In an NBA season unlike any other, the Miami Heat exceeded all expectations and bulldozed through the Eastern Conference before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals.
The Heat were led by superstar Jimmy Butler, who balled out all playoffs and cemented himself as one of the best two-way players in the league. Butler was supported by third-year center Bam Adebayo. The Kentucky alum was an efficient force on offense and a menace on defense (just ask Jayson Tatum).
Butler and Adebayo were supported by the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs, Goran Dragic. Fellow teammate Tyler Herro dazzled in the Eastern Conference Finals and proved he is more than just a rookie. Other starters Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder shot the lights out from behind the arc, while the Heat received solid contributions off the bench from veterans Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynk. The South Beach group is well positioned to remain a premier title contender in the Eastern Conference.
However, a team can always improve. Erik Spoelstra’s squad has the 20th pick in Wednesday’s 2020 NBA Draft, and they have a bevy of options to explore in their position outside of the lottery.
The Heat have the luxury of drafting for need with depth questions at point guard and both forward positions. With the impending free agency of Goran Dragic and the lack of a reliable big man behind Adebayo, there are several different directions Pat Riley can choose to go with his 1st round pick. Below are five players that will potentially be available for the Heat and would be a smooth fit with the current team.
Target #1: Theo Maledon – guard, ASVEL/France
The Heat are renowned for its player development program, turning undrafted players like Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones Jr. and Robinson into excellent NBA players. Taking this into account, guard Theo Maledon is a player the Heat should keep an eye on. Maledon is just 18 years old and he possesses good physical attributes for a guard. He stands at 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. Maledon has a great feel for the game, as he is already a great decision maker and adept at running the pick and roll. The French guard also has a smooth stroke, shooting a high percentage from both the three point line and the free throw stripe. As he is still a teenager, it will surely take the European product time to develop and adjust to the NBA game. However, Maledon wouldn’t be rushed into playing time with Kendrick Nunn and likely Dragic in front of him on the depth chart.
Target #2: RJ Hampton – point guard, New Zealand Breakers/NBL
RJ Hampton was one of the top recruits coming out of high school but opted to spurn college basketball and take his talents to play in the NBL in Australia, the same league projected No. 1 pick Lamelo Ball played in. Hampton struggled in his one season abroad, averaging just 8.8 points while shooting 41 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc. Despite the shaky numbers, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about Hampton’s ability to contribute at the next level.
The 6-foot-5 guard is the fastest player in the draft and he is a blur in the open court. Hampton has the size and versatility to play both guard positions and the quickness and court-vision to create for others. His biggest weakness right now is his inefficient jumpshot, but if Hampton improves that area of his game he projects to play in the league for a long time. Hampton could provide guard depth his rookie year and should be able to find a consistent spot in the rotation when Dragic either retires or leaves the Heat in free agency.
Target #3: Jalen Smith – forward, Maryland
The Heat should also be looking for a big man in this year’s draft, and Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith fits perfectly in the mold of the modern big man. Smith, who spent two years at Maryland, is dynamic behind the arc for a near 7-footer, shooting 37 percent from deep in college while averaging a double-double with 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. Aside from being a dynamic shooter, Smith is capable of defending the rim and finishing on the offensive end at a high clip.
Questions remain about his quickness and ability to defend the pick-and-roll, along with his lack of strength. If Smith is able to improve his lateral quickness and maintain his smooth shooting stroke, he projects as an impact player on both ends. The former Terrapin is a player who has risen throughout the pre-draft process and the Heat should pounce if Smith is available at No. 20, or even considering trading up for the forward who could bring a spark off the bench and even start beside Adebayo.
Target #4: Jaden McDaniels – wing, Washington
Much like Hampton, McDaniels, a freshman, was a five-star recruit coming out of high school who underwhelmed at the next level, averaging just 13 points on 41 percent shooting at Washington. McDaniels struggled to score efficiently while displaying poor decision making and a lack of defensive intensity. Despite his struggles, there is reason to buy low in this year’s draft on the wing. McDaniels is a lengthy wing who can shoot the ball from all across the floor and also has a tight handle. His smooth mechanics project him as an impact offensive player. He has the ability to get to the rim on offense with his dribble and possess the athletic traits to become a plus defender if he adds strength and discipline. McDaniels must prioritize filling out his frame and becoming a student of the game, but the long-term upside is clearly apparent and worth a flier if the Heat’s other targets are off of the board. Much like Maledon, McDaniels would benefit from the Heat’s player development program.
Target #5: Josh Green – wing, Arizona
Another intriguing one-and-done freshman prospect the Heat should have their eyes on is 19 year old forward from Arizona, Josh Green. Green profiles as someone who can develop into an elite “3 and D” player. Green has drawn comparisons to Garry Harris and Crowder in the pre-draft process due to his defensive acumen and polished shooting stroke. Green profiles as one of the best overall defenders in the class, already elite on and off the ball with great versatility and length. With a 36 percent mark from behind the arc in college, he has proved he can shoot efficiently.
He does have room to grow in regards to finishing at the rim and creating his shot in the pick-and-roll. Green is an ideal fit for the modern NBA game, and would be seamlessly integrated into the Heat rotation at the wing forward position. He is perhaps the best fit for Miami in the 2020 draft.
Featured image via Miami Heat, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.