The Miami Heat have selected Jaime Jaquez Jr., a nifty scorer and hard worker out of UCLA, with the No. 18 pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft. Here are some immediate observations about what the pick means for Miami going forward.
What can he do for the Heat?
The first thing that stands out about Jaquez is his hustle. He plays hard on both ends of the court, loves to jump passing lanes or grab defensive rebounds and sprint down the court in transition, which he often punctuated with dunks. But he’s not just a hustle player. Jaquez grew up in Southern California idolizing Kobe Bryant and you can see that influence in his footwork. He’s been compared to Bill Walton by draft experts. He’s got high feel for the game and basketball IQ, knows how to get to his spots in the paint and get buckets. Defensively, he’s very versatile. At 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he can guard several positions. He projects as a small forward on the Heat.
Can he play right away, or is this a development project?
Jaquez played four years at UCLA and enters the league at 22 years old is one of the older selections in the first round. He had a large body of college work for Miami to evaluate and they must have felt comfortable with him as an older rookie, meaning they likely think of him as someone who can contribute right away. He can help on the boards (8.2 rebounds last season) and can move the ball (2.4 assists) while defending bigger players. His 3-point shot needs work (32.8% for his college career) but analysts believe his shot is workable and will improve.
What does this mean for Miami’s impending free agents?
Jaquez doesn’t play the same position as Max Strus or Gabe Vincent so this selection doesn’t appear to impact Miami’s approach to its top free agents. But if the Heat were to lose a shooting guard in the offseason, Caleb Martin could always slide over and allow Jaquez to absorb the backup small forward minutes behind Jimmy Butler. But, no, the selection of Jaquez doesn’t directly impact the futures of Vincent and Strus.
Does this selection match with what Pat Riley said the Heat are looking for?
Riley made it clear that Miami is looking for “wing size and length” and versatile, ball-handling players. So, yes.