3 G-League standouts the Miami Heat could turn into stars

Chris Obekpa #12 of the St. John’s Red Storm reacts to a play against the Syracuse Orange during the second half of the game at the Carrier Dome on December 6, 2014 in Syracuse, New York. St. John’s defeated Syracuse 69-57. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, the Miami Heat took a flier on Jordan Mickey, an elite shot-blocker and solid rebounder who posted impressive stats with the Boston Celtics’ G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

>> Report: Heat to sign former Celtics forward Jordan Mickey

Since finding diamond-in-the-rough Hassan Whiteside, whose meteoric rise has netted him a max contract and recognition as one of the game’s best big men, Miami has earned the reputation as an organization adept at identifying and developing talent that has been underutilized by other franchises.

>> Lamar Odom on Heat: ‘If you have talent and you go to Miami, it’s going to be maximized’

If the Heat were to take on similar reclamation projects, here are three G-League players that Miami could turn to in hopes of finding their next rotation piece.

Chris Obekpa

Fitting in the same, elite shot-blocking mold that intrigued Miami when they signed both Whiteside and Mickey, Obekpa — a 6-9 Nigerian — has put up monster block numbers for the Santa Cruz Warriors. Averaging 15.1 minutes over 31 appearances, the 23-year-old averaged a league-high 5.5 blocks per 36 minutes. By comparison, Whiteside averaged 6.1 blocks per 36 minutes in 65 developmental-league appearances and Mickey averaged 4.2 blocks per 36 minutes in 35 games. Though Obekpa’s offensive game is not nearly as polished as Whiteside’s or Mickey’s when they signed with Miami, his 12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes make him an interesting developmental prospect.

Nikola Jovanovic

Sticking with the big-man theme, Miami could look for more reinforcements to help compliment Whiteside on the glass. Among players with more than five games played last season, Jovanovic — a Serb who played three seasons at USC — led the G-League in total rebounds per 36 minutes, pulling down 14.7 boards per in a 24-game stint with the Grand Rapids Drive. When his 12-game run with the Westchester Knicks is included, the 23-year-old’s rebounding numbers drop to a still impressive 13.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. Jovanovic also averaged 19.2 points per 36 minutes, indicating an offensive skill set with untapped potential.

Shawn Long

Long — a 6-foot-9 power forward out of Louisiana-Lafayette — was one of the most impressive players in the G-League last season, averaging 24.7 points and 13.6 rebounds per 36 minutes in 39 games with the Delaware 87ers. The 24-year-old’s impressive play earned him minutes with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he proved he could produce at the NBA level. In 18 games with Philadelphia, Long kept up his prolific pace, averaging 22.8 points and 13.1 rebounds per 36 minutes. He also shot 36.8 percent from three during his brief NBA stint. An offseason trade has landed Long with the Houston Rockets, but if Houston feels the need to include Long in any potential deal for Carmelo Anthony, Miami should be monitoring his availability closely.

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