A look at 15 different mock drafts shows nine different players projected to be selected by the Heat, with five listed at least twice.
The names that come up most often: Wake Forest power forward John Collins, Duke power forward Harry Giles, North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson, Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard and Louisville shooting guard Donovan Mitchell.
Here is a closer look at the five players most often linked to the Heat:
John Collins, Wake Forest, 6-10, 225, 19 years old: Collins emerged last season, his second at Wake and second under coach Danny Manning. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, was named the ACC’s most improved players and was runner-up to Jackson as player of the year. He is more of an inside player (he did not attempt a 3-point shot in his two years in college) with power and skill. He said at the NBA combine in Chicago he has been working on his outside shot.
Harry Giles, Duke, 6-9, 232, 19 years old: Giles would be a risk-reward pick. He is considered the big man with the most upside in the draft but the risk is his history of knee injuries. He has torn the ACL in both knees, torn an MCL and had arthroscopic surgery on his knee just before his only season in college, limiting him to 11.5 minutes per game in 26 games. He averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds. Giles, who had the biggest hands at the combine, was considered one of the top two players in the country a year ago coming out of high school.
Justin Jackson, North Carolina, 6-8, 201, 22 years old: A rare player who remained in college for three years and it paid off by winning the ACC player of the year. Jackson’s scoring improved each year from 10.7 to 12.2 to 18.3. But his shooting percentage dropped from 47.7 to 46.6 to 44.3. His 3-point shooting did improve though, peaking last season at 37.0 percent as he helped North Carolina to the NCAA title. He has length and a scorer’s mentality with the ability to put up points from inside the paint and from the perimeter.
Luke Kennard, Duke, 6-5, 196, 20 years old: Kennard has been rising on the draft boards, with many mocks projecting him to be taken in the 10 to 12 range. He has been among the top shooters in the country during his two years at Duke, finishing at 52.7 percent overall, and he has terrific range. Last season he averaged 19.5 points and shot 52.7 percent from the floor including 43.8 percent on threes.
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville, 6-3, 211, 20 years old: Mitchell, like Collins, emerged in his second season increasing his scoring from 7.4 points per game to 15.6 and his rebounding from 3.4 per game to 3.2. His shooting, though, has been erratic at 41.8 in his career. But defense is the reason Mitchell has been rising on the draft boards with a 6-10 wingspan to supplement his quickness and athletic ability. Mitchell, an ACC first-team All-Defense pick, averaged 2.1 steals.
Other players projected to be drafted by the Heat at No. 14 include: Zack Collins, a 7-0, 230-pound freshman center from Gonzaga; Ike Anigbogu, a 6-10, 250-pound freshman power forward from UCLA, Lauri Markkanen, a 7-0, 230-pound power forward from Arizona and OG Anunoby, a 6-0, 235-pound small forward from Indiana.
Others projected to go to Miami: Duke power forward Harry Giles, Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen, Kentucky center Edrice Adebayo, UCLA center/power forward Ike Anigbogu and Wake Forest power forward John Collins.
The site assigned a numerical value to each mock limiting it to the 14 lottery teams and came with Anunoby being taken 14th. It had Jackson going 12th to the Pistons and Denver selecting Donovan Mitchell of Louisville one spot ahead of Miami.
The 6-8, 232-pound Anunoby played just 16 games last season before tearing his ACL. He is considered an elite defender and draws comparisons to Spurs’ All-NBA small forward Kawhi Leonard. He could be a steal at No. 14 considering he likely would have been projected much higher in the lottery had he not been injured.
The Heat will workout and/or interview about 50 players, according to vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer, with the process starting weeks ago at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Several prospects projected to go in the middle of the first round have come through South Florida for private workouts.
Miami’s biggest needs are a power forward/center and small forward. With James Johnson and Udonis Haslem becoming free agents July 1, the only true power forwards/centers on the roster behind Hassan Whiteside will be Josh McRoberts and Okaro White. Justise Winslow is the lone true small forward on the roster. Rodney McGruder started at the spot last season after Winslow was injured.
The first sign came when John Collins was 2-years-old. His mom, Lyria, then a sergeant in the Air Force, got John his first Easter basket. Inside was the usual – candy, chocolate, toys – and a small basketball.
John ripped off the wrapping and went straight for the ball and would not let go. Seeing how much John enjoyed the basketball, his mom bought him a hoop to go with it.
“The kid just kept shooting and dunking in the garage,” Lyria said. “And he played his little friends who would come over and John would just destroy them.”
As a military brat, John Martin Collins III has traveled the world but when it came to his teenage years he and his mom settled in suburban West Palm Beach. That’s when she decided to send him to Cardinal Newman High School where Collins’ athletic star started rising and he started dunking over kids his own size.
Finally, after being overlooked for three years colleges started catching on and Collins chose Wake Forest. Two years later, he has gone from a three-star recruit considered the 56th best power forward in the country and 26th best player in Florida to a projected mid-first round draft pick. … or right in the Miami Heat’s wheelhouse.
And playing for the Heat would be dream come true. Collins was a true fan growing up, attending games at AmericanAirlines Arena and celebrating each of the two titles and four Finals appearances during the Big Three era.
And his favorite player. …
“I had a couple of D-Wade posters on the wall,” Collins said from the recent NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “You got to love D-Wade, he was a South Florida legend.”
Lyria, who is retired from the Air Force and never doubted her boy someday would be in the NBA, wouldn’t mind John in a Heat uniform for more reasons than she could get in a car and make the 75 mile trip to see all of his home games.
“My all-time favorite coach is Pat Riley,” Lyria said of the Heat president. “I loved this man from when he was the coach of the New York Knicks. He was definition of coach swag.”
Collins was born in Layton, Utah, and by the time he started first grade he had lived in Guam, Turkey, St. Croix (where Lyria is from) and Tacoma, Wash.
Just before starting eighth grade he moved to Palm Beach County.
Collins started playing organized basketball on the McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma. But before that, when he was about 5, he asked his mom (Lyria and her husband, John Collins Jr., who was in the Navy, divorced when their son was young) if she had heard of players like Earl Monroe, Pete Maravich, Walt Frazier and Wilt Chamberlain. He would then cite facts about each player.
Lyria was stunned, and a bit concerned about who he was talking to. But to this day he still has not told her how he became a basketball savant.
“John made everyone around him better,” Newman coach Tavarus Harris told the Post.
But not everyone agreed and after schools like San Francisco and East Carolina offered him scholarships, other big names started to notice. Still, not many showed serious interest and his decision came down to Wake Forest and Miami before he settled on Wake and coach Danny Manning.
Manning liked Collins’ “skill set” but knew Collins had work to do on his body.
“He committed himself his senior year to making some changes,” Manning said. “When he got to college he hit it off with our strength and conditioning coach. … worked his tail off, really made some significant changes to his body.”
And it didn’t hurt that Manning is the same size as Collins and was about same weight during his 15-year NBA career that Collins is now.
“He has done everything that I’m trying to do as far as having a successful career in college and at the next level,” Collins said. “For me to be his protégé is good. He’s like a big book of information.”
Collins’ career at Wake started slow. He averaged 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman. But then it clicked and last year he blossomed into a 19.2 point per game scorer with 9.8 rebounds. He was named the ACC’s Most Improved Player and lost out to North Carolina’s Justin Jackson for Player of the Year, although many say Collins deserved the award.
“We knew John was going to have a breakout year,” Manning said. “We didn’t know it was going to be to the extent it was.”
Someone, though, did.
“I said my kid is going to the NBA in 2017,” Lyria said. “Even John didn’t believe me. Even John said ‘Mom, you don’t know what the draft stock. …’
“I said ‘You got to get your ass out there and play like you can play.”’
Collins listened to his mom and soon found himself in the enviable position of having to decide if he should enter the draft. His game is not complete considering he has come on late but he has as much upside as any at his position in the draft. Collins is more of a prototypical power forward with solid low post, rebounding and shot-blocking skills. He shot 62.2 percent from the floor last season but did not attempt a 3-point shot.
“I’m definitely going to be working on that,” he said, adding he will “keep on expanding” his offensive game.
Lyria, though, has no doubt her son who was destroying the competition from the age of 2 has made the right decision.
“He never got love on a national level,” she said. “He wasn’t a household name. He was a private school kid. But I know his style of play. People don’t know he can shot the 3, people didn’t know he could run from coast-to-coast, people don’t know about his dribble, about his pick-and-pop or his sick spin or his perimeter shot.
“I know who I raised. I know his work ethic. I know his love for the game. I know how he practices. I know how many hours he’ll shoot and shoot. I know how he’ll study the game.”
Following are eight players who could be available for the Heat when they are on the clock.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-10, 225.2
Position: Power forward
School: Wake Forest
Stats: 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds as a sophomore.
Combine results: Standing reach – 8-10.5. Wingspan – 6-11.25. Body Fat – 5.4. Hand width – 10. Hand length – 9. Standing vertical – 33-0.
The skinny: The former Cardinal Newman standout blossomed between his freshman and sophomore years under Danny Manning at Wake, which means he still has a lot of upside. He has prototypical power forward skills, developing his low post game and supplementing it with his quickness, power and ability to fill the lane. His defense is solid and his offense, and especially his outside shooting, remains a work in progress.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-9, 222.2
Position: Power forward
Stats: 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds as a freshman. Shot .617 from the floor.
Combine results: Standing reach – 8-11. Wingspan – 6-11. Body Fat – 6.8. Hand width – 9.5. Hand length – 8.5. Standing vertical – 29-0.
The skinny: Leaf’s offense is way ahead of his defense. He is considered to be as fundamentally sound as anybody in this draft and is said to have one of the highest basketball IQ’s in the class. He is a crafty offensive player who says he can “score on three levels,” which means filling the role of the coveted stretch four. The biggest knock is his athleticism and lack of quickness which hurts him defensively.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-8.75, 219.6
Position: Power forward
Stats: 14.0 points, 10.5 rebounds his sophomore year.
Combine results: Standing reach – 9-1. Wingspan – 7-1.5. Body Fat – 6.8. Hand width – 9. Hand length – 8.75. Standing vertical – 28-5.
The skinny: Among the more athletic power forwards. Has excellent quickness and leaping ability. Runs the floor well and is a solid finisher. His strength offensively is his back to the basket game. His outside shooting really declined his second year in college, going from 61.5 percent as a freshman to 48.4 last season. He would be a great addition defensively and with his ability to block shots. But he must get stronger.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-7, 208
Position: Small forward
School: North Carolina
Stats: 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists his junior year.
Combine results: Standing reach – 8-8.5. Wingspan – 6-11. Body Fat – 8.1. Hand width – 9.25. Hand length – 8.75. Standing vertical – 29-5.
The skinny: Jackson won the ACC Player of the Year although most believed Wake Forest’s Collins deserved the honor. Jackson’s offense game is fluid and he has length. He has a scorer’s mentality and can score in the paint and from mid-range. The only red flag could be his declining shooting percentage going from .477 as a freshman to .466 as a sophomore to .433 last season. He is able to defend multiple position, a big plus in the Heat’s eyes. He is slight of build and needs to get stronger and tougher.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-6.25, 232.4
Position: Small forward
Stats: Averaged 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, shot .701 on 2-pointers in 16 games as a sophomore.
Combine results: Standing reach – 8-11.5. Wingspan – 7-2.25 Body Fat – 6.8. Hand width – 9.5. Hand length – 9.25. Standing vertical – N/A.
The skinny: The Heat interviewed Anunoby in Chicago, one of two players they talked to who tore an ACL last season, along with Oregon’s Chris Boucher. Anunoby is hoping to be ready for training camp after January surgery. He is a defensive specialist who has drawn comparisons to San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. He is strong, can jump and defend in the post and on the perimeter. His offense is way behind his defense, especially when creating his own shot and from distance. He shot just .311 on 3-pointers last season. At least two mock drafts have the Heat selecting Anunoby.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-9.25, 232
Position: Power forward/Center
Stats: 3.9 points, 3.8 rebounds in just 11.5 per game in his only year at Duke.
Combine results: Standing reach – 9-1.5. Wingspan – 7-3.25. Body Fat – 5.2. Hand width – 10.75. Hand length – 9.5. Standing vertical – 27-0.
The skinny: Giles is considered the big man with the most upside in the draft but he comes with major red flags. He has torn the ACL in both knees, torn an MCL plus his lone college season was a bust after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee, forcing him to miss the first six weeks. Giles, one of the top two players in the country as a high school senior, admitted to struggling mentally last season and even wondered if he should sit out. Still, the talent is tantalizing. He had the biggest hands at the combine and his advanced defensively.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-9, 233.6
Position: Power forward/Center
Stats: Averaged 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, shot .566 in his only year in college.
Combine results: Standing reach – 9-1.5. Wingspan – 7-5.25. Body Fat – 7.4. Hand width – 10.5. Hand length – 9.5. Standing vertical – 31-5.
The skinny: Allen is projected to be a solid low post player in the NBA with nice size and the fourth widest wingspan in the combine. Although he averaged just 1.5 blocks in college he is expected to improve in that area in the next level as well. Played his one season at Texas at power forward and showed he can shoot the 10- to 12-foot jumper. Will need to develop more of a game in the post.
Height (no shoes), weight: 6-1.25, 211.4
Position: Shooting guard
Stats: Averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds his sophomore year.
Combine results: Standing reach – 8-1. Wingspan – 6-10. Body Fat – 5.9. Hand width – 9.5. Hand length – 8.5. Standing vertical – 36-5.
The skinny: A sleeper pick considering Mitchell’s stock has been rising since the end of the season because of his testing, possibly working his way into a lottery pick. He is a leaper who showed great athletic ability at the combine and had the best standing vertical. He can score off the dribble and has a number of moves that allows him to get to the rim. His athletic ability makes him a solid defender. But his jump shot is streaky will have to improve as his .418 shooting percentage in two years at Louisville (.329 on threes) shows.
CHICAGO – The Miami Heat interviewed 15 players the last two days and will speak to another five on Friday at the NBA Combine in Chicago.
The interviews – conducted by Heat officials including President Pat Riley, GM Andy Elisburg, coach Erik Spoelstra, vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer and director of basketball development Shane Battier – help the team vet any player they have a remote chance to acquiring. Those talks, tough, are just one part of the process of getting to know a player on and off the court.
“We’re still looking for somebody who can make a jump shot,” Kammerer said. “We’re not working on a debate team. We keep it all in perspective.”
The interviews took place at the hotel. Later on Wednesday the players hit the court for the first time for drills and scrimmages. Each team requests 30 players (10 from their ‘A’ group, 10 from a ‘B’ group and 10 from a ‘C’ group) and is assigned 20.
The Heat talked to seven players from their ‘A’ group.
“You get a feel for his character a little bit, priorities, his life,” Kammerer said. “It’s all helpful but it’s all part of the process.”
In addition, the Heat plan to bring in about 30 players for workouts. Kammerer said none of the players coming to Miami were on their list to interview this week.
Semi Ojeleye, a 6-7 power forward from SMU, was one of those interviewed by the Heat in Chicago.
“I think they try to stress you out and see if you can handle it,” he said.
The combine includes 65 college players and two who played internationally. The Heat enters next Tuesday’s lottery with the 14th pick and has the lowest chance (1.8 percent) among lottery teams of moving into the top three picks, meaning they likely will stay put.
Miami, though, could trade for a second-round pick and also will be looking to add players who could be developed in the D-League.
The Heat haven’t backed off a player because of a poor interview but it could raise a red flag, which would cause them to dig deeper. Still, as they narrow their list they talk to players’ former coaches as far back as high school and AAU along with teachers.
As for the live scrimmage, Kammerer said it’s not the best setting to evaluate a player.
“You get a feel for how they move without the ball, how they run,” Kammerer said. “You’ll be able to watch some skill. But the game itself? They really haven’t played as a team.
“Usually guards show up better in this setting than the big men do because the guards have the ball. The big men. … he may not touch the ball a lot here. So you don’t walk out of here saying ‘Oh that guy can’t play.”’