The Miami Heat made a $98 million investment last summer to make Hassan Whiteside the center of the future.
But that doesn’t mean Pat Riley is going to abandon looking for more help at the position – even if the role of big men in today’s NBA is becoming more and more devalued.
With backup center Willie Reid a potential financial casualty in free agency next month, the Heat could use the 14th pick in Thursday’s draft to snare another backup for Whiteside, whose contract runs through the 2019-20 season.
Two young, raw and potentially strong candidates who could fill the backup role are Texas freshman Jarrett Allen (6-10, 234) and Creighton redshirt freshman Justin Patton (6-11, 229). Both are projected in most mock drafts to go anywhere from as early as the 12th pick to somewhere in the early 20s.
Miami, which doesn’t have a second round pick, has also brought in other centers who could go later in the draft or go undrafted.
On Sunday, Allen and Patton participated in a private workout for the Heat, the third time the two have been at the same workout for NBA teams (Denver, Detroit were the others). Allen only interviewed.
“To stand out in the draft you have to differentiate yourself, so that’s what I try to do,” Allen told reporters in Detroit earlier this week after his workout for the Pistons. “Just show that I'm more athletic than all the other bigs in the draft class, guarding guards, blocking shots, doing all the intangibles.”
Considered an athletic freak with big hands, a 7-5 wingspan and 35 1/2 inch vertical, Allen averaged 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his only season with the Longhorns. Texas finished 11-22, but Allen came on strong late in the season, averaging 18 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in eight games in February.
A gold medal winner on USA Basketball’s Under-18 FIBA Americas team, scouts say Allen flashed outstanding potential as a rim protector and pick-and-roll finisher at Texas. But while he has outstanding tools, scouts also say Allen’s basketball IQ needs work and most expect it will take him a couple seasons of development and some good coaching before he reaches his potential in the NBA.
Some see Allen eventually developing into a Myles Turner-type talent. Turner also played at Texas.
Allen, who has been training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. since his season ended, said at the combine last month he’s not in a rush to become a superstar and wouldn’t mind learning behind a veteran like Whiteside.
“The feedback I’ve been getting from teams is that my first two years I have to be a defensive guy who brings energy because my offensive game isn’t going to be where it needs to be,” Allen, 19, said. “Playing defense – that’s the only way I’m going to get on the court.
“I think [the Heat] do a good job with big men. They have Whiteside. Being young and going there, I can learn a lot from him.”
While Allen was a can’t-miss McDonald’s High School All-American in Texas, Patton, 20, was a late bloomer who had just one scholarship offer coming out of high school in Nebraska.
After going through a major growth spurt in high school, Patton weighed just 204 pounds when he arrived at Creighton. He was redshirted his first year so he could put on weight and develop.
Patton averaged 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.2 assists and has a little bit more of a developed offensive game than Allen including a three-point shot.
“I’m not the strongest guy, but quickness and ability, that’s what I bring,” Patton said at the combine last month. “If teams are looking for a stretch five they’ve found the right person. My skills translate perfectly. I can put the ball on the floor. I can shoot the ball with range, from midrange. I’m a willing passer too, great passer. I have a high IQ. It all goes into having a stretch four, stretch five.”
Patton’s test scores at the combine, though, weren’t nearly as impressive as Allen’s. His wingspan is smaller (7-3) and so is his vertical leap (30 1/2). One of the other knocks on Patton is his maturity because he can be overly emotional at times on the court.
But he’s a good shooter for a big man (he shot 67.6 percent from the field on 281 shots) and that’s attractive for a near 7-footer who doesn’t play with his back to the basket.
“I shoot high-percentage shots,” Patton told reporters in Detroit this week. “If there’s a hand in front of you, it’s probably not a good shot. Or, if somebody blocks your shot, it’s probably not a good shot. I try to avoid those situations and take shots that are within the offense or within myself, and I usually make them.”
Height: 6-11 1/4
Height: 6-10 1/4
Wingspan: 7-5 1/4