Barry Jackson

Here are players expected to be in mix for Miami Heat’s first-round draft choice

mnavarro@MiamiHerald.com

This year’s NBA Draft will be unlike any other in this sense: Not only will the date potentially need to be moved from June 25, but teams won’t be able to evaluate these players in postseason tournaments.

But here’s what is known: If the NBA cancels the remainder of the regular season, Miami would select 23rd in the first round, a spot that during the past 10 years has yielded Nikola Mirotic, John Jenkins, Solomon Hill, Rodney Hood, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Ante Zizic, Trevor Booker, OG Anunoby, Aaron Holiday and Darius Bazley.

The Heat plans to evaluate prospects with the information it has gathered from four months of scouting (before the college season ended due to coronavirus) plus videotape work among the team’s scouts, Pat Riley, executives Adam Simon and Chet Kammerer and in some cases, Heat coaches.

There’s also at least some idea of what players could end up going in that range. For perspective on what could be available to the Heat, here’s a look at players projected by ESPN, Sports Illustrated or other credible draft sites to be selected in the second half of the first round or early in the second round, offered in no particular order and keeping in mind that all the underclassmen (unless noted otherwise) haven’t yet declared for the draft:

Duke freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. (17.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks): Though ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz rates him only 28th among draft prospects, some expect him to rise above the Heat’s likely range, with SI.com projecting him to go 17th. That assumes he turns pro, which is hardly definite.

If he’s available at 23, the son of the former UM and Dolphins offensive lineman would be a popular pick with big upside. At 6-10 and 270 pounds, Carey has a developed hook shot and gets to the line a lot —218 free-throw attempts in 31 games (he shot 57 percent on those free throws).

Schmitz, via ESPN.com, says he’s a “physically imposing paint presence who has done a great job of improving his body and conditioning. At his best in the post. Shows potential as a perimeter shooter, though inconsistent at this point. Should eventually make NBA threes with his feet set.”

But, on the flip side, Schmitz says he has “dealt with nagging injuries in high school and conditioning fluctuated. Good-not-great length and reach for a center…. Struggles to defend in space. Effort level comes and goes on that end. Doesn’t see the floor as a passer. Ball rarely comes back out after it’s entered to him.”

The three-point game is a work in progress; he was 8 for 21 this season.

Duke sophomore point guard Tre Jones (16.2 points, 6.4 assists): A viable option at 23 for a team whose only pure, traditional point guard (Goran Dragic) will be entering free agency.

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The positives: He’s a very good defender, having been named both the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defender of the Year. He sees the floor well and had a good assist-to-turnover ratio for a college player (6.4 to 2.7).

Though he has decent size at 6-3, he must become a more polished shooter; he shot 42.3 percent this season and 36.1 on threes.

Memphis 6-9 freshman power forward Precious Achiuwa (15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks):

“At his best attacking the rim in space as a mismatch 4 [power forward],” Schmitz said. “Has upside as a shooter, sometimes even knocking down shots off the dribble. Midrange shot-making gives him hope from beyond the arc.”

But “feel for the game is a major work in progress. Settles for contested midrange jumpers. More turnovers than assists. Needs to become a more consistent 3-point shooter [13 for 40 this season]. Defensive fundamentals and discipline can improve.”

SI.com’s Jeremy Woo has him falling to 27th; others have him higher.

▪ Arizona 6-11 freshman power forward/center Zeke Nnaji (16.3 points, 8.6 rebounds ). This is Woo’s pick for Miami.

“Although Nnaji is certainly raw skill-wise and has to get stronger, he’s consistently put up numbers and played notably hard for Arizona, and has won people over in the process,” Woo said.

“He’s a live body and capable rebounder, has jump shooting potential and is relatively low-maintenance, although his defensive acumen leaves something to be desired at the moment. There’s probably some risk associated with taking him too early, but the 20s, he becomes a pretty intriguing option as a potential long-term energy guy. He’d give Miami another interior piece to develop moving forward, and offers some untapped offensive upside as well.”

▪ Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith: The highly-skilled 6-10 forward averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks while displaying a three-point game (36.8 percent, 32 for 87). Though some project him for the late 20s, his combination of size, rebounding, shot-blocking and three-point range could help him rise up draft boards if he turns pro.

He would be an appealing option at 23 because of the diverse skill set. One negative: The Heat values passing skills in bigs, and Smith needs work in that regard (25 assists, 53 turnovers last season).

Mississippi State sophomore power forward Reggie Perry (17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks): He’s NBAdraft.net’s pick for Miami at 23, though ESPN has him as a second-rounder. An intriguing 6-11 talent who shot 50 percent overall and 32.4 on threes (23 for 71). Played two years for the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State sophomore swingman Robert Woodard II (11.9 points, 6.5 rebounds): The 6-7 guard/forward shot 49.5 percent overall and 42.9 on threes (30 for 70). Also averaged 1.0 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. Could go late first round or in the second round. Perry is the more highly regarded Bulldogs prospect.

FSU sophomore shooting guard Devin Vassell (12.7 points, 5.1 assists). The 6-6 guard, who announced this week that he’s turning pro, shot 41.5 percent on threes (44 for 106) and 49 percent overall. But he might not make it out of the teens; SI.com has him going 13th.

“His offensive outbursts against some of the lesser ACC teams have helped established him as a legitimate first-round prospect,” ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony said. “His shot-making has been impressive -- not just from deep, but also with pull-ups in the midrange. His aggressiveness does get the better of him on occasion, though, as he’s an average athlete who struggles to create his own offense at times.”

FSU freshman forward Patrick Williams (9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds). Numbers are modest for the freshman, who shot just 32 percent on threes, but SI.com’s Woo has him going 22nd and said: “He’s an extremely appealing project if he comes out, offering some legit versatility on both sides of the floor as a player who can blend lineups, and who offers untapped upside. He won’t be ready to contribute in the NBA next year.”

Kentucky freshman shooting guard Tyrese Maxey (14 points, 4.3 rebounds): Could Miami use a draft pick on a third Wildcats player in the past four years?

The first two — Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro — were excellent choices. Maxey isn’t the shooter Herro is, finishing the regular season, his only at Kentucky so far, at 42.7 percent from the field and 29.2 on threes (33 for 113). But SI.com has him going 11th, well before Miami picks.

Kentucky sophomore point guard Ashton Hagens (11.5 points, 6.4 assists): A defensively skilled point guard who averaged 1.9 steals per game. But his shooting needs work; he shot 40.4 percent from the field and 25.8 on threes (16 for 62). Considered a late first-rounder or second-rounder, so 23 could be a reach.

FYI: A third Kentucky player — 6-3 sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley — will be discussed, but some evaluators have him going significantly lower. ESPN has him going 60th. The SEC Player of the Year, Quickley averaged 16.1 points per game and is a decent defender.

Washington freshman power forward/center Isaiah Stewart (16.6 points, 8.7 rebounds): “Already has the body to battle with NBA bigs,” Schmitz said. “Relentless pursuing offensive rebounds. Sets hard screens. But lacks elite height at 6-foot-9 and doesn’t make up for it with great leaping ability. Struggles to defend on the perimeter.”

And he shot just 4 for 19 on threes. SI.com has him going 16th. Would be a potential consideration if available at 23.

Washington freshman power forward Jaden McDaniels (13.1 points, 5.8 rebounds): Not the rebounder that his teammate Stewart is, but a more developed perimeter game, though he shot just 34.1 percent on threes (42 for 123). Like his teammate Stewart, SI.com has him going before Miami picks (at 15).

Schmitz’s take: Interesting blend of size, reach and agility at 6-foot-10 with an 8-11 standing reach. Tends to fade in and out of games. Has his wow moments but there’s nothing he does consistently well from a skill perspective.”

Vanderbilt sophomore swingman Aaron Nesmith (23.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals). The 6-6 sophomore blossomed in 14 games with the Commodores this season, shooting 52.2 percent on threes (60 for 115). But he sustained a season-ending foot injury in January. SI.com has him going 19th.

“Nesmith has gotten more buzz from scouts with teams going back to study his film and seeing a clear role for him in the NBA, ESPN’s Givony said. “Players with his physical tools who can shoot on the move are valuable.”

Villanova sophomore small forward Saddiq Bey (16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds): A 6-8 player who nearly attended UM - before the bogus FBI investigation — and shot 45.1 percent on threes this past season (79 for 175).

“Bey has taken a major leap forward this season, and while his style of play is unspectacular, he’s been shooting the ball extremely well from distance and has the right body type and physical tools to be a longtime NBA role player,” SI’s Woo said, mocking him 21st.

Texas Tech freshman point guard Jahmi’us Ramsey: The 6-4 guard averaged 15 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent and 42.6 percent on threes (60-141).

Woo slots him 26th: “He’s got a great frame and has shot the ball far better than expected from outside on whole [despite an iffy free-throw percentage], but also leaves something to be desired as a playmaker.”

Louisville junior small forward Jordan Nwora: A 6-7 college player who is very productive on one of the nation’s better teams: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds while shooting 40.2 percent on threes (76 for 189). But 23 might be too high.

Woo has him 28th, adding: “As far as catch-and-shoot threats go in this draft class, Nwora remains one of the better ones, and while he’s had a handful of dud games this season, he skill set should be better optimized as a complementary piece than as the focal point of an offense.”

Alabama sophomore point guard Kira Lewis (18.5 points, 5.2 assists): He shot 36.6 percent on threes, but “he’s still figuring out how to consistently run a team and lead an offense in the halfcourt, but he’s going to be able to put pressure on defenses in the open court,” said Woo, who slots him 25th.

Michigan State senior point guard Cassius Winston: The Michigan State senior is only 6-1 but has had a terrific career. His averages this season: 18.6 points, 5.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 43.2 percent shooting on threes (73 for 169). But his size makes him less likely to go before the late 20s.

Woo has him 29th: “He has the toughness and chops to succeed as a long-term backup guard in spite of his below-average physical tools.”

Arizona freshman shooting guard Josh Green: The 6-2 guard averaged 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in one year at Arizona, shooting 27 for 79 from the field (34.2 percent).

SI.com has him 20th. “His athletic, swiss-army knife upside is still appealing, but he has a ways to go,” Wu said.

The Heat does not own a second-round pick in the 2020 draft.

Please check back Wednesday for part 2 of this series, on the Marlins’ options with the third pick in June’s amateur draft.

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