From Pat Riley to Bam Adebayo to Tyler Herro, the Miami Heat have generated part of its ongoing success through the University of Kentucky.
And as of now, the pipeline between Miami and the Wildcats has excelled, bringing the Heat it’s youngest NBA All-Star in Bam Adebayo, and a go-to shooter in Tyler Herro.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra agrees. In an interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio back in April, Spoelstra had his fair share of praise regarding the successful program John Calipari has created in Lexington, Kentucky:
“I’ve been up there a few times, just to see how he [Cal] does his program. We like talking shop and everything. But he’s going to coach you hard. They’re going to spend a lot of time with player development.
“I loved the fact that he [Bam] played a role at Kentucky, I mentioned that when I first met him. He said he was capable of more, but he loved being in that program, loved being developed by that coaching staff of Cal, Kenny Payne. But he had no problem playing a role.
“None of those guys ever average 25 points a game. That’s not the deal when you go to Kentucky. You are going to have to defend. You’re going to have to play a role. There’s going to be a ton of talent, a ton of lottery talent around you. So you’re going to have to be willing to share in the game, share in the success, and enjoy other people playing well, and not play for numbers. So I think for a college program, there’s no better way to develop, to get ready for the next level in this league.”
Miami’s Bam Adebayo is a perfect example of the talent coming out of Calipari’s system, averaging 16.2 points per game, 10.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals in just his third season, becoming the youngest player in Heat franchise history to become an NBA All-Star.
Rookie Tyler Herro is emerging as another prodigy for Miami’s long-term success. The former Wildcat averaged 12.9 points and 3.7 rebounds on 41.4% shooting and 39.1% from beyond the arc.
As NBA teams, including the Heat, continue to scout what’s in store in the 2020 Draft, let’s take a look at the Kentucky Wildcat players that could fall in the hands of Miami.
Tyrese Maxey | Freshman | Guard
I covered Tyrese Maxey in the “3 Potential NBA Draft Targets For The Miami Heat” article in April, describing the Kentucky guard as a type of player that “thrives well in open spaces, using his incredible athleticism and quickness to convert for Kentucky. Maxey’s confidence stands out tremendously as he’s not afraid of taking a game-winning shot. His intangibles make his game so fun to watch and worth drafting in the first round, as he will get that type of open space in the NBA.”
Maxey was one of the nation’s most effective players, averaging 14 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game this season. The 6-foot-3 guard was named Second Team All-SEC and All-SEC freshman team.
ESPN ranks Maxey as the No. 14 prospect in this year’s draft, making it ultimately unlikely that he will fall to the Heat’s projected 23rd pick unless they decide to trade up.
Ashton Hagans | Sophomore | Guard
Ashton Hagans enters the 2020 Draft as one of the nation’s top perimeter defenders. The two-year starter was a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of The Year, averaging 1.9 steals per game just a season after winning SEC Defensive Player of The Year as a freshman.
Hagans became a big-time distributor for Kentucky last season, taking over the point guard role, averaging 6.4 assists per game. He also finished with 11.5 points per game in 30 games played.
Coach Calipari praised Hagans’ progression from his first season with the Wildcats: “he’s a completely different player and he’s built his skills and his confidence to take that next step.”
With such a rich history of point guards at Kentucky, featuring John Wall, Rajon Rondo, De’Aaron Fox, and Jamal Murray, the potential Ashton Hagans has to produce in the next level is very special.
The 6-foot-3 guard is ranked as ESPN’s No. 50 best available player while CBS Sports has him at No. 47. The Heat could look to trade down or add another pick in this year’s draft to take the talented guard.
Immanuel Quickley | Sophomore | Guard
At 6-foot-3, along with an astonishing 6-foot-10 wingspan, the lanky guard averaged a team-high 16.1 points per game on 42.8% three-point shooting. Quickley also finished with 4.2 rebounds a night. The two-year guard is also a great free-throw shooter, finishing 92.3% from the line.
Quickley has a great ability to catch fire on the floor, finishing with eight 20+ point performances. His impressive season helped him garner SEC Player of the Year honors. Coach Calipari believes his game will work in the next level: “There’s no question in my mind that his growth in the NBA will be on the same path that it was here, which is steep.”
Despite his breakout season, ESPN has him ranked as the No. 53 prospect in the ESPN top 100 and CBS Sports has him at No. 44. Miami will presumably have an opportunity to target Immanuel Quickley in this year’s Draft.
Nick Richards | Junior | Forward
If you’re looking for someone who can develop drastically in a span of a season, Nick Richards is that guy. After averaging 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in his sophomore year, Richards exploded his junior campaign, recording 14.0 points and 7.8 rebounds a night. He shot over 64% from the field and also knocked down 75% of his free-throws.
The 6-foot-11 forward has a great work ethic, making him a great fit for the Heat culture. Projected to be selected very late in the second round, Miami could look to add a pick to their stock and choose the Kentucky Wildcat.
Kahlil Whitney | Freshman | Guard
Kahlil Whitney is a prospect that has lost the majority of his recognition prior to his freshman campaign. Entering Kentucky as a McDonalds All-American, Whitney averaged 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in just 13 minutes per game before deciding to leave Kentucky in late January as his playing time had diminished.
Entering the season, Whitney was a projected lottery pick. Now, he is ESPN’s No. 74 best available player in this year’s draft. However, he is still expected to draw interest in the second round.
The 6-foot-7 forward could still ultimately be a solid gamble, considering that his potential is high, being just 19 years old. Shooting 37.1% overall, Whitney could be a great two-way player for the Heat as he develops at the next level.