While the Miami Heat did not defy the odds during Tuesday evening’s NBA Draft Lottery, retaining the 14th pick in what some are calling the deepest draft in a decade is far from a consolation prize.
Miami will have approximately $38 million in salary cap space this summer, and it’s this kind of roster flexibility, coupled with the opportunity to add an impactful player, that will make next month’s draft proceedings that much more interesting.
With Pat Riley in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, it can be assumed that a polished, proven NBA skill set will trump potential upside. Here are six names to keep an eye on as June 22nd draws closer.
Note: NBA comparisons are somewhere between realistic and best-case scenario
Lauri Markkanen – Big, Arizona
Comp: Dirk Nowitzki
It would surprise me a bit if Markkanen were still around at 14, with some mocks projecting him as a Top 10 pick. The 7-foot Finlander shot over 42 percent from three on an Arizona team that probably should have made the Final Four.
While his defense is still a work in progress, he is probably the best stretch forward in the draft and would represent a tremendous positional upgrade over incumbent Luke Babbitt.
OG Anunoby – Wing, Indiana
Comp: Shane Battier
Anunoby may very well have been a Top 5 pick had he not injured his knee at the beginning of Big 10 play. He’s an elite multi-positional defender with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. That kind of versatility and upside will have Heat brass salivating.
His offensive game needs work and with Justise Winslow on the roster, would another defensive specialist make sense?
Donovan Mitchell – Wing, Louisville
Comp: Avery Bradley
Mitchell has seen his stock soar since Louisville began ACC play, and it’s easy to see why. He’s a supremely-athletic combo guard, has elite defensive potential and thrives in the pick-and-roll game. Don’t sleep on his 6-foot-10 wingspan either.
His shot can be a tad streaky (35% from three) but he represents an intriguing running mate for Goran Dragic should Dion Waiters bolt in free agency.
Justin Jackson – Wing/Big, UNC
Comp: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
At first glance, Jackson is your prototypical Riley player. He’s 22, won a National Title at UNC and was the ACC Player of the Year in 2017. He can play wing or big, and is an improving shooter.
Check out the strides he’s made as a spot-up shooter, via Draft Express:
The questions with Jackson surround his rail-thin frame and how effective he would be defensively at the next level. JJ is a safe and solid pick who should contribute as a rookie wherever he winds up.
Luke Kennard – Wing, Duke
Comp: Wesley Matthews
Kennard may be the best pure shooter in the draft and not many teams valued outside shooting this season as much as the Heat. Don’t discount the Duke connection either.
Kennard shot a dynamic 44 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore and has tremendous footwork, making him a pain to cover off the ball.
Defense is a bit of a concern with his short arms, as is his ability to create off the dribble given his marginal athleticism. At worst, he fills a Wayne Ellington-type role at a lower price point.
Other names to consider: TJ Leaf (UCLA), John Collins (Wake Forest), Ivan Rabb (California), and Terrence Ferguson (Australia)