5 reasons the Miami Heat struck gold with No. 15 pick Kel’el Ware

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat used the No. 15 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft to select center Kel’el Ware. Here are five reasons the Heat may have struck gold with the Indiana University Bloomington product.

1. Versatility

Ware is 7-feet, 242 pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and is able to play in the interior on defense and on the perimeter on offense with an improving 3-point shot. Heat assistant general manager Adam Simon mentioned the attractiveness of the 20-year-old’s versatility.

“Kel’el is a three-and-D center,” Simon said. “It is not easy to find 7-footers who can play out on the perimeter offensively and also be able to defend with his ability to shot block and defend the post. For us, that was very appealing.”

2. Coveted skill set

Able to protect the rim while also spreading the floor on offense, Ware has the skills to be valuable at both ends of the floor. The draft analysis of him at NBA.com states that he has an array of post moves and can pass out of a double-team. He also can use the pick-and-roll to take a 3-pointer, pass or receive a lob. On defense, he knows how to utilize his height and length effectively.

3. Instant production

Last season as a sophomore, in 30 games for Indiana, he averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.9 blocks per game, shooting 58.6 percent from the field. He also shot 42.5 percent from 3-point range, making 17 of his 40 attempts. He had single-game season-highs of 28 points (twice), 17 rebounds and five blocks.

4. Rising potential

In 35 games as a freshman at the University of Oregon, he averaged just 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, making just 45.7 percent of his field-goal attempts. The statistical boost he showed after transferring to Indiana and gaining more experience bodes well for his possible continued improvement under the Heat’s excellent coaching staff.

5. Immediate fit

The Heat did not have a 7-footer on the roster last season, so Ware’s size will be a welcome addition for head coach Erik Spoelstra. The young player will be able to spell Bam Adebayo at times while also playing alongside him when the Miami staff chooses to use a bigger lineup.

“I feel I’ll be able to fit well with the Heat, just being at that five position to help Bam out with Bam potentially going to the four and just being able to space the floor out,” Ware said. “Everything will be much easier for the whole team, especially moving fast-pace up and down the court.”

The Heat did very well with their first-round pick last year — Jaime Jaquez Jr. at No. 18 overall — and may be able to find similar success with this year’s selection of Ware.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.