College players with defensive reputations continue to intrigue Miami Heat



Oregon’s Chris Boucher blocks the shot of Cal’s Jabari Bird during a game this season. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

As the Miami Heat continue to work out players they could take 14th overall or in the second round (if they acquire a pick) in the upcoming draft, they clearly targeted a certain type of player among those they interviewed this month at the NBA Draft Combine.

Even before scheduling private workouts in Miami, the Heat and vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer interviewed several players in Chicago. Of those, at least six were named among the top defensive players in their league, including four of the five members of the Pac-12’s All-Defensive team.

Two players the Heat spoke to were their league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

And this does not include Indiana’s OG Anunoby, who also interviewed with the Heat in Chicago. The 6-foot-8, Anunoby is an elite defensive player whose skills project to the NBA when it comes to defending players on the perimeter and in the post. Anunoby played just 16 games last season before tearing his ACL in January was not named to any All-Big Ten teams. He is projected as a mid-first round pick.

The following list of players the Heat interviewed who carry a reputation for their defense mostly are projected to be taken in the second round or go undrafted:

Kadeem Allen, 6-2, 192, PG, Stanford: Member of Pac-12 All-Defensive team who has good length, is athletic and physical enough to defend NBA guards. Guarded several positions in college.

Jordan Bell, 6-8.5, 224, PF, Oregon: Named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for his shot-blocking and rim-protecting ability. He was 25th in the country with 2.26 blocks per game. Very athletic and was successful guarding bigger, stronger players.

Chris Boucher, 6-9.5, 182, PF, Oregon: Two-time member of Pac-12 All-Defense team who finished 15th nationally with 2.55 blocks per game. He has an impressive 7-4 wingspan.

Josh Hart, 6-5, 209, SG, Villanova: Shared Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. Averaged 1.6 steals per game and though not an elite athlete is very intelligent on the floor.

Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5, 212, SG, South Carolina: Member of SEC All-Defensive team and hard worker who became more of an all-around player this year by improving his offense. But always known as a tough, hard-nosed defender.

Derrick White, 6-4.5, 190, SG/SF, Colorado: Member of Pac-12 All-Defensive team in his only season at Colorado after transferring from Division II Colorado Springs. His is instinctual and showed an ability to block shots and steal the ball.

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Several prospects on Miami Heat radar at NBA Combine

TJ Leaf walks off the court after UCLA lost to Kentucky in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament South Regional. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – It wasn’t quite the Wonderlic, but Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu received a question from Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra at the NBA Combine that he’s sure he will not hear from any other team.

“If I roll the ball under the table, who would get it you or Rodney McGruder?” Spoelstra asked the 6-foot-7 wingman who counts the Heat forward – and former Wildcat – as a “good friend.

“I said ‘Rod is my guy, but for sure I’ll get it,’” Iwundu said. “Just some fun competition there. Rodney is a good guy.”

Iwundu is one of 67 players to participate in the three-day NBA Combine at the Quest Multisport Complex. The Heat will interview their allotted 20 players by Friday and then work out others in Miami before the June 22 draft.

Several players made available to the media on Thursday said they met with the Heat in the last two days. Others have an interview or workout scheduled.

“I think they try to stress you out and see if you can handle it,” said Semi Ojeleye, a 6-7 power forward from SMU who met with the Heat.

Several Heat executives were involved in the interviews including Spoelstra, President Pat Riley, GM Andy Elisburg, vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer and director of basketball development Shane Battier.

The Heat interviewed players at the combine who are not coming to Miami for a private workout, many being possible targets if they trade for a second-round pick or even sign as undrafted free agents.

Miami has the 14th pick entering Tuesday’s lottery and just a 1.8 percent chance of moving into the top three. Miami does not own a second round pick.

“It’s all part of the process,” Kammerer said about the interviews at the combine. “What this does is it gives you a little bit of a feel whether there is anything there that concerns you.”

Two players on the Heat radar played their college ball in Florida. Florida State’s 6-6 shooting guard Dwayne Bacon will work out in Miami next week and Florida’s 6-8 forward Devin Robinson has a meeting scheduled with the Heat at the combine on Friday. Robinson attended the Heat-Lakers game this season in Miami.

UCLA’s TJ Leaf, a 6-10 power forward, has yet to meet with the Heat but said he has been in contact with Miami and expects to work out at AmericanAirlines Arena sometime after the combine.

Leaf, who is leaving after his freshman season, is projected to be drafted anywhere from No. 10 to No. 20 overall. And he does his homework, studying the rosters of team’s that have shown interest in him.

“Coach Spoelstra did a heck of a job with that roster,” Leaf said, adding that Dion Waiters “really came along” and singling out the play of center Hassan Whiteside and point guard Goran Dragic.

“They have a lot of weapons,” he said. “I think if they would have made the playoffs they could have made some noise.”

The Heat also met with Jordan Bell, a 6-9 power forward from Oregon projected to go late first or early second round. The conversation steered toward his defense. Bell was named the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year.

“Teams like that who are mostly defensive minded those are the teams I fit best on because I hang my hat on playing defense, blocking shots,” Bell said. “An organization like that would be a great fit for me.”

Others who have interviewed with the Heat at the combine: a pair of South Carolina shooting guards, Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier; Villanova shooting guard Josh Hart, Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, Iowa shooting guard Peter Jok and North Carolina power forward Isaiah Hicks.
Kadeem Allen, a shooting guard from Arizona, met with the Heat at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.

North Carolina wing Justin Jackson, the ACC player of the year, said the Heat are interested in him but nothing has been set up as of yet.

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When it’s all done, Miami Heat will interview/work out about 50 players

Miami Heat contingent at the NBA Combine at the Quest Multisport Complex in Chicago included from left to right: Eric Amsler (Director of Scouting), Chet Kammerer (Director NBA Scouting), Adam Simon (Assistant General Manager), Nick Arison (Chief Executive Officer) and Keith Askins (Director of College and Pro Scouting). (Photo by Manny Navarro/Miami Herald)

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.”’

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