Miami Heat: 5 options for pick No. 14 in 2017 NBA Draft

Miami Heat-Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The past week has given the Miami Heat some answers related to their future. They will pick 14th in the 2017 NBA Draft, so we break down the best options.

The Miami Heat refused to tank after starting 11-30. In an ideal world, they would have been rewarded for their fight in the form of landing a top-three pick at the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery.

Unfortunately, as we all know, life is rarely fair. And thus, the dream of striking gold at the event dissipated quickly. The Heat will be picking 14th overall, the last selection among non-playoff teams.

Considering what a crapshoot a pick outside of the top 10 usually is, Pat Riley and Co. will need a bit of luck come draft night. Perhaps in the form of a player falling later than expected (like Justise Winslow did), or with their prime target still being on the board at No. 14.

Thankfully, the 2017 draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory. The Heat should be able to acquire an early contributor with their pick — someone who can help them qualify for postseason play for just the second time since LeBron James abandoned ship in 2014.

The NBA Draft Combine and lottery answered a few questions for us. Now, with just over a month remaining until the draft, we present the Heat’s five best options at No. 14.

After a rough draft lottery night, the fan base is in need of hope. And that’s what we’re here to provide.

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Honorable mentions

Before we transition to our five most ideal prospects, there are a few other guys who deserve mention.

For starters, we have Duke’s Harry Giles who, prior to injuries derailing his growth, was the top prospect in the 2016 high school class. It’s easy to see why.

Alas, two torn ACLs and multiple knee surgeries have severely stunted the positive trajectory he was on. If the Heat want to hit a home run on draft night and go for the highest boom-or-bust prospect, Giles would be it.

But I would be more confident in that possibility if the team didn’t just get through dealing with Chris Bosh‘s failing health. I doubt they’d want to get themselves into a similar situation so soon after.

There’s also T.J. Leaf out of UCLA. The skilled power forward was one of most disappointing young men at the combine. He measured in at barely 6-foot-10 with shoes on, and with an unimpressive 6-foot-11 wingspan.

Leaf’s measurables make it difficult to project him as anything but a porous defender at the professional level. And that’s unfortunate because his mix of skill and scoring ability would have helped the power-forward-needy Heat immensely.

Finally, we have Wake Forest’s John Collins. He had a monster sophomore season for the Demon Deacons, becoming the second player in ACC history (since 1992-93) to average at least 19.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting over 60 percent from the field. The other was Tim Duncan.

But even though he showed improved skill at the combine, the fact that he measured in with a sub-7-foot wingspan didn’t do much to answer questions about his poor defensive potential. Perhaps the Heat will be convinced otherwise after bringing him in for private workouts; for now, he falls out of our top five.

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5. Luke Kennard, PG/SG, Duke

One of our storylines to watch at last week’s combine regarded Luke Kennard’s athletic testing results. Sadly, we didn’t get any answers because he opted out of participating in that portion of the two-day event.

Still, Kennard is obviously one of Miami’s most-coveted prospects.

Why? Well, there are two answers to that.

For one, he’s a lefty. And over recent history, the Heat can’t seem to get enough of those on their roster. I’m almost sure Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic (all left-handers) even shared the floor together at one point. That’s literally a thing that may have happened!

What’s more, their other main prejudice when it comes to acquiring new players is whether or not said player attended Duke University. (That’s a bit easier to explain, though. Team owner Micky Arison’s son, and Heat CEO Nick Arison attended the North Carolina private institution. He likes his fellow Dukies.)

I think we can call it now: Kennard checks both of those vitally crucial boxes, so he’s clearly going to be the guy at No. 14.

Sarcasm aside, the Duke lefty was one of the most efficient scorers in college basketball last season. He’s deadly from three and possesses an innate ability to get buckets. He wouldn’t fill a need, but he’s talented enough to get a long look when Miami is on the clock.

If the Heat were to draft Kennard, he would be the third left-handed player from Duke on the roster. Sorry, I just find that freaking insane. Let’s make it happen.

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4. Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina

From a player out of one blue blood program to one from its arch-rival, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson places fourth on our hypothetical Heat draft board.

The 6-foot-8 small forward had a solid showing at the combine. He shot the ball well and represented himself wonderfully in interviews. I’m sort of assuming that last part, but considering how well he handled these questions from Draft Express, I’m sure he did similarly well when questioned by NBA teams.

Some fans are opposed to Jackson because he signifies the safe pick, a trigger term for those who follow the draft closely every year. Fans often prefer swinging for the fences instead of going for the more secure option. And that’s okay…in certain situations.

But Miami’s circumstances are different. Their best player (Dragic) is already 31. And as a team, they were pretty damn good this season once they got healthy. Maybe it’d be most prudent to add a sure thing like Jackson and see what you can do after bringing this core back for another go next year.

Moreover, the one thing the Heat lacked even at their peak was more size at the 3. Winslow will be back from injury this summer so that need will be alleviated just a bit. But if he were to go down again, who would take over for him? Rodney McGruder?

Miami needs a more viable option. And though Jackson’s upside isn’t as high as some of his counterparts, he can space the floor, distribute and capably defend bigger wings. He’d be the safe pick, sure, but we shouldn’t stigmatize that term so harshly.

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3. OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

On the other hand, for the Heat fans who would rather target players with lower floors but higher ceilings, OG Anunoby is probably your guy.

As a sophomore at Indiana, the freakish wing averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, while converting a ludicrous 70.1 percent of his two-point attempts.

He struggled to shoot the ball, but the fact that he is so effective around the basket helps his outlook on offense. (I’ve heard the Winslow comparison, but Miami’s small forward is terrible at finishing in the paint. Plus, he’s a much better passer than Anunoby. They’re different players.)

At the combine, he checked out at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2.25 wingspan. Furthermore, he weighed in at 232 pounds with just 6.8 percent body fat. For a guy who went down with a torn ACL in mid-January, it’s encouraging to see that he’s stayed in such fantastic shape.

Oh, right, had I not mentioned that? Anunoby did suffer a pretty devastating knee injury, which shortened his sophomore season at Indiana to just 16 games. He hasn’t been cleared for much on-court action as of yet, but at least he’s getting jump shots up already.

It’s very likely that if he hadn’t gone down with injury, he’d have been a top-10 pick; he’s the prototypical NBA small-ball power forward.

Anunoby has the frame to defend big men down low, the athleticism to switch onto guards in the pick-and-roll and the ability to guard an opposing team’s best player.

Adding him to a frontcourt lineup featuring Hassan Whiteside and Winslow may hurt Miami’s spacing, but it would be one of the most fearsome defensive units in the entire league. If Riley favors a best-player-available approach and Anunoby is still on the board, he’d be the pick.

Especially after saying things like this:

Provided the health of his knee checks out when Miami brings him in for interviews and medical tests, he’ll assimilate into the Heat’s culture beautifully if he is the selection at No. 14.

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 2. Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga

There are a multitude of reasons to like Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, but the biggest one (from a Heat perspective) is that he would fill Miami’s most impervious need at power forward. Although he played a lot of minutes at the 5 in college, his agility and quick feet translate to someone who could spend time at the other big man spot at the next level.

Other reasons to like him include the fact he measured in as a legit seven-footer at the combine, while possessing the early makings of a stretch-4.

During Collins’ lone year at Gonzaga, he attempted 21 threes and converted 10. And at a recent pre-draft workout, he looked extremely comfortable knocking down shots from beyond the arc.

It’s an exercise in tiny sample size theater, but the signs are there he’ll be able to space the floor as a power forward in the NBA.

The 19-year-old big also boasts a solid repertoire in the post. He has a killer right-handed hook shot and flashed a Kevin McHale-like up-and-under move various times throughout the season. (He does need to work on his strength so he doesn’t get pushed off of his spots at the next level.)

Additionally, even though his wingspan was verified at an okay-but-not-that-impressive 7-foot-1, Collins uses plus-instincts to protect the paint. His best defensive performance came in the Final Four against South Carolina’s athletic frontcourt, when he sent away six shots. Likewise, for his freshman season he averaged 4.1 blocks(!) per 40 minutes.

If you couldn’t tell, I absolutely love him as a prospect, especially for a team in need of another big like Miami. Collins could slot in as Willie Reed‘s replacement at backup center, or, if he’s further along than expected, at Luke Babbitt‘s spot in the starting rotation next to Whiteside.

The possibilities with this kid are endless. Now, the Heat just have to hope he’s still available at No. 14.

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1. Lauri Markkanen, PF/C, Arizona

It’s not particularly likely, but anything can happen on draft night. As such, the Heat’s most coveted prospect would probably be Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen.

The Finnish big man, despite his limited athleticism, length and defensive potential, would still be the easy choice at No. 14 for Miami.

Why?

Because he may be the best shooter in the draft. No, not just among power forwards; in the entire class. At least one of the experts over at Draft Express appears to believe so:

That’s not mere scuttlebutt, either. Markkanen has the numbers to back up the bold claim.

At Arizona, he shot 42.3 percent from three and 83.5 percent from the foul stripe. Not only that, but over his first 22 games as a college athlete (before he hit the freshman wall, which is absolutely a real thing), he was nailing an absurd 50.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Considering that the Heat found long-term success when spacing the floor around Dragic and Dion Waiters‘ drives, with Whiteside acting as a rim-running battering ram, Markkanen is the perfect player to keep the good times rolling. He’d be a massive upgrade over Babbitt (at least offensively) because he’s a crafty ball-handler who can score in more ways besides just shooting.

His long-term outlook will depend on whether he ever becomes a serviceable defender. Scouts consider him a bit soft, as his intensity level on the defensive end tends to wane. Those concerns are real enough that they could knock him out of the top 10 entirely.

In fact, The Ringer’s latest mock draft actually has him falling to 14th, all the way onto Miami’s lap. Wouldn’t that be something?

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