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Seven prospects the Heat should monitor if they go undrafted

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The Heat don’t have any draft picks this year, but they’ve shown in the past they can mine talent.

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Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Heat won’t have any selections in the 2021 NBA Draft, which will be on Thursday, July 29 at 8:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Their first-round pick, which would’ve been the No. 18 selection, was shipped in the three-team trade that sent Goran Dragic to Miami (from Phoenix) in Feb. of 2015 (that worked out, right?). The pick eventually ended up with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who also own the No. 6 and No. 16 selections, too.

One year later, its 2021 second-round pick was included in a deal that sent Brian Roberts to the Portland Trail Blazers to get below the luxury tax. The Atlanta Hawks now own the pick, slotted at No. 48 overall.

But the lack of draft capital isn’t stopping Pat Riley from potentially snagging a couple players from this year’s draft.

“We don’t have any picks, but I can guarantee you we’ll probably get a couple of good players out of this year’s draft, somehow,” Riley said after the season.

Unearthing undrafted talent can be a daunting and prolonged process, but Miami has done a great job at identifying and unlocking reasonable success for undrafted players in recent years. They’ve either dipped their own toe into in the undrafted pool, or seeked and developed undrafted talent from other teams.

Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft before signing a Summer League contract with Miami. He spent a year in the G-League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and played 15 games with the Heat in 2018-19. He got his first real opportunity — and promptly lighting the Association on fire from beyond the arc — the following season, setting an NBA record for the most 3-pointers by an undrafted player in a single season (270). He came 20 shy of tying that record last season, netting 250 — the second-most all-time from an undrafted player.

On the last day of the regular season in 2018-19, the Heat signed Kendrick Nunn, who was stashed in the Golden State Warriors’ organization for a year after going undrafted. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting (behind Zion Williamson) with Miami in 2019-20 as one of the league’s unlikely rookie success stories.

Miami’s two-way guards — Max Strus and Gabe Vincent — were both undrafted. They were buried within other organizations (Vincent - Kings; Strus - Celtics, Bulls) before receiving a fair amount of opportunity with the Heat last season.

The point is: the Heat have generated recent success with undrafted talent, though not all have been acquired immediately after the draft.

Does its fresh track record preclude from any potential blunders? Absolutely not, but its new-fangled developmental progress should stand for something, given the Heat’s organization-wide — from the coaching and front office to the scouting department — reputation it’s furnished over the years to fashion maturation.

NBA Drafts are tricky: Each year, there’s fringe top-30 prospects that sink into the undrafted pool. Conversely, there’s prospects who get selected in the back-half of the second-round that garnered little pre-draft traction from pundits.

Projecting who will get drafted in what order is like predicting how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie pop: It’s impossible.

That said, below, I compiled a list of seven potential undrafted free agents that Miami should pay attention to if they go undrafted, though the list will extend far beyond that.

First, here’s names I conjured that didn’t make the main list, but should also draw consideration if are still available.

  • Herb Jones, Alabama
  • A.J. Lawson, South Carolina
  • RaiQuan Gray, Florida State
  • Sam Houser, Virginia
  • Neemias Queta, Utah State
  • Austin Reaves, Oklahoma
  • Duane Washington Jr., Ohio State
  • M.J. Walker, Florida State
  • Jason Preston, Ohio
  • Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton
  • Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky
  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova

Now, let’s get into the seven names!

Chaundee Brown Jr., Michigan

Guard | 6’5” | 215 lbs. | Senior | Age: 22

2020-21 stats (28 games): 8.0 PPG | 3.1 RPG | 48.8 FG% | 61.2 TS% | 16.1 PER

The Athletic’s consensus top-85 (subscription required): T-84

ESPN’s top-100: 60

CBS Sports’ Top 100: 77

No, Brown didn’t make the main list because he went to Michigan — like Robinson. And no, it wasn’t because of the connection with now-Michigan head man Juwan Howard. While those might be reasons Miami goes after him, Brown fits the bill of a Heat player!

His statistical profile won’t blow anyone away, but Brown is a high-motor two-way wing listed at 6-foot-6 with good length (6-foot-10 wingspan). He shot 41.9 percent from deep with a 61.2 true shooting percentage, while possessing high-flying athleticism on his direct drives to the rim. He’s a great athlete and is an instinctual defender on the perimeter. There’s a world where Brown becomes an important rotation piece with the right organization, like Miami.

David Duke, Providence

Guard | 6’5” | 204 lbs. | Junior | Age: 21

2020-21 stats (26 games): 16.8 PPG | 6.3 RPG | 4.8 APG | 1.2 SPG | 50.8 TS% | 18.1 PER

The Athletic’s consensus top-85: 61

ESPN’s top-100: 84

CBS Sports’ Top 100: 45

Duke was an inefficient shooter inside-the-arc, which is a glaring weakness on paper, but still showed flashes as a spot up 3-point threat with plus playmaking, rebounding and defensive acumen.

He shot 38.9 percent from deep and 79.2 percent from the free-throw line, so his deep-ball could translate; on the other hand, he netted below 40 percent of his 2s, including a measly 30.3 percent of his mid-range attempts. Finishing at the next level will become easier with improved touch and finishing his frame. Improving his strength will also help create separation in the mid-range game.

Defensively, Duke wasn’t afraid to pick up players three-quarters court; if he continues to maximize his physical traits, becoming a disruptor at the point-of-attack seems plausible. With its rigorous conditioning program, Miami could help expedite such traits and, thus, his development. His ceiling suggests he could be a potential 3-and-D specialist with secondary playmaking potential in the NBA. For the reasons above, Miami could be one of the best landing spots for Duke.

Jordan Schakel, San Diego State

Guard | 6’6” | 195 lbs. | Senior | Age: 23

2020-21 stats (28 games): 14.4 PPG | 4.4 RPG | 46.1 3P% | 65.7 TS% | 23.4 PER

The Athletic’s consensus top-85: NR

ESPN’s top-100: 92

CBS Sports’ Top 100: NR

You like shooters? If they’re not your cup of tea, you should probably scroll down. Schakel is a shoooooter with a lightning-quick, smooth release.

Last year, nearly 66 percent of his shots came from 3-point range — hitting them at a 46.1 percent clip, the third-highest percentage of the nation. Additionally, he netted 90.8 percent of his free throw attempts and sported a 65.7 true shooting percentage. That’s elite. His career 42.7 3-point percentage — sporting a 70.5 3-point rate — and 87.0 free-throw percentage suggests his blistering shooting ability should translate.

Schakel is a good-not-great defender with upside as a multi-level scorer. He measures up as well as anyone in this class in regards to highly-efficient, volume 3-point shooting. He might not be high on many big boards, but in today’s age where shooting is at the upmost importance, his skill set fits perfectly in the modern NBA. Miami’s nabbed under-the-radar shooters at the wing before — like Robinson and Strus — so it wouldn’t surprise me if it samples deep into that market again, assuming Schakel isn’t drafted.

Marcus Garrett, Kansas

Guard | 6’5” | 205 lbs. | Senior | Age: 22

2020-21 stats (29 games): 11.0 PPG | 4.6 RPG | 3.7 APG | 1.6 SPG | 54.8 TS% | 16.9 PER

The Athletic’s consensus top-85: 83

ESPN’s top-100: 78

CBS Sports’ Top 100: 61

Garrett is a pass-first guard with twitchy and instinctive defensive ability. He’s long been one of the best point-of-attack defenders in the nation.

The Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in 2019-20 averaged 1.6 steals per game over the last three seasons. He considerably improved his shooting from his freshman year, knocking 34.8 percent of his 2.3 3-point attempts per game as a senior. He also saw massive improvement in his free-throw shooting — netting 80.8 percent of his attempts after hitting them at a disappointing 57.3 percent clip over his first three seasons.

Was his senior year a shooting aberration? The Heat, as well as the rest of the Association, will continue to ask themselves that throughout Garrett’s evaluation process, which will likely determine his NBA ceiling.

Matt Mitchell, San Diego State

Wing | 6’6” | 235 lbs. | Senior | Age: 22

2020-21 stats (25 games): 15.4 PPG | 5.6 RPG | 1.4 SPG | 57.1 TS% | 22.4 PER

The Athletic’s consensus top-85: NR

ESPN’s top-100: 79

CBS Sports’ Top 100: 76

Mitchell is the second Aztec to crack this list. Mitchell plays bigger than his 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame. He might not be the most athletic player on the court, but he’s built like a linebacker and isn’t afraid to play bully-ball inside-the-arc.

He possesses sneaky good lateral quickness, holding his own against smaller guards; his defensive ceiling at the next level suggests he could realistically guard wings and with the potential to guard smaller 5s. His efficiency dipped from his junior to senior seasons (61.1 TS% to 57.1 TS%) with higher volume, but was still able to score at a proficient level.

At San Diego State under head coach Brian Dutcher, Mitchell possessed an ethos of credible work ethic and a winning mentality. Couple those traits with his on-court toughness and you got a #HEATCULTURE™ type player.

“I’m that junkyard dog that gets it done, no matter what it is,” Mitchell told HoopsHype in May. “It’s not always about scoring for me. It’s not always about making a big play. It’s about making that next pass. It’s about making that smart pass. It’s about making the corner three-pointer. It’s about making the right play to the big. It’s about making the right cut at the right time. It’s about versatility and it’s about IQ. I’m always going to give 100 percent.”

Moses Wright, Georgia Tech

Forward/Center | 6’9” | 233 lbs. | Senior | Age: 22

2020-21 stats (25 games): 17.4 PPG | 8.0 RPG | 1.5 SPG | 1.6 BPG | 57.0 TS% | 26.8 PER

The Athletic’s consensus top-85: 65

ESPN’s top-100: 77

CBS Sports’ Top 100: 66

After failing to make an All-ACC team as a junior, Wright rose to earning the ACC Player of the Year with his first All-ACC Defense appearance last season. Though he is just 6-foot-9, Wright is a gifted athlete with a high motor and possesses great length (7-foot-2 wingspan).

He didn’t take them often, but he drastically improved his 3-point shooting (41.4 percent) his senior season compared to his prior three years (16.7 percent). He saw improvement as a free-throw shooter, hitting nearly 66 percent of his attempts in 2020-21. Wright showed flashes as a playmaker, but still has plenty of room to grow in that department. His size, motor and defensive potential — on the interior and in-space — suggest that he is a good two-way target for Miami to pursue if he goes undrafted.

McKinley Wright IV, Colorado

Guard | 6’0” | 196 lbs. | Senior | Age: 22

2020-21 stats (32 games): 15.2 PPG | 4.3 RPG | 5.7 APG | 1.1 SPG | 48.0 FG% | 56.8 TS% | 24.6 PER

The Athletic’s consensus top-85: 63

ESPN’s top-100: 56

CBS Sports’ Top 100: 73

Wright’s size — or lack thereof — will hurt his draft stock, but he is a smart point guard that can operate an NBA offense. He occupies a degree of craftiness and fearlessness that should intrigue NBA teams.

Though his efficiency from beyond the arc took a hit from his junior to his senior season, his true shooting percentage improved a couple ticks from 54.6 to 56.8 percent. Given his size, Wright’s a good rebounder and a capable defender. His “defensive intensity caught the eye of NBA scouts” at the Scouting Combine by picking up players 94 feet and getting “underneath bigger guards and proved to be a pest by staying attached, fighting over screens,” per ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz.

In both the Combine and at Colorado, Wright routinely organized the offense and catalyzed the actions as their primary initiator; he showcased keen awareness and poise as a ball handler in the dribble hand-off and pick-and-roll. His ceiling as a lead creator that could pressure at the point-of-attack — compensating for his lack of sheer size — should warrant a potential second-round pick or a two-way contract.

Predicating on who goes undrafted, which players who do you think Miami should give consideration to? Comment below.