With March Madness already halfway finished, we are beginning to see what NBA prospects are all about. Weaknesses and flaws are often seen among these prospects, usually taking a toll on their draft stock. Although it is unfair to shun a player after one nationally televised game, many GM’s of championship-caliber teams are ecstatic.
The NBA Draft isn’t that hard to understand. You see, the bad teams, usually, get the pick of the crop. Meanwhile, successful playoff teams like the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs are often drafting players from the bottom of their draft boards.
However, this doesn’t mean championship-caliber teams won’t find a player that can help their team in the short or long run of a season.
Marc Gasol, a one-time NBA All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year, was selected in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft. Heck, Manu Ginobili, a three-time NBA Champion and Sixth Man of the Year, almost went undrafted in the 1999 NBA Draft.
The Heat, as of recent, have been able to draft/trade for players in the latter half of the draft that have made an impact on their roster, like Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers. This is indeed evidence that there is a wide-range of potential in any NBA Draft.
5. Jordan Bachynski, Center, 7’2″ 250 lbs., Senior, Arizona St.
Bachynski is a player that really impressed me in the NCAA Tournament. Although his team lost on a buzzer-beater, that does not take away from how well he played. In an 87-85 loss to Texas, Bachynski controlled the low-post putting up 25 points on 8 of 14 shooting, while grabbing seven boards in an impressive outing.
Bachynski has a plethora of low-post moves to go along with his astonishing 7’4″ wingspan. The Heat are in need of viable center, and while Greg Oden is thought to be in the Heat’s future plans, you can’t go wrong with a healthy, youthful prospect in Bachynski.
- 2013-14 Averages: 11.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4 blocks per game
4. Nick Johnson, SG/PG, 6’3″ 200 lbs., Junior, Arizona
Nick Johnson, the nephew of former Celtics great Dennis Johnson, is an exceptional scorer and athlete. The 2014 Pac-12 Player of the Year is too undersized to play shooting guard, but his leaping ability certainly makes up for it.
Johnson could very well play point guard in the NBA, it is unlikely because he now has established tendencies to play and score off the ball.
At best, Johnson could be a formidable spark-off-the-bench type player. Miami is in desperate need of guard help, and Johnson could prove valuable coming off the bench when Dwyane Wade or Mario Chalmers are in need of a break.
Johnson is a project-prospect and he could find his way to a sixth-man role if put in the right system.
- 2013-14 Averages: 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game
3. PJ Hairston, SG/SF, 6’6″ 220 lbs., 21 years old, NBA D-League
A McDonalds All-American in 2011, Hairston had high expectations his freshman year at North Carolina. His freshman year, he really didn’t have an impact, only averaging five points per game. However, the next year would prove to be huge for Hairston.
Hairston received a bump in his minutes from 13 minutes to 23 minutes per game, as well as contributing 15 points and four rebounds per game.
Although showing tremendous progress and NBA potential, Hairston decided to return to North Carolina for his junior season. Hairston’s decision to stay would prove to be a huge mistake when he was kicked off the team. He filed paperwork to join the NBA Developmental League, where he is now thriving for the Texas Legends.
Hairston’s key strengths is his perimeter shooting and his playmaking on defense. If not for his off-court antics, Hairston would be a lottery pick, but his draft stock has dropped and the Heat could be in play for him. With Dwyane Wade’s ability to stay healthy up in the air, Hairston could step right in for Wade and provide some much needed depth at the guard position.
- 2013-14 Averages: 21 points, 3.2 rebounds per game
2. Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, 6’8″ 219 lbs., Senior, Wichita St.
Cleanthony Early would’ve likely been a first-round pick last year, but he decided to return to Wichita St. in hopes of winning an NCAA Title. However, the Kentucky Wildcats knocked off the Early and Co. in the third round of the NCAA Tournament this year, 78-76.
Although Early could not lead his team to victory, he really showed scouts what he’s about. Early scored 31 points on 12-17 shooting (4-6 from three point range), while grabbing seven boards. Early was matched up against two lengthy defenders in James Young (6’7″) and Aaron Harrison (6’6″), and still was able to score at ease.
Early is projected by DraftExpress as a late first round to early second round pick, which is in the range the Heat will be. As of yet, there has not been one player in the Heat rotation besides Ray Allen that has been able to produce off the bench.
He has all of the physical and mental attributes to produce at the next level, and could learn the ropes from one of the leagues best in James. If Miami can get its hands on Early, it could alleiviete some pressure off of LeBron.
- 2013-14 Averages: 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds per game
1. Kyle Anderson, SF/PG/SG/PF, 6’9″ 230 lbs., Sophomore, UCLA
Pinned with the nickname “Slow-mo” because of his slow, but effective play-making ability, Kyle Anderson has emerged as one of the NCAA’s most lethal triple-double threats.
Anderson stands at 6’9″ and is able to virtually play every position on the court besides the center position. He possesses both physical and mental qualities to be a “once-in-a-lifetime” player because of his versatility on the offensive and defensive end. With the addition of Anderson, the Heat could either appoint him as the starting point guard over Mario Chalmers, or they could have him be the leader of the second rotation.
With LeBron as the primary ball-handler on offense, I believe Anderson would be better suited in a back-up role coming off the bench. According to ESPN, Chad Ford lists Anderson as his 34th overall prospect in 2014. While Anderson is likely to stay for another year at UCLA, that doesn’t mean the Heat shouldn’t still look into such an intriguing prospect. Anderson has lots of upside and would be a perfect fit with such a diverse Miami Heat team.
- 2013-14 Averages: 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists per game