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Miami Heat select UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. at No. 18 in NBA draft

MIAMI – Less than two weeks after their season came to an end with a Game 5 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat turned to the future at Thursday’s NBA draft with the selection of UCLA swingman Jaime Jaquez Jr. with the No. 18 choice.

Because the NBA does not reseed teams based on playoff results, the Heat wound up picking in the middle of the first round in the wake of closing the 2022-23 regular season at 44-38.

For the Heat, the addition of 22-year-old Jaquez adds to a youth component that also includes 20-year-old 2022 first-round pick Nikola Jovic, who went No. 27 last season.

A second-team All-America and the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Jaquez averaged 17.8 points last season as a senior for the Bruins on .481 shooting from the field, but just .317 on 3-pointers.

Unlike last year’s selection of Jovic, it was more of a veteran draft move for the Heat.

“I have a lot of experience,” Jaquez said shortly after he was drafted. “That’s what I told teams.”

According to NBA’s scouting report, “Jaquez has good size and strength for a forward. He has good footwork in the post and can create his own shot or generate looks for his teammates. Jaquez is a crafty finisher but has also shown the ability to step outside for jump shots from the midrange and three. He is a smart defender who is adept at reading passing lanes.”

That scouting report at the league’s website offered a projection of, “Jaquez will likely begin his career competing for playing time but has the potential to develop into a quality bench player. His game has shades of Rui Hachimura and Anthony Lamb due to his strong rebounding profile and ability to finish around the rim.”

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas summed up Jaquez in terms of the type of player typically selected in the middle of the first round.

“He’s tough, hard-nosed and always plays hard,” he said. “He was the one guy who stood out who played the hardest. Fundamentally sound. Really good isolation forward, like (New York Knicks guard) Jalen Brunson, the way he can back you down and pivot around you. He knows how to play.

“It’s very Miami Heat to draft a player like Jaquez, very fundamentally sound.”

Next up for the Heat is next week’s start of NBA free agency, with summer league to begin the following week.

The No. 18 pick on the NBA’s draft salary scale slots in at $2.9 million next season, eligible to be paid from 80% to 120% of that figure. NBA draft-scale contracts are guaranteed for three seasons.

The Heat did not hold a second-round pick in Thursday’s draft, having previously moved it to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2017 salary dump of Josh McRoberts. That pick, which slotted in Thursday at No. 50, eventually was moved on to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The question now for the Heat is whether they move forward with Jaquez  or utilize him in a trade package. NBA draft picks can be dealt immediately until signed, then cannot be dealt for a month.

As for potential trades, the Portland Trail Blazers’ selection of G League guard Scoot Henderson at No. 3, which appears to signal a further youth movement, could open the door for a Damian Lillard trade. The Heat have been among the teams linked to such a potential trade.

Among those who went ahead of the Heat’s No. 18 selection were Kentucky guard Cason Wallace at No. 10 by the Dallas Mavericks, who then was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder; Michigan forward Jett Howard at No. 11 to the Orlando Magic; Duke center Dereck Lively II at No. 12 to the Mavericks; Kansas guard Gradey Dick at No. 13 to the Toronto Raptors; Connecticut guard Jordan Hawkins at No. 14 to the New Orleans Hornets; Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin at No. 15 to the Atlanta Hawks; Baylor guard Keyonte George at No. 16 to the Atlanta Hawks; and Indiana forward Jalen Hood-Schifino at No. 17 to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Among those selected immediately after Jaquez went to the Heat were Santa Clara guard Brandin Podziemski at No. 19 to the Golden State Warriors, Villanova forward Cam Whitmore at No. 20 to the Houston Rockets, and Alabama center Noah Clowney at No. 21 to the Brooklyn Nets.

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