Miami Heat figures gush about Jaime Jaquez Jr. after solid NBA debut vs. Detroit Pistons

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The stats may not have been eye-popping, but Jaime Jaquez Jr. definitely made an excellent first impression on his head coach and teammates in his NBA regular season debut for the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old rookie made all three of his field-goal attempts to total six points and added two rebounds, two assists and two steals while playing a tad over 13 minutes in the 103-102 season-opening victory against the Detroit Pistons.

The performance drew rave reviews from head coach Erik Spoelstra and veterans Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, three people he will have to impress to get more playing time, especially in key moments, as the season moves along.

Jaquez has been thought of as a potential key contributor for the Heat this season from the moment he was selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. He comes into the NBA with more experience than other rookies, having played 134 games at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

He missed just one game as a four-year standout and established himself in the record books at the school by ranking eighth in Bruins history in scoring, eighth in steals and 11th in rebounding. He helped UCLA reach the Final Four in 2021 and started all 37 games last season en route to winning Pac-12 Player of the Year.

The combination of experience and skills stood out during the preseason process and drew praise from not only his organization, but from around the league also. He was voted as one of the steals of the 2023 draft in a preseason survey of NBA general managers.

Jaquez dealt with a slight injury before the season began but looked ready to go on Wednesday.

The Heat squandered a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter but held on to defeat the Pistons behind 22 points from Adebayo and 19 points and 13 rebounds from Butler.

Butler has felt the need to defend the Heat’s title chances after failing to land a big-name player in the offseason. But landing Jaquez in the draft could be one addition that eventually helps Miami reach its goal of winning another championship.

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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.