Jaime Jaquez Jr. has become widely acknowledged as one of the biggest steals of the 2023 NBA Draft, and the Miami Heat rookie has no problem letting the teams that passed on him know that he’s all good with it.
“So as long as I came here, I was good,” Jaquez said. “So it ended up working out for me. To the teams that passed, sorry, but this is where I wanted to go, anyway.”
The 22-year-old has been drawing raves since the Heat were able to select him with the No. 18 overall pick back in June. He has lived up to that potential so far in his first NBA season, becoming a valuable contributor to a Heat team that was looking for someone to step up after some significant personnel losses.
With Max Strus and Gabe Vincent departing this offseason and Tyler Herro missing much of the early portion of the 2023-24 NBA season because of an ankle injury, Jaquez has been a godsend.
He is averaging 12.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steal in about 27 minutes per game. In addition, he is the only Heat player to appear in all 22 of their contests this season.
That production and reliability have made him an unforeseen possible candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year. Though San Antonio Spurs phenom Victor Wembanyama entered the league with considerably more hype and Oklahoma City Thunder standout Chet Holmgren being more heralded, Jaquez has played his way into the discussion, according to ESPN analyst J.J. Redick.
In addition, Bill Simmons mentioned Jaquez as one of the reasons the NBA pundit believes the Heat remain “the alpha” in the Eastern Conference.
While being given flowers from outside observers is always nice, respect from teammates is even more significant. In fact, Heat superstar Jimmy Butler has been speaking highly of Jaquez for months now and recently heaped major praise on him after a big performance against the Indiana Pacers.
Coming out of the University of California, Los Angeles with vast playing experience, Jaquez said it was his plan all along to have an immediate impact in the league. Though 22 games is a very small sample size compared to an 82-game season — not to mention an entire NBA career — consider that the first box checked for the emerging star.