Jaime Jaquez Jr. will give the Miami Heat a player who can contribute in every area and help them win in the playoffs, according to someone who knows him as well as anyone.
Jaquez was selected by Miami with the No. 18 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft out of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his college coach Mick Cronin spoke highly of the choice.
“We’re all broken-hearted that he’s gone,” Cronin said to the Miami Herald when asked what the Heat can expect from Jaquez. “So that should tell you. Myself and every UCLA fan, because he’s the most reliable guy I’ve ever coached. Every day in practice and every game, there’s never a no show with him. That’s because he’s not reliant upon one thing as a player. So he can help you win a game scoring, he can win you a game rebounding and he can help you win a game with his defense.”
Jaquez’s skill set has Cronin comparing him to former Heat veteran P.J. Tucker.
“They’re not totally similar because Jaime is a better one-on-one player,” Cronin said. “But he’s got a lot of P.J. Tucker in him. He’s just going to do what he needs to do to help you win. He’s just that kind of a guy. To me, Jaime is always going to be wanted on teams that are trying to win. He may never be your leading scorer, but he’s the guy that you have to have because he can get things done in the playoffs.”
Tucker has played 11 NBA seasons after returning from five seasons overseas following a brief NBA debut in the 2006-07 season. He has averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in the NBA and played for the Philadelphia 76ers this season after playing one season for the Heat.
Jaquez missed just one game as a four-year standout for Cronin at UCLA and established himself in the record books at the tradition-rich school by ranking eighth in Bruins history in scoring, eighth in steals and 11th in rebounding. He helped UCLA reach the 2021 Final Four and started all 37 games last season on his way to winning Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Jaquez has expressed a lot of excitement about joining the Heat, specifically mentioning the chance to play alongside Bam Adebayo.
The rookie is only 22 years old and has so much college experience, a combination that gives the Heat a seasoned player who might be able to contribute more quickly than a typical NBA draft pick. That aligns with Miami’s plan to do whatever it can to surround Adebayo and Jimmy Butler with useful players who can help with another run at an NBA championship.
Miami made a surprise appearance in the 2023 NBA Finals before losing to the Denver Nuggets in five games. The Heat also lost the 2020 Finals and have reached the Eastern Conference Finals three times in the past four seasons.
Miami also is in danger of losing Max Strus and Gabe Vincent in free agency, though there is “mutual interest” in them re-signing.
Player movement this offseason could make Jaquez even more important to the Heat’s immediate plans, and his former coach definitely feels he is up to the task.