Last week, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that the Miami Heat worked out a group of draft prospects which included former Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early.
Miami Heat have a workout today that includes Hairston, Cleanthony Early, DeAndre Daniels and Russ Smith.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 27, 2014
Early is a gifted athlete and an elite scorer who helped Wichita State to a Final Four and an undefeated regular season in his two seasons with the Shockers after transferring from junior college.
Name: Cleanthony Early
College: Wichita State
Projected Position: Small Forward – Power Forward
Height: 6’ 7.25” (in shoes)
Wingspan: 6’ 10.75”
Weight: 219 pounds
Athletic – Early is a very good athlete, and his body is NBA ready (219 pounds) to boot. He uses his vertical explosiveness to rebound above-average on both ends of the floor and score near the basket.
Versatile Forward – Early has the ability contribute on both ends of the court. His steal and block rates were both above-average for forwards while at Wichita State. While on the offensive end, he’s at his best in transition, filling lanes and using his athleticism to finish above the rim. Early can also be utilized as a serviceable spot up shooter.
Scorer – Last season Early was one of the most efficient scores in college basketball. His 64% True Shooting percentage ranks seventh among the top-100 prospects according to DraftExpress. He shot and incredible 58% from two last season, mostly because he hardly ever pulled up for jump shots, almost exclusively relying on his athleticism to score near the hoop. He’s also an improving three point shooter. Early went from 31.8% from three in his junior year, to shooting 37.5% from three last year. Although there are questions to whether or not Early can transition that to NBA range.
Good Ending – Early couldn’t have ended the season on a higher note. He played arguably the best game of his college career in Wichita State’s tournament loss to Kentucky, scoring 31 points on 12-17 shooting (4-6 from three) against projected lottery pick Julius Randle.
Age – The biggest concern surrounding Cleanthony Early is his age. After spending two years at junior college and another two at Wichita State, Early turned 23 in April. Compare that to an Aaron Gordon who isn’t going to turn 19 until September.
Predictable – Early is both a poor shooter off the dribble and a poor passer. If he puts the ball on the floor, he’s almost always going to the hoop. He’ll more or less put his head down, take a dribble or two, rise and try to finishing over everybody. Early struggles against length inside, and although he was a decent post player in college, he doesn’t have any complex post moves to build off of.
Tweener – Early has a prototypical small forward NBA body (6′ 7.25″ with a 6′ 10.75″ wingspan), but he almost exclusively played power forward in college. He’s not long enough nor has enough lower body strength to guard most NBA power forwards in the post. When guarding on the perimeter, Early isn’t as quick moving side-to-side as you’d hope he’d be considering his athleticism. He got beat off the dribble a lot.
Poor Ball Handler - Ball handling will be an immediate issue in the NBA for Early. He’s a really poor dribbler in general and almost never uses his weak hand. NBA defenders will sit on his right side and force him to drive left.
Fit with Heat
It really depends on where the Heat plan to use him. Most team will play Early at small forward. But if the Heat were to select him, I wouldn’t rule out Early seeing time at the power forward. Although taller, Shane Battier (6′ 9.5″ with a 6′ 10.5″ wingspan) has similar measurements to Early and the Heat have used Battier at the four throughout the season. Forward isn’t exactly the position of most need for Miami, but Early certainly fits with with how the Heat want to play in transition. However, he could prove to be a liability in the half court offense.