Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been everything the Miami Heat could have asked for this season, and the rookie recently said he wanted to wind up with the team all along.
He said he had his sights set on the Heat before they actually selected him with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
“A lot of reasons,” Jaquez said when asked why he wanted to land with the Heat. “I think when it comes to basketball, just being under Pat Riley and coach Spo (Erik Spoelstra), I don’t think you could ask for two better guys when it comes to basketball to play under and learn from. So that was a big reason.
“I also didn’t want to stay in L.A. for all my life. I wanted to get out and be somewhere new, kind of challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone. So coming to Miami was a spot that I always really loved. I had been here before a couple times and I just loved the city, loved everything about it. So I just really wanted to come here.”
Jaquez has earned rave reviews from teammates and NBA observers alike in his brief professional career. Teammate Jimmy Butler spoke highly of the 22-year-old after a recent victory against the Indiana Pacers, when Jaquez came off the bench to contribute 24 points and five rebounds.
In addition, ESPN analyst and former NBA player J.J. Redick said that Jaquez has been the best rookie in the league outside of Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs and Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That observation is notable because Wembanyama was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft while Holmgren was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, Jaquez was selected later in the first round, providing the Heat with exceptional value.
Jaquez is older than most rookies who debut in the NBA, having played four seasons at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). That experience has paid off as he has fit in almost seamlessly on a Heat team led by veterans Butler and Bam Adebayo and longtime head coach Spoelstra.
The forward is averaging 12.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game and has played in all of Miami’s 19 contests this season. He has helped the Heat fashion an 11-8 record, and his big outing against the Pacers helped end a three-game losing streak.
Miami hosts Indiana again on Saturday night.
After being drafted, Jaquez was mentioned at times during offseason trade rumors, notably surrounding Damian Lillard. The Heat missed out on the former Portland Trail Blazers star as well as on Bradley Beal and Jrue Holiday in their search for another star to add to their lineup.
But as it turns out, they may have a budding star in Jaquez. The Heat have to be glad they are able to count on the talented young player and can give him such an important role so early on in his time with the team.