This past season the Miami Heat were one of the league’s best feel-good stories. After starting the year with an abysmal 11-30 record, Miami turned up the Heat, ending the season at an even 41-41.
Miami became the first team to end the season at .500 after going 15 games under. With no Chris Bosh and practically no Justise Winslow, Miami’s ability to pull within one game of the playoffs was nothing short of the miracle. The play of Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, and Hassan Whiteside spoke volumes about the Heat’s capability to develop players and put a system in place for the team to succeed. If you look at Miami’s roster, outside of Dragic and Whiteside, the roster is preliminary D-Leaguers and journeymen. This upcoming free agency/draft will give Miami the opportunity to return to the top of the East.
The one downside of Miami’s strong second half is the fact that Miami’s first round pick went from a possible top three pick to bottom of the lottery. This hurts their chances of finding a star player, but there are a lot of players that could fit their system in the middle of the draft nonetheless.
- T.J. Leaf, UCLA
Leaf showed natural scoring ability in his one season at UCLA as he averaged 16 points while grabbing eight rebounds with two assists and a block per contest. Leaf has the ability to stretch the floor as he shot 46-percent from three. Leaf would easily be able to take Luke Babbitt’s role as a stretch-four for Miami. Like Babbitt, Leaf struggles on defense, particularly in the low post. If the UCLA forward is able to learn good defensive fundamentals, which Miami is built on, the Heat will be able to work him in. With Leaf being able to open up the lane for Dragic and Whiteside, this in turn will make Miami one of the deadliest offenses in the NBA.
At Washington State, Leaf dropped 32 points and 14 rebounds, showing a very well-rounded game. His ability to run in transition, post up, clean up the glass, and shoot the outside shot make him an ideal big for Miami.
- John Collins, Vanderbilt
The West Palm native is a simple yet effective offensive player; he gets the ball, he slams the ball. Collins will be able to rock the rim as either a forward or center in the NBA due to his long wingspan. He also displayed a great ability to get to the foul line and earn buckets the hard way and although he shows little ability outside of the paint, the potential is there. As long as Collins is able to stay on the court, he’ll be a terror above the rim for the league. Collins and Whiteside will have a field day catching Dragic lobs for 48 minutes.
- Dillon Brooks, Oregon
Before his season-ending injury, Brooks was one of the most dynamic scorers in the NCAA. The Oregon forward has real potential as a combo forward, similar to Harrison Barnes. With a strong physique, Brooks will be able to play as a small ball power forward, creating mismatches all over the court while his adequate ability as a passer further enlarges his offensive attack. If Miami trades back in the draft, Brooks could be another late-draft gem, similar to Josh Richardson. Brooks will have a great atmosphere and culture around him in Miami, which will therefore help him become a healthy, dominant scorer.
Brooks shows a fantastic ability to get to the rim while also displaying a smooth jump shot. He topped off his 22-point game against Cal with an ice cold dagger from three to seal the Ducks’ comeback win. Simply clutch.