The NBA’s Summer League California Classic began Monday night in Sacramento with the Miami Heat squaring off against the Los Angeles Lakers. Led by the Heat’s first-round draft pick Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s 22 points, the Heat’s G League team smothered the Lakers in a 107-90 win.
Missed the game? Here’s three of the biggest takeaways from Miami’s big night.
One of the biggest talking points after tonight’s win, was just how incredible Jaquez was in his first real action with the Heat. He started off slow just hitting one of his first five shots, but eventually found some rhythm, finishing the game shooting 8 for 15 from the field.
Jaquez was doing whatever it took, whether it be flying around picking up rotations, making the right reads, or even becoming a human highlight reel in real time. It was reported around draft time that Jaquez had sneaky athleticism (max vertical leap of 39 inches) and Jaquez showed that off with impressive dunks.
Jaquez displayed some of the things he did at UCLA that made him a first-round pick. Early in the game he started off with a few isolation plays, trying to get to the spots where he felt most comfortable and playing his brand of bully ball.
One of the big questions going into the draft was about Jaquez’s outside shot, but in his Summer League debut he shot 3 for 7 from distance. Obviously it is just one game, but it’s important that he not only knock down open 3s, but also feel confident taking them. Playing next to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will generate open looks, and one way for the rookie to earn some minutes is by knocking those down.
While he didn’t record any steals or blocks, he played solid defense putting his body into players and playing straight-up defense and making the correct rotations. Stuff like that doesn’t shown up in the box score but it’s something the Heat’s coaching staff will notice.
Nikola Jovic’s Development
As for Miami’s returning faces, Jamaree Bouyea, Orlando Robinson and last year’s first-round pick Nikola Jovic: All three put on a show.
Starting off with Jovic, the first notable thing is how much he’s filled out. After reportedly adding 15 pounds since his draft selection, he appears to be much stronger physically and competed viciously both in and outside the paint.
He also seemed to be much stronger mentally. He appears to have a better feel for the game, which is impressive due to the lack of playing time he received last year. At some points he looked like Giannis, no exaggeration, as he went coast-to-coast, drawing contact and finishing strong. There were moments where he showed shades of Nikola Jokic, throwing beautiful passes out of double teams and finding the right player. There were shades of Karl-Anthony Towns as he was shooting the ball with touch.
Jovic finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He was truly the driving force, and it felt as if every offensive action for Miami went through him.
There are some notes for some of the other familiar faces. Orlando Robinson made his presence felt on both ends with 13 points and eight rebounds. He was everywhere today as he blocked a shot, hit some 3s and even showed a little post work. Good stuff all around from Orlando who is looking to earn a permanent spot with the Heat.
Jamaree Bouyea was a pest as usual, finishing with six points, nine assists and two steals and one nasty throw down. He’s currently on a two-way deal, but could find himself on the standard roster if he keeps this up.
Two more players that stood out were Chase Audige and Taylor Funk.
Starting with Chase Audige… Wow, did he make a name for himself tonight. 18 points, 4 of 7 from 3 and a block from the former Northwestern guard. Audige is known for his defense (he is the 2022-23 Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year winner) but showcased his skillset on the offensive end, making open and contested shots. By the end of the night, he had fans googling his name.
Next was Taylor Funk. He didn’t have a standout game, but watching him play has piqued my interest. With the Heat losing Max Strus in free agency and, potentially, Duncan Robinson in a trade, the Heat could be on the lookout for their next undrafted shooter. Funk profiles as someone who can be one. Something to watch for during Miami’s Summer-League slate.
Speaking of which, the Heat’s next Summer League is Wednesday, 10 ET against the Kings.