As the NBA draft approaches, Miami Heat fans — along with 29 other fan bases — are going from prospect to prospect, trying to project how these soon-to-be pros are going to fit into their team’s rotation.
No one hopes for a prospect to “bust,” but it happens. Skills don’t translate, cultures collide and being an early 20-something happens. So, guided by Chad Ford, let’s look at a few of these prospects the Heat is rumored to have an interest in — with some not-so-rose-colored glasses.
A 7-footer, Zach Collins is one of those guys who sounds good if you could only use one sentence to describe him. For example, a soft-handed 7-footer who can protect the rim and stretch the floor, Zach Collins is a modern big man. See?
While, yes, Collins can defend the rim reasonably well, he can’t exactly defend big men that well. As Lavar Ball would say: He’s too light in the tail. At around 230 pounds, Collins isn’t exactly a banger. Nor is he bullying anyone on the offensive end; when crowded at the rim, Collins has trouble forcing the issue.
What’s more alarming would be Collin’s perimeter defense. Though he can move his feet well, he has trouble staying disciplined against shooters, jumping and yipping at the slightest of pump fakes. As of now, he’s getting pegged as a stretch-4, so his perimeter defense is something that needs to improve if he wants to play any real minutes. Otherwise, teams with heady ball-handlers will put him in a pick-and-roll blender every time down.
Collins averaged 0.5 3-point attempts per game at Gonzaga. So that stretch-4 moniker might need to be put on ice for a little. Extrapolating Collins’ 10 for 21 college 3-point shooting is especially hard when considering he’ll have to adjust to the NBA arc. He does have a soft touch though. When his future point-guard gets double-teamed in pick-and-roll situations, Collins has shown that he can make them pay with his pick-and-pop ability.
Also, he boxes out pretty well.
At 6-10, TJ Leaf is another guy that’s been floating around in Miami’s watercooler talk. What he provides that Collins doesn’t is passing. He’s a decent short-roller in pick-and-roll situations. Leaf averaged 2.4 assists per game at UCLA, and if that’s a skill that translates to the NBA, Leaf will get minutes.
Like Collins, Leaf is also lauded as a stretch-4, but at least he managed to average more than one attempt from deep per game (1.7). With a more robust offense repertoire than most bigs, Leaf can shoot and even attack off the dribble. It’s the other half of a basketball game where his shortcomings live. NBA defense is going to be Leaf’s Achilles heel.
With J.R. Smithian defensive court awareness, Leaf losses cutters and can’t seem to sense when his help defense is needed. Coupled with weak defensive rotations and an inability to corral guards in the pick-and-roll.
But he can shoot 3s.
Gifted with a shoddy jumpshot that looks more like a medicine ball toss, OG Anunoby is one of the “raw with upside” candidates of this draft. At 6-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, per draftexpress.com, Anunoby’s frame makes him a viable target alone. It wouldn't be shocking if he got some minutes at center in the pros; if not by choice, perhaps by force.
Anunoby’s offensive rolodex is pretty bare. He’s a savage slasher who can detonate the rim, but that’s where it ends. At Indiana, Anunoby didn’t get to play a lot of pick-and-roll, an action that is the modern NBA’s meat and potatoes. Though he could learn, his unreliable jump shot would either a) force teams to slid down to center, or b) risk having two non-3-point threats on the court (ostensibly a center and Anunoby), which would give defenses some undesirable breathing room.
The Miami Heat have already had to deal with a similar conundrum in Justise Winslow. To play Winslow and another non-shooter, Miami would often have Winslow bring up the ball, that way his man couldn't ignore him on offense. That’s not something Anunoby can do. To make defenders respect his airspace on offense Anunoby has developed into a savage cutter, but that is hardly a remedy for his wayward shot.
With his length and mobility, Anunoby seems like he’s capable of NBA-level defense at multiple positions. He can even block shots. But, like many young players, his defensive discipline needs work.
Also, at a career 52-percent, he can’t shoot free-throws.