above this. He’s a good find because he can get his own shot. Defensively with that reach, the way he reads the passing lanes, [is impressive].”

▪ NBA TV’s Steve Smith: “He has versatility. He’s long. He can handle the ball. He’s fantastic in the open court. Got to get a little stronger, got to get more physical. Good pick in the second round.”

▪ A Western Conference scout, by phone Friday: “Athletic, got to the basket a lot, can defend multiple positions. But his finishing was terrible. I’m not sold on his shooting. The lack of basketball awareness was the major inhibiting factor [in the scout’s evaluation of Okpala].”

Okpala was a four-star prospect coming out of an Anaheim high school, rated as Rivals.com’s 33rd-best player in the 2017 class. He was All Pac-12 last season, his second of two years at Stanford.

 

The Heat acquired Okpala — from Indiana through Phoenix — in exchange for three second-round draft picks, but it cannot be announced yet, because the Pacers acquired the pick as part of a deal for Phoenix forward TJ Warren and cannot absorb his contract into cap space until July 6. As a result, Okpala will miss the first four Heat summer league games.

 

▪ In addition to playing three games in the Sacramento Summer League July 1-3, the Heat will play at least six games in Las Vegas, the NBA announced Friday. The five set Heat games in Vegas: July 5 vs. Chinese National team at 5:30 p.m on ESPNU;, July 7 vs. Utah at 8 p.m. on NBA TV, July 9 vs. Orlando at 4 p.m. on ESPN2; and July 10 vs Minnesota at 7 p.m. on NBA TV.

 

WHITESIDE OPTS IN

As The Miami Herald reported Monday, Heat center Hassan Whiteside is opting into the final year of his contract for $27.1 million. He gave the Heat formal notification of that on Friday.

By opting in, Whiteside becomes trade eligible. While the Heat is very much open to trading him, he has not asked for a trade.

HEAT SIGNS UNDRAFTED PLAYERS

The Heat began filling out its summer league roster by adding multiple players after the draft.

Among the additions: Memphis 6-3 guard Jeremiah Martin, who averaged 19.7 points and 4.4 assists last season as a senior and South Carolina 6-9 forward Chris Silva, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds as a senior. Among others added: Iowa State guard Nick Weiler Babb (9.1 points per game) and Tennessee power forward Kyle Alexander (7.4 pgg).

Georgetown forward Trey Mourning, who averaged 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds last season, also is expected to participate in Miami’s summer league program; he’s the son of Heat executive and former All-Star Alonzo Mourning.

Here’s more on the Heat’s undrafted player additions.

Here’s my piece on why the Heat didn’t keep Bol Bol on draft night.





















Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments