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The three best NBA Draft targets for the Miami Heat

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Who should the Heat select with the 14th pick? Here are three options they could go with.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NBA Draft is quickly approaching!

Teams are still working out prospects, conducting interviews with potential draft picks, and learning as much information as they can about players that are expected to be on the board when their franchise is on the clock.

With the Celtics, Lakers, and Sixers at the top of the draft order, players such as Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Jackson are expected to be off the board quickly. NC State’s Dennis Smith, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen, and Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac are also expected to be selected within the first ten picks of the draft.

So, where do the Miami Heat go?

Here are three players that I would love to see wearing the red and black.

John Collins, Forward, Wake Forest

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Wake Forest vs Boston College Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2016-2017 AVERAGES: 19.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 62.2 FG%

John Collins is an athletic forward who put up double-double after double-double for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons last season. The 19-year-old Miami native developed into one of the better low post stars in all of college basketball during his sophomore season in Winston-Salem. Under the tutelage of former Kansas star Danny Manning, Collins turned himself into an offensive nightmare for opponents attempting to stop him from scoring. Collins shot over 60% from the floor and put the ball in the hoop at a highly efficient level. According to Hollinger’s College Basketball Stats, the Wake Forest product recorded the highest PER (36.52) in all of college basketball last season. He was able to take the Deacons to the NCAA Tournament too, showing that his efficiency helps lead to wins.

One of the more impressive aspects about Collins’ game is his ability to be a double-double machine. The former Cardinal Newman High School star recorded 17 double-doubles during his second collegiate season and almost averaged over the course of the season. Here is some of what I had to say in my draft profile on the Wake Forest star:

Double-double Machine

As mentioned above, Collins practically averaged a double-double during his sophomore season in Winston Salem. He showed the ability to score the basketball at a high rate and grab rebounds to stop opponents from scoring and giving extra possessions for his Wake Forest squad. Collins plays with a high motor that allows him to beat opposing players to loose balls and affect the game in different ways.

These double-doubles are not empty stats, either.

In a big time conference game against 12th ranked Duke on February 18th, John Collins put together one of the most impressive individual performances in the entire nation. All Collins did was score 31 points — while hitting 13 of his 18 shots from the field — grabbed 15 rebounds (5 offensive), and even recorded a steal in 33 minutes of game action. The Demon Deacons fell to the Blue Devils by 5 in a high scoring 99-94 game; however, John Collins proved he can be a big time player on a big time stage.

This is what DraftExpress has to say about the potential selection at 14:

John Collins blossomed into one of the best offensive players in the NCAA during his two years at Wake Forest, ending his sophomore season averaging 28.8 points and 14.8 rebounds per 40 minutes on a 67% true shooting percentage, ranking #1 in PER among all college basketball players. This helped Collins be recognized as the ACC's Most Improved Player, while being one of the key players who took Wake Forest back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.

Listed at 6'10, Collins has a below average (relative to his height) 6'11 wingspan. His lack of length isn't ideal for a small-ball center from a defensive standpoint, the position he most frequently played in college, and scouts will be closely watching his measurements at the NBA Combine to see how he stacks up with other big men in this draft. It would help Collins to maximize his versatility on both ends of the floor in order to be able to play in a variety of lineup configurations like we're increasingly seeing in this new-age NBA style, including increasing his shooting range and becoming a better passer and defender. Nevertheless, it's hard to ignore the incredible productivity Collins put up as a very young, late-blooming sophomore, and there is undoubtedly plenty of potential to continue to harness long-term.

John Collins possesses upside that the Miami Heat shouldn’t want to pass up. He still has room to grow and his offensive game can flourish in Erik Spoelstra’s system. His defense should only improve alongside Hassan Whiteside, too. Collins is an intriguing prospect for the Heat.

Zach Collins, Forward, Gonzaga

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

2016-2017 AVERAGES: 10 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 0.4 APG, 65.2 FG%, 47.6 3P%

Zach Collins is an interesting prospect that started to see his name rise more and more on draft boards as his season went longer and longer. The freshman out of Las Vegas went over to Gonzaga as a McDonald’s All-American 5-star prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. He immediately made his presence felt for the Bulldogs.

The 7-foot, 230 pound power forward put up 10 points a game on 65% shooting for Gonzaga during their national runner-up season. He also brought down almost six rebounds per game and showed he can hit outside shots. While Collins only shot 21 shots from behind-the-arc, his 47% three-point percentage can’t do anything but elevate him in the eyes of the Heat brass.

DraftExpress has this to say about the Gonzaga star:

Collins has a strong physical profile, standing 7-feet tall with impressive athletic ability. He lacks a degree of length and reach, but makes up for that with his agility running the floor, covering ground and playing above the rim in space. He's extremely light on his feet for a player his size, and does a nice job of elevating off two feet on both ends of the floor.

Collins is a versatile offensive player, not particularly consistent in any one area, but showing a nice frame-work of skills to build off. He shows flashes of being able to do a little bit of everything at this early stage of his development, and was both highly prolific and efficient as a freshman, despite his lack of experience and polish.

Collins did a great job of playing off the bevy of tremendous passers and shooting that characterized this deep and talented Gonzaga squad. He got quite a few baskets sprinting ahead of the defense in the open floor, and was a consistent target for lobs, dump-offs and pick and roll finishes thanks to his soft hands, and ability to get off his feet quickly, converting an impressive 70% of his attempts around the rim according to Synergy Sports Tech.

The 19 year-old has plenty of upside and skill to build on in the NBA. As he continues to fill out his frame and hone his skills, expect Collins to continue to grow and improve his game. If he is still available at 14, Zach Collins is someone that Pat Riley and company should seriously consider.

Justin Jackson, Small Forward, North Carolina

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

2016-2017 AVERAGES: 18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 44.3 FG%, 37.0 3P%

Justin Jackson is a three-year player that fully blossomed into one of college basketball’s best in his junior season at Chapel Hill. The Texas native saw his playing time gradually increase over his collegiate career, and he took full advantage during his final season in Carolina Blue.

While he began his career at North Carolina in a complimentary role to veteran players on the roster, Roy Williams made Justin Jackson the focal point of the Tar Heel’s offense during the 2016-2017 season. Jackson approximately averaged 18, 5, and 3 on 44% shooting over the course of his best season on the college level. Jackson earned ACC Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American, and helped lead North Carolina to its sixth National Championship in the rich program’s history.

I wrote about Jackson back in April when we began taking a look at potential draft prospects for Miami. Here is some of what I like about Jackson’s game:

Big game experience

Playing for a blue-blood program in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Justin Jackson has high-level big game experience on his résumé.

Whether it is playing a non-conference game against Kentucky, a rivalry showdown with Duke, the ACC Tournament, or March Madness, Justin Jackson is no stranger to the big stage.

Jackson showed up time and time again during this terrific junior campaign on the way to a conference and National Championship for North Carolina. Against De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and the Kentucky Wildcats, Justin Jackson put up a career high 34 points on 59% shooting, grabbed 5 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists in the big time non-conference game. Although the Tarheels lost by three, Jackson showed that he can score in bunches at an elite level.

*stats courtesy of ESPN

In three games against arch-rival Duke, the UNC forward averaged 26 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.

During the NCAA Tournament, Jackson showed up. In six tournament games, the junior wing averaged 19.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG, as North Carolina knocked off the likes of 4th-seeded Butler, 2nd-seeded Kentucky, 3rd-seeded Oregon, and 1-seed Gonzaga to win the championship. In the Final Four, Jackson averages were 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.

Jackson has lots of experiences on big stages and high-pressure situations, making him a very interesting prospect in the upcoming draft.

Jackson brings his best to the big stages. Jackson would give Miami an option at wing that can hit outside shots and bring offense to the team. Spo and Riley have invested a lot in Justise Winslow and are reportedly very interested in Gordon Hayward, but Jackson would be a nice pick up if the franchise decides to go that route.

The Heat obviously have a lot of different ways that they can go with the fourteenth pick of the upcoming draft. Will the Heat go with the hometown kid and create a dynamic duo down low with Whiteside? Will they choose to go with the 7-footer out of Gonzaga? Maybe they’ll go with the North Carolina wing that has big-game experience. The draft can’t come soon enough.

*Note: stats gathered from sports-reference.com.