Breaking down the Miami Heat’s NBA Draft choices
This is why Pat Riley is in charge.
So Miami Heat fans can have faith in the decisions he makes.
Tuesday afternoon, the Boston Globe hosted its third annual NBA beat writers mock draft with reporters from across the league given three minutes to make his or her pick for the team they regularly cover.
When it came time to make the decision at pick 14 for the Heat, I decided on Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard.
As you can see from my Twitter timeline, Heat fans loved the pick.
Before we get to the entire mock draft below, hear me out as to why I believe Kennard will be the pick (if he’s available).
First off, in today’s NBA, you can never have enough good shooters. The Heat’s Hassan Whiteside said that anyway earlier this month.
Kennard, who turns 21 on Saturday, is definitely one of those (and what NBA team doesn’t love to trade for a good shooter).
He’s considered the best three-point shooter in the draft. When he finished as the second-highest scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 19.5 points per game last season he was extremely efficient. He shot 53 percent from two-point range, 44 percent from three and 86 percent from the line. He also averaged 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
“He moves off the ball intelligently, constantly relocating based on where the ball is and how the defense is reacting, and only needs an instant to get his shot off thanks to his super quick release and excellent shot preparation,” NBA Draft Express scouts wrote of Kennard.
“Kennard really improved with his ability to initiate offense this season, partially out of necessity on a Duke team with no point guard on the roster. He was very functional operating out of the pick and roll, in no small part due to his shot-making prowess, but also because of his ability to find the open man. Kennard sees over the top of the defense at 6'6 and is a very willing facilitator who almost never turns the ball over. He makes quick reads and decisions within the flow of the offense, seeing things evolving on the court and adjusting on the fly with a very high basketball IQ. There are some NBA people that feel he has legit combo guard potential with his strong handle, impressive vision, and ability to make shots off the bounce.”
Although scouts say Kennard (6-5 1/2, 196 pounds) lacks athleticism and length (his wingspan is 6-5 1/4), what he lacks in measureables he makes up for in IQ and pure shooting ability. His teammates and foes in the ACC echo that.
“The guy can score at all levels, gets to the cup,” Wake Forest big man John Collins told Pistons reporters of Kennard two weeks ago. “Obviously he’s a helluva shooter, midrange game, has a little handle to him. But when he gets hot, he gets hot. The goal is to put pressure on him, make him take tough shots so he can’t get going, can’t get open and get into a rhythm.”
Said Duke teammate Harry Giles of Kennard: “For me, you watch the film you can see he did more than just be a spot up shooter. He can dribble. He shot off the dribble. He did a lot of things. His game will only expand the more experience he gets.”
The Heat obviously had a surplus of shooting guards last season. But things can change quickly in the NBA.
First off, in Miami’s case, there’s no guarantee Dion Waiters will resign with the team and it appears the Heat is going to make signing Jazz All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward the priority when free agency begins. If the Heat ends up using more than $30 million of its avaialable $38 million in cap space to sign Hayward, then down the line the team will also have to consider shedding some salary to fill other needs.
Immediately a player like Wayne Ellington, whom the Heat own a $6.3 million option for next season, becomes expendable – especially if a young shooter like Kennard is already waiting in the wings.
Another reason shooting guard could become a pressing need: Tyler Johnson’s contract shoots up from $5.88 million next season to $19.245 million in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Although he developed into one of the best scorers in the league coming off the bench, Riley could decide to free up additional cap space beyond this season by trading Johnson to a team looking for a 25-year-old combo guard with upside.
That could potentially lead to Miami having additional money to offer James Johnson a long term deal and pair him up with Hayward, Whiteside and Goran Dragic. If Hayward doesn’t sign with the Heat, Miami could still use Kennard to replace Ellington and his $6.3 million cap hold for next season and use the money elsewhere (possibly for Rudy Gay or to pay Johnson or Waiters more money).
As it stands, the players in the draft the Heat like the most appear to be Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell, UCLA’s TJ Leaf and Kennard.
In Tuesday’s mock draft, Collins and Mitchell were taken before the Heat could make its pick. Leaf went 23rd to the Toronto Raptors.
▪ Please don’t forget to vote on what you think the Heat should do with its pick in this year’s draft. I put up a poll on Twitter.
BOSTON GLOBE NBA BEAT WRITERS MOCK DRAFT
1. Philadelphia (Keith Pompey, Philadelphia Inquirer)
The pick: Markelle Fultz, G, Washington.
The reason: Fultz is the perfect fit for the Sixers. He is extremely versatile and can score and create opportunities for others. His first step is deceptive. He's shifty, changes direction with ease, and is an exceptional ball handler. Fultz also can pull up and shoot the 3-pointer. He made 41.3 percent of his shots from the college 3-point range. And he can slide off the ball and be a solid addition next to Ben Simmons.
2. LA Lakers (Mark Medina, L.A. Daily News)
The pick: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA.
The reason: Despite the issues raised surrounding his outspoken father and his conditioning in his first workout, Lonzo Ball fills so many of the Lakers’ dire needs. The Lakers have a definitive leader on a young team that previously lacked one. The Lakers have a point guard that will look first to help his teammates flourish instead of searching for his shot. And the Lakers have more flexibility with D’Angelo Russell, who can either become an off-ball guard or expendable in a trade.
3. Boston (Gary Washburn, The Boston Globe)
The pick: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke.
The reason: The kind of versatile swingman they need and someone who can develop into a star.
4. Phoenix (Doug Haller, The Arizona Republic)
The pick: Josh Jackson, F, Kansas.
The reason: The Suns last season were among the NBA's worst defensive teams. Jackson comes in and helps immediately.
5. Sacramento (Jason Jones, Sacramento Bee)
The pick: De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky.
The reason: The Kings finally find their point guard after years of mishaps at the position.
6. Orlando (Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily)
The pick: Dennis Smith, G, N.C. State
The reason: The Orlando Magic are seeking a player they can truly build an offense around after ranking 29th in the league in offensive rating last year. The team desperately needs just about everything. While the Magic found a bit of flair and style on the offensive end toward the end of last season after switching to a more open style, the team still needs a scoring threat at point guard and someone who can contribute fairly quickly. Orlando is not quite giving up on its playoff dreams quite yet. Dennis Smith fits that bill best. He was a prodigious and efficient scorer on a bad NC State team last year. Surround him with more shooters and other weapons and he should be able to navigate pick and rolls easier and get down hill to the basket where his athleticism can take over.
7. Minnesota (Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune)
The pick: Jonathan Isaac, F, FSU
The reason: Wolves need defense and shooting and a guy with maybe the draft's biggest upside gives them some of both.
8. New York (Steve Popper, The Record)
The pick: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
The reason: Phil Jackson seems determined to fit his triangle mold and the lanky French point guard fits more than the shooter they could also use here - Malik Monk.
9. Dallas (Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News)
The pick: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
The reason: Wow. Five point guards in the first seven picks. Mavericks need a point, but love shooters and will gladly scoop up Monk.
10. Sacramento (Jason Jones, Sacramento Bee)
The pick: Lauri Markannen, Arizona
The reason: The Kings have gone big the previous three years, but none can shoot the ball like Markannen and the Kings need more shooting.
11. Charlotte (Doug Branson, Locked on Hornets)
The pick: Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
The reason: Mitchell's length, strength and intensity will solve multiple issues the Hornets had last season. He will immediately provide help to a team that struggled to defend the perimeter and close out 4th quarter leads.
12. Detroit (Vincent Ellis, Detroit Free Press)
The pick: Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
The reason: Indications are the Pistons think the big man will be off the board. But under this scenario, he’s the pick over Kennard.
13. Denver (Nick Kosmider, Denver Post)
The pick: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
The reason: Yes, he is coming off a serious knee injury. But the Nuggets can afford to be a patient if it means selecting a player with the potential to eventually help fill some of the team's big holes on defense.
14. Miami (Manny Navarro, Miami Herald)
The pick: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
The reason: Two years ago Pat Riley was thrilled when Duke product Justise Winslow fell to him with the 10th pick. He'll be just as happy this time around to get another Dukie. There’s no guarantee Dion Waiters will be back in Miami and Tyler Johnson's contract jumps up to $19 million after the 2017-18 season. Kennard fills what will become a need.
15. Portland (Mike Richman, The Oregonian/OregonLive)
The pick: John Collins, F, Wake Forest
The reason: Collins would give the Trail Blazers size and scoring punch inside to upgrade their frontcourt rotation that struggled last season. If the three-point shooting touch he’s shown in predraft workouts carries over, Portland will end up with a useful stretch-4 and small-ball center.
16. Chicago (K.C. Johnson, The Chicago Tribune)
The pick: Bam Adebayo, PF/C, Kentucky
The reason: The Bulls need to infuse their roster with more athleticism. Adebayo provides that and a defensive presence that can protect the paint for years.
17. Milwaukee (Mitchell Maurer, Brew Hoop)
The pick: Harry Giles, PF/C, Duke
The reason: The Bucks have one of the more low-key crucial offseasons in recent memory. So why gamble on an injury risk like Giles? Well, the versatility he flashes on defense, the motor he exhibits on both ends, and his impressive length would be a great pairing with prospective center-of-the-future Thon Maker and future-everything Giannis Antetokounmpo. If Giles can play, that is.
18. Indiana (Nate Taylor, Indy Star)
The pick: Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina
The reason: The Pacers, in the aftermath of the news of Paul George’s intentions to not re-sign, will need an atheltic forward who can potentially contribute next season in what appears to be the franchise’s start of a rebuild.
19. Atlanta (Chris Vivlamore, AJC)
The pick: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
The reason: The Hawks may need to replace Paul Millsap. However, new GM Travis Schlenk likes length and athleticism. Allen is the best available.
20. Portland (Mike Richman, The Oregonian/OregonLive)
The pick: Justin Patton, C, Creighton
The reason: With Jusuf Nurkic entrenched as the starting center, the Trail Blazers can afford to take a patient approach to finding his backup. Patton might take a few years to develop but he has the size, athletic ability and natural passing instincts to become a force.
21. Oklahoma City (Erik Horne, The Oklahoman)
The pick: Terrance Ferguson, G, Adelaide 36ers
The reason: The Thunder (and the rest of the NBA) is thirsty for two-way wing talent. Ferguson, who just turned 19 in May, is athletic, can shoot the spot-up 3-pointer, and was one of the top players in his high school class before playing a season in Australia instead of D-I ball. Ferguson doesn’t fit precisely into the Russell Westbrook-prime timetable, but he fits the Thunder’s profile of athletic upside at a premium position, and could be a replacement for Andre Roberson on the wing. His family is also from Tulsa, OK.
22. Brooklyn (Brian Lewis, NY Post)
The pick: Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
The reason: The Nets are looking for 3-and-D guys, but most of all they’re looking for upside talent. That’s Anigbogu, whom they likely expected to be long gone in the Top 15. The 7-6 wingspan, the raw gifts at 18, the athleticism are too good to pass up. With a long rebuild ahead, and both of their first round picks near the bottom, it’s the smart move.
23. Toronto (Doug Smith, Toronto Star)
The pick: TJ Leaf, F, UCLA
The reason: This pick as draft-and-stash written all over it for the already-young Raptors but what fun is there in that. Front court shooting is a huge issue with the Toronto and why not get a guy who seems accomplished at it?
24. Utah (Tony Jones, Salt Lake Tribune)
The pick: DJ Wilson, F, Michigan
The reason: Utah’s search for a viable playmaking power forward continues. Wilson played well in his workout with the Jazz. He’s a good shooter and rebounder.
25. Orlando (Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily)
The pick: Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
The reason: The Orlando Magic desperately need to add talent to restock their bench after struggling through last season. Finding some athletic wings to fill the bench and cadd depth will help the team begin to inch forward. Semi Ojeleye is a super talented scoring wing with good length and athleticism to grow on the defensive end. He struggled in his first few years at Duke but grew tremendously as the AAC Player of the Year at SMU. Ojeleye is a strong scorer with a lot of rough edges. But at this pick, he should be able to come off the bench and provide some good minutes for a growing, young team.
26. Portland (Mike Richman, The Oregonian/OregonLive)
The pick: Jordan Bell, F, Oregon
The reason: It’s hard to imagine the Blazers using all three of their first round picks. But getting a defensive minded big man who doesn’t need the ball to be effective and is already a built-in fan favorite seems like a good fit this late in the first round.
27. Brooklyn (Brian Lewis, NY Post)
The pick: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
The reason: In most drafts, Evans (19.2 points, 6.4 assists) would be one of the top point guards. He may be overshadowed by Fultz and Ball, but he’s a great pick-and-roll player, a .407 career shooter from 3 and gives the Nets a capable backup to Jeremy Lin, who missed much of last season and can opt out after next season.
28. Lakers (Mark Medina, L.A. Daily News)
The pick: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
The reason: Lakers coach Luke Walton does not have the talent he once enjoyed when he took over as Golden State’s interim head coach. Though that gap still remains, Lydon’s arrival will help the Lakers showcase a skill the Warriors have perfected. With Lydon shooting 40 percent from three-point range in two seasons with the Orange, he will become a reliable spot-up shooter for the purple and gold.
29. San Antonio (Jabari Young, San Antonio Express-News)
The pick: Kyle Kuzma, F, Utah
The reason: It’s no secret the Spurs love shooters. In Kuzma, they get a shooter with size. Kuzma plays well without the ball, attacks the glass, and is solid in transition. He’s not the best defender, but he’ll quickly learn how important that aspect of his game needs to improve playing on Gregg Popovich’s team.
30. Utah (Tony Jones, Salt Lake Tribune)
The pick: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina
The reason: The Jazz could consider a draft-and-stash here, but Bradley wowed in his workout in Utah. Ultimately, his talent and upside is too much to pass on.