Miami Heat rookie forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. has turned heads with his play so far this season, but Heat assistant coach Caron Butler was a big fan of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) product before he ever even played in a regular season NBA game.
Said this on Off the Floor a while back, but Caron Butler may be the single biggest fan of Jaime Jaquez in the Heat organization. He was telling high level Heat officials in August — after summer league — that Jaquez would be a star.
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Butler served as the head coach for the Heat during Summer League, and he was extremely impressed with what he saw from Jaquez around that time.
“He’s a baller,” Butler said of Jaquez over the offseason. “High basketball IQ, face-up game, can score back to the basket, off the dribble, live dribble. … Talking about ATOs, you can draw ’em up for him. He has a great feel. He has great emotional intelligence.”
Butler compared Jaquez to former NBA journeyman Jim Jackson, who played for 12 different teams over the course of his career.
“He reminds me a lot of Jim Jackson,” Butler said. “Right off the bat, his body size, really physical, he can defend at this level already. Offensively, he just knows how to get to his spots and get exactly what he wants.”
Despite his lack of professional experience, Jaquez has played a major role for the Heat so far this season after they selected him in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. The 22-year-old has appeared in 30 games for Miami and is averaging 13.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 28.9 minutes per performance.
Jaquez was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in October and November. He became the fifth Heat player ever to receive the honor, joining Butler (four times), Kendrick Nunn (three times), Josh Richardson and Michael Beasley.
Over two months into the season, the Heat sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 18-12. They’ve gone 9-6 both at home and on the road, and they have a record of 15-10 against other teams in the East. Miami is currently 5.5 games behind the Boston Celtics, who have the best record in the conference.
The Heat were able to pull out a 119-113 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas. However, they have a tough stretch of games coming up. Miami’s next five games are all on the road, and they all come against teams fighting for positioning in a competitive Western Conference.
Miami will take on the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. Then, the Heat will face off against the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns before returning home to host the Houston Rockets on Jan. 8.
Jaquez figures to continue to be a key cog for the Heat, and there’s a real likelihood that the rookie’s role will continue to expand as he gets increasingly comfortable playing at the NBA level.