Heat drafting of Kel'el Ware is a major upside play: Instant reaction, analysis, grade

2024 NBA Draft - Round One
2024 NBA Draft - Round One / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The Miami Heat selected Indiana center Kel’el Ware with the 15th pick in the first round of the NBA draft on Wednesday.

Ware could become a key factor in unlocking Bam Adebayo.

The Heat entered the draft with no obvious team need if only because they have a logical need at every position. With Delon Wright, Patty Mills, Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith expected to hit the open market as free agents and depth at center still a weak spot behind Bam Adebayo, Miami was positioned to take the best player available on its board.

Scouting report

That player was Ware. After other potential targets like Devin Carter and Zach Edey were off the board, the Heat went with Ware, the 7-foot center with floor-spacing potential.

Ware was productive last season at Indiana, averaging nearly 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game while factoring into the offense as a lob threat and occasional 3-point shooter (42.5% on less than two attempts per game). He projects as a 3-and-B (B for blocks) center and was commonly compared to Pacers center Myles Turner by draft analysts. 

Although there were questions about his motor, the Heat felt comfortable enough after Ware’s predraft workout to make him their first-round pick. In Miami, he’ll be held accountable by Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Udonis Haslem (who is still around) and Erik Spoelstra. 

Ware will need to work on his strength, outside shooting consistency and defensive fundamentals, but the Heat have an intriguing player to work with.

Who else was on the board?

Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht, thought to be a sure top-10 pick, took a surprise fall in the draft and was available at 15. Miami decided not to take Knecht, who they didn’t work out, and go with the more familiar player. Ware is also the player with more upside than Knecht, who may have fell for this reason.

Others on the board include Duke’s Jared McCain, Colorado’s Tristan Da Silva and Baylor’s Ja’Kobe Walter, but neither has the projected upside as Ware.

Considering who was left, Ware was the best pick on the board.

Grade: A