March Madness is rapidly approaching. Conference tournaments — from the SWAC to the Mountain West to the Big 12 — will tip-off in the matter of days. We’re nearing one of the most exciting parts of the college basketball season that’s must-watch from game-to-game, conference-to-conference and tournament-to-tournament.
That said, we are about four months away from the NBA Draft, where five dozen* of the top stars across college basketball — in addition to the newly-formed G-League Unite — hear their name called to see where they will continue to fulfill their hopes and dreams as NBA players.
Barring any offseason trade, the Heat own a first-round pick this year! They will possess the worst of the three first-rounders between the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets. With Houston slotted as one of the three teams with a 14 percent chance at securing the top-pick and the Nets as the 8-seed in the East, Miami — who are second in the East at 38-21 — will likely own their own pick.
I combed through several mock drafts across multiple sites to see who the experts project the Heat landing in June. Though team evaluators will inevitably change their thoughts on nearly every player between now and then, let’s dive into the assortment of prospects linked to Miami before the college basketball regular season concludes.
Without further ado, let’s jump into it!
Writer’s note: The following mock drafts selected are all their most recent mock draft posted on their site, dating all the way back to Jan. 11.
The Athletic (Sam Vecenie, Feb. 17):
27. E.J. Liddell, F, Ohio State
“E.J. Liddell has been one of the best players in the country this year and, certainly, among the most productive across the board. He’s averaging 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and 2.5 blocks per game, a tremendous amount of across-the-board box score numbers that very few players in recent history have matched. In fact, Liddell is the only player in the last quarter-century of college hoops to average those numbers. He’s also doing it on real efficiency while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3 and leading Ohio State near the top of the Big Ten without what could be referred to as stellar guard play. NBA scouts have similar worries with Liddell that they did last year in terms of his lateral quickness and positionality on defense. Some scouts think he could play some five because of his shot-blocking ability, a la an undersized guy like Grant Williams, but others are less convinced due to his lack of size. That’s why his draft stock is a bit muted around the league. But if a lot of freshmen choose to return to school, Liddell has a very good shot to hear his name called in the first round at this point.”
USA Today (Bryan Kalbrosky, Feb. 16):
“Another candidate for the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award is Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell. He slots well as a pick-and-pop option in the frontcourt on offense who would provide the versatility that Miami’s team values on both sides of the ball. Even though he isn’t going to stand out as one of the sexiest picks in the draft, he projects as a solid pro.”
NBADraft.net (Last updated Feb. 11):
27. Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
NBC Sports (Tyler Byrum and Chase Hughes, Jan. 22):
25. Christian Braun, F, Kansas
“Braun is the second-leading scorer on one of the best teams in the country. He’s a solid, versatile player who does a lot of things well. He’s a disruptor on the defensive end, a creative playmaker in transition and a smooth finisher around the basket. Though he’s not an elite 3-point shooter, he shot a high percentage as a freshman, which could sell NBA teams on his shooting potential.”
Bleacher Report (Jonathan Wasserman, Feb. 2):
26. Dyson Daniels, G, G-League Ignite
Yahoo Sports (Krysten Peek, Feb. 21):
Sir Charles In Charge (Michael Saenz, Feb. 20):
26. Ochai Agbaji, F, Kansas
“If there will be one need for the Miami Heat heading into the offseason, it will be solidifying their frontcourt. Especially with the questions that they’ve had for much of the season (even if it came through injury).
Ochai Agbaji could be an option late in the first round for the Heat. Agbaji has made quite the progression from his freshman to senior season at Kansas; he’s now averaging 20 points and five rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from 3-point range.
He’d be a veteran option in the draft for the Heat and could end up finding a nice role for a team that will be looking to be contending once again.”
ESPN (Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz, Feb. 23):
27. JD Davison, G, Alabama
Sports Illustrated (Jeremy Woo, Jan. 13):
“It’s been a bit difficult to get a handle on Davison, who brings elite run-jump athleticism in the backcourt, but doesn’t have ideal size for a combo guard and has struggled to consistently or efficiently generate offense. He’s a terrific passer, but his inability to make shots off the dribble allows defenses to sag off of him, and limits his capacity to utilize arguably his best skill. Davison doesn’t add a ton of value off the ball, which places a lot of weight on his development as a lead ballhandler and defender. His quality of play trended down in December, and despite some early lottery buzz, where he actually lands on draft night may depend on how much he can show in conference play. The returns have been somewhat mixed.”
Here is what Woo said about Davison in his top-80 big board:
“Davison has been one of the most polarizing freshman prospects, drawing a wide range of opinions from scouts as to where he deserves to be drafted. He’s an excellent run-jump athlete and quality passer, but his all-around game and decision-making skills leave something to be desired. Davison is a below-average jump shooter, especially off the dribble, and also doesn’t add a whole lot of value playing off the ball, which places a lot of weight on how quickly he can develop into a legitimate full-time lead guard. His feel for the game and tendency to float are both a bit concerning, and NBA teams will simply go underneath ball screens until he proves he can make shots off the dribble. Davison will almost certainly need G League time out of the gate, and while he’s in the first round discussion, not everyone is sold.”
26. Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
27. Trevor Keels, G, Duke
“Keels has the tools and talents of a lottery pick but needs to be more consistent. He’s built like Lu Dort but with a much more polished offensive game.”
Sporting News (Kyle Irving, Feb. 11):
26. Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame
“Wesley has inserted his way onto Mock Draft boards as the catalyst of Notre Dame’s surprising success. He orchestrates this team’s offense in the halfcourt, knowing when to set up his teammates or look for his own shot. He excels as a shot creator, even with an inconsistent jumper, which could be his key to becoming a solidified NBA prospect this year or down the line.”
Sportscasting (Adam Fromal, Feb. 21):
“Though the shots aren’t falling during his freshman season at Notre Dame, Blake Wesley is still a born scorer who overcomes a relative lack of explosion with excellent instincts on and off the ball and the dribbling skills to break down any opponent. If the jumper starts falling, that, coupled with his stifling on-ball defense, would make him the obvious heir apparent to soon-to-be 36-year-old Kyle Lowry for the Miami Heat.”