NBA draft could produce handful of “special” players, many more ready to help right away

Miami Heat vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer with president Pat Riley. (AP Photo)

CHICAGO – Chet Kammerer got his first look at Gonzaga’s 7-foot freshman Zach Collins in November.

Kammerer, the Miami Heat’s vice president of player personnel, remembers writing up a short scouting report that said, “a player to follow next year because he could be special.”

Now, six months later, there is  no next year when it comes to college for Collins. “They’re talking about him being a top 10 (pick),” Kammerer said Friday from the NBA Combine at the Quest Multisport complex.

Such is the state of basketball when anybody who can dribble or shoot or block a shot hires an agent and believes he is ready for the NBA.

For some, like Collins, that is true despite never starting a game in college. He averaged 10 points and 5.9 rebounds and now is ranked among the top dozen players in the country.

But for others …

“That’s what’s happening now,” Kammerer said. “If a guy has any kind of a year he’s declaring. We got a lot of guys here who didn’t even start. They were off the bench and they’re talking about them.”

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Kammerer believes this could be a “special draft” for a select few at the top. Not quite 2004 special that saw four future Hall of Famers – LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade – go in the first five picks. But special nonetheless.

The top four – Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum – are on level of their own. The next tier takes us to about the ninth or 10th pick. Then there is the group of about 10 players that the Heat, who most likely will pick 14th, are most interested in.

“I don’t know if the players at the top of the draft are going to make a huge difference their first year or two because they’re so young (but) down the road this could end up being really a special draft,” Kammerer said.

“There’s so much potential and so many boxes you check off from their character, their skill level, their athleticism. They have combinations of players high in the draft that are going to be really good NBA players.”

Kammerer believes the draft could produce about 20 rotational players but beyond that he believes this crop is typical when it comes to the second round.

“I’m not sure the second round is going to be any better than previous drafts,” he said. “When you talk about depth you talk about second round guys I would say ‘OK, not bad.’

“These guys (at the combine) are mostly second round. There’s some good players but I don’t think this is one of those drafts you’re going to say, ‘Oh, man, there’s 10 guys in the second round that are going to be really good NBA players.’”

As for the positional breakdown: Kammerer agrees with the consensus that the point guard position is loaded and he likes the power forwards/centers. The weakness: wings.

The Heat are expected to be looking at a power forward or combo big man and several could be available at that spot including Zach Collins, Wake Forest’s John Collins, UCLA’s TJ Leaf, Cal’s Ivan Rabb and Texas’ Jarrett Allen.

The Heat do not own a second round pick but could make a trade to acquire one. This season, more teams could use the second round to identify a player or players to sign to the new two-way contract, which allows a team to control two players it believes needs seasoning in the D-League.

Each team with be allowed to have two additional players beyond the 15-man limit on a two-way contract.

“In the past the best 60 guys didn’t get drafted because people didn’t have two slots for them,” Kammerer said. “So they would take some European they’re stashing because they see their roster and they don’t have spots for two or three guys.

“Now I think you’re going to see teams stash some guys that maybe aren’t ready but have a lot of upside. He really isn’t ready but we’ll put him in our D-League for a year. Now there’s more of a chance for them to stash an American than to stash a European.”

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