This summer will be one of the most transitory phases in recent years for the Miami Heat. With franchise legend Dwyane Wade retiring, the Heat will officially enter a new era in hoping to recapture some of the championship glory that they experienced during the age of the “Big Three.”
But Pat Riley and the rest of the front office are in for a serious challenge in these next few months. The Heat are in a tough position as a fringe playoff contender in the Eastern Conference: not quite good enough to make a deep playoff run, but not the tanking type to edge closer to the top five in any given NBA Draft Lottery.
To make matters worse, the Heat are severely handicapped from a financial standpoint. They already owe close to $130 million to 11 players on the roster, meaning they figure to be fairly inactive in free agency unless they can swing some deals or sign guys using the mid-level exception.
And while the Heat are in the lottery, their No. 13 selection is far less valuable in a draft that looks pretty top-heavy and could shake down in a number of different ways.
Of course, the Heat have three different players on expiring deals, but how much are Hassan Whiteside, Ryan Anderson and Goran Dragic really worth in the eyes of other executives around the league? The Heat could try to swap one of these contracts in an effort to move up, but it is likelier that they would look to deal at the trade deadline.
Miami may be in a precarious position, but there are still a number of players in this upcoming draft who could help their club.
With that being said, here are three players that the Heat should look to avoid in the 2019 NBA Draft.
3. Nassir Little, Forward, North Carolina
Little’s stat line in his freshman season at North Carolina is fairly deceiving. He only averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds, but put up those numbers in just over 18 minutes per game. His per-40 minute line of 21.5 points and 10.1 boards is far more enticing and a more accurate reflection of the kind of quality Little possesses.
Still, Little is not the player for Miami. At just 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he is pretty undersized at the four position, and the Heat already have Josh Richardson playing at the three, with Justise Winslow running a point forward.
Little would be more appealing if he could play from the perimeter, but he shot below 27 percent from deep, and his game is more predicated on athleticism and footwork in the paint. He is an incredibly explosive athlete and can bang down low, but the Heat need shot creators. They already have athletes like Bam Adebayo and James Johnson on the interior.
Even if Little were capable enough to be a bigger two guard (which is entirely possible), he still is not the kind of shooter that could slide into Miami’s rotation.
2. Kevin Porter Jr., Shooting Guard, USC
Porter Jr. going at No. 13 would seem to be a stretch, but he actually seems to fit the mold of what Miami would ideally need. Porter Jr. did not get to flaunt his full talent due to character questions and averaging just over 21 minutes per game, but he is an extremely capable shot creator off the dribble, and could be a knockdown shooter that would compliment the athletic wings in Miami.
But Porter Jr.’s resume mostly offers potential. Do the Heat want a guy who might be a building block down the road if given the benefit of more playing time, or would they prefer to select another proven wing scorer that could immediately improve their chances of making the playoffs?
The reason this question is essential stems from the Heat’s draft position and what players are likely to be available. For example, if they have the opportunity to select someone like Romeo Langford (slashing and physical two guard) or Rui Hachimura (proven face up scorer with offensive versatility), they would probably be better off taking one of them over Porter Jr.
Make no mistake, Porter Jr. has plenty of potential. He had been a consensus top-10 talent prior to his freshman season at USC. But given the questions about his makeup as well as the fact that the Heat need impact players immediately, he does not seem like the right selection.
1. Bruno Fernando, Center, Maryland
Fernando’s stock skyrocketed in the aftermath of the NCAA Tournament, where he proved to be an exceptional athlete that flew around the floor and seemed to be making plays everywhere.
That said, especially in a league that continues to trend out to the perimeter, do the Heat really want to select a player that is extremely similar to Adebayo?
Consider this: Fernando averaged 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in his sophomore campaign at Maryland. As a freshman at Kentucky, Adebayo averaged 13 points and eight boards. And while Bam has proven to be a very capable center at the next level, he is more of a rim protector that can catch lobs in pick-and-roll and occasionally knock down a midrange jumper.
Fernando projects to be a very similar player, given that nearly all of his field goals came at or around the rim. Why would the Heat select another version of Adebayo when they could select any number of the available wing players that this draft will have to offer?
Although he should certainly find success in the NBA due to his athleticism and defensive pedigree, Fernando is not a fit in Miami.