It’s July, and in the NBA, that means the Summer League is well under way.
The Miami Heat lost their first game to the Boston Celtics, 85-77. Shabazz Napier, the Heat’s recent draftee, struggled for most of the game, shooting 3-15 from the field and only scoring 12 points. James Ennis, the lengthy forward the Heat stashed away overseas, showed promise, shooting 5-11 from the field and scoring 18 points.
All rookies have their first game “jitters”, so it wasn’t a surprise that Napier shot horrendously from the field.Much like Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams from last year’s summer league, Napier learned from his mistakes and played a lot better.
In the Heat’s second game against the Brooklyn Nets, Napier scored 18 points on 6-12 shooting and was able to dish out seven assists. James Ennis scored 29 points and shot lights out, hitting seven threes (7-8) and shooting 10-12 from the field.
The Heat’s summer league roster is filled with overwhelming potential. Here are three players that have a legitimate shot at cracking the Heat’s 15-man roster.
James Ennis, SF, 6’7″ 209 lbs.
James Ennis, a versatile forward out of Long Beach State, was drafted by the Heat in the 2013 NBA draft. Ennis showed promise in the 2013 Summer League, averaging 14 points in four total games. Due to salary cap restrictions, the Heat were unable to sign Ennis to their D-League team, so Ennis opted to play overseas to support his family.
Playing for the Perth Wildcats in Australia, Ennis flourished in his first game scoring 25 points, the highest ever for a player on debut for the Wildcats. Ennis was named All-NBL first team, with averages of 21.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. To cap off a great year, Ennis lead the Wildcats to a victory in the championship.
Ennis reminds me a lot of Cleanthony Early, in that, they both are athletic wings who can shoot the three proficiently. In an offense which features (hopefully) LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Ennis would be a great catch and shoot type player. The Heat also like to take advantage of fast break opportunities, and with Ennis’s uber-athleticism, he would be a great addition to a roster who is in need of role players. So far, Ennis is averaging 23.5 points and four rebounds per game in two Summer League games.
Justin Hamilton, PF/C, 7’0″ 260 lbs.
Justin Hamilton was on the Heat roster for the latter half of the season and only appeared in seven games. However, the former LSU standout still has the potential to be a solid stretch-five in the NBA. Hamilton was drafted by the Heat in the 2012 NBA Draft, but failed to make the roster, thus prompting him to sign a deal to play for KK Cibona, a Croatian team. After a year of playing overseas, Hamilton was signed by the Heat in September of 2013, only to be cut from the team a month later. The Heat were able to sign Hamilton to their D-League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, where he never missed a beat.
Hamilton averaged 19.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for the Skyforce, receiving honors as NBA D-League First Team and NBA D-League All-Defensive First Team. Hamilton would bring energy and perimeter shooting off the Heat bench, playing a Chris Bosh type role (if he ever becomes a rotational player). He will be bit of a liability on defense going against NBA talent, but a seven footer who can shoot from three and rebound efficiently is something the Heat could use. In two Summer League games, Hamilton is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds per game. He has shown the ability to pass out of the post and shoot out of it consistently. Look for Hamilton to crack the Heat roster, but don’t expect him to play a lot.
Shabazz Napier, PG, 6’1″ 175 lbs.
Shabazz Napier is a born winner, winning two championships in a four year career at Connecticut. Napier won his first championship as a role player, who usually came off the bench if Kemba Walker needed a breather.However, this past year, Napier proved that he could win a championship as a starter and a team leader.
Napier will probably make the team no matter how he performs in the Summer League, but his development will be crucial due to the Heat not having a capable starter to play point guard. At UConn, Napier averaged 18 points, 4.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game in his senior season. Napier needs some polishing as far as his game goes, but there is no doubt that he is ready to take on the NBA.