Next month’s NBA draft has two point guards who were not only their conference’s player of the year but also their conference’s defensive player of the year.
The Heat, which picks 20th, already has interviewed one of those two players — San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn — and also has arranged an interview with the other, Duke’s Tre Jones, according to a source.
The 6-3 Jones averaged 16.2 points and 6.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.7 turnovers and shot 42.3 percent overall and 36.1 percent on three-point shots.
In a talent-filled conference, he was named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He joined Malcolm Brogdon (2016) as the only ACC players to win both awards in the same season.
SI.com’s Jeremy Woo said of Jones: “An unspectacular but solid floor leader, Jones has helped Duke stay solid this season amid heavy roster turnover and the absence of elite talent. That only goes so far, but the thought is that he’ll end up being a capable game manager as a backup guard in the NBA.
“Though his size limits him against bigger athletes, Jones works hard defensively and distributes the ball well, and he’s made some small strides as a jump shooter and at least marginally answered some of those questions. But he just isn’t that dangerous a threat to score in the halfcourt, and the upside here isn’t immense. That said, Jones could be drafted higher than this based off reputation.”
Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman does not have Jones in the first round of his mock draft.
Jones told USA Today’s Cody Taylor that he believes he will be a first-round pick.
“My agent wants me to interview with teams that he feels are really high on me right now,” Jones said.
“Obviously, it’s still early in the process and there is some time left before the draft so interviews can continue to happen. But as of right now he feels like some of these teams are really high on me and so those are the teams that he has me do interviews with.”
The Heat has added several players from Duke over the past decade, including Shane Battier via free agency and Justice Winslow in the draft.
Heat president Pat Riley has been non-committal about whether will retain the player selected with its 20th overall pick on Nov. 18.
In the meantime, here’s who several mock drafts have pegged for the Heat at No. 20:
▪ NBA Draft Room: North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony. “I would be surprised if he falls to 20,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “He can really score.” But efficiency is the question. He averaged 18.5 points but shot 38.0 percent and 34.8 percent on threes.
“He had a horrible year. Probably couldn’t have had a worse year, and he still put up 19 [points per game], 6 [rebounds] and 4 [assists],” his father Greg Anthony, the TNT analyst and former NBA guard, told the New York Daily News. “He didn’t shoot it well, but he didn’t have the opportunities he would’ve liked. He learned a lot, had a great experience there, and where he ends up — I know how he’s wired, he’s going to be a great player. So I’m not really concerned.”
▪ NBCSports.com: Stanford guard Tyrell Terry. “Not great size, but can really shoot and great range,” the scout said. “That would be the right range for him.”
The 6-1 guard averaged 14.6 points and shot 40.8 percent on threes in his one year at Stanford.
▪ Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman: San Diego State’s Flynn.
The 6-1 guard, who has interviewed with Miami, averaged 17.6 points and shot 37.3 percent on threes in one season for the Aztecs after two with Washington State.
He was named Mountain West Player of the Year and the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“His biggest appeal as a pro prospect revolves around his basketball IQ and advanced scoring instincts,” ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony said. “He has deep range on his jump shot, can create space inside the arc and can finish in a variety of ways.”
▪ CBS Sports: Duke’s Jones.
Synergy Sports calls him “a gifted defensive point guard who made considerable strides on the offensive end as the leader of a young Duke team in his sophomore season. A disruptive defender who will pick up the length of the court and find ways to be pesky on and off the ball.”
Some mock drafts have Miami picking Kentucky point guard Tyrese Maxey (any first-round Kentucky player would warrant Pat Riley’s consideration) or Alabama point guard Kira Lewis, and the Heat has interest in both players. But the scout said he expected both players would be off the board by 20.
Some evaluators have Maxey in the mid teens, but if he falls to 20, he would be a very, very strong consideration for Miami.
Others who could be in play at 20: Duke power forward/center Vernon Carey (“what is the value of a shot-blocking five in today’s game?” the scout wondered); Maryland center Jalen Smith (the scout says he’s nearly certain that the versatile, three-point shooting big will go higher than 20); Texas Tech shooting guard Jah’Mius Ramsey (“like him; can really shoot it and play both guard spots,” the scout told me); Arizona power forward Zeke Nnaji and point guard Nico Mannion (Miami worked out Nnaji and has reached out on Mannion); Vanderbilt swingman Aaron Nesmith (a highly-skilled shooter who many expect will go higher than 20); FSU small forward Patrick Williams (ESPN’s Givony sees the raw but athletic wing rising into the top 10); Villanova small forward Saddiq Bey (“20 wouldn’t be a stretch,” the scout said); Washington forward Jaden McDaniels (a 6-10 wing who can shoot with range) and Arizona guard Josh Green.
“I’ve already gotten lists,” Riley said of draft options. “I’m beginning to dive into the draft and look at players.”
THIS AND THAT
Former Heat star Chris Bosh said he could envision Giannis Antetokounmpo joining the Heat as a free agent next offseason.
“Yeah, that’d be pretty good,” Bosh told Complex Sports. “[The Bucks] had a crack at it. They were right there. They’ll have another opportunity next year. But that would be devastating and painful for him in the city, if they don’t even at least make it to the Finals. Being in that position, what do you do?
“Let’s be frank. I don’t really see a big time free agent, saying, ‘I’m going to Milwaukee’. And that’s what makes it so tough sometimes. And they’ve done it the right way they’ve built around him. The allure of the game, it’s going be so many people coming after him. If you look at Miami, he fits in perfectly there.”
Here’s my in-depth look at all the significant potential Heat targets in the next year.