Despite the fact that Jaime Jaquez Jr. is joining a Miami Heat team that just reached the finals, one Heat insider believes that he could see action almost immediately.
Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel pointed out that due to depth issues, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra could go against his usual approach of bringing rookies along more slowly.
“With the free-agency losses of Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, the depth has been compromised,” Winderman wrote. “Plus, if there is a trade for Damian Lillard (and Jaquez is not dealt), that depth could be further compromised. Plus, unlike when the Heat drafted Nikola Jovic in 2022 or even Precious Achiuwa in 2020, they were relative neophytes, hardly NBA-ready prospects. Jaime arrives as a 22-year-old with four seasons of high-level competitive experience at UCLA. In some ways, the choice seemingly was made because the Heat knew they would need an NBA-ready contributor.”
Jaquez was taken by the Heat with the 18th overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft in June out of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Players taken in the latter half of the first round sometimes don’t even make the team or are not thrown so quickly into the fire of an NBA season.
Putting together an extensive collegiate career at UCLA, Jaquez played in 134 contests for the Bruins, averaging 13.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. As noted by Winderman, spending that much time in college has allowed him to flesh out his game and offer the Heat more of a finished product.
Right now, there’s no indication that a potential deal for Lillard will happen in the immediate future. The longer that such trade talk is drawn out, since Jaquez’ name has been mentioned, the more that Spoelstra will have to look for ways to integrate the rookie into the lineup.
A Lillard deal is going to require the Heat to give up a great deal in return, whether to the Portland Trail Blazers or other teams that could conceivably become involved. Exactly what the final cost in players and future assets remains unknown, but it’s guaranteed to be steep.
Another reason why potentially using Jaquez so quickly shouldn’t strike fear into Heat fans is because of the Heat’s extended history of developing unsung players. Names like Vincent, Strus, along with a player like Duncan Robinson come to mind, with all of them developing into team assets.
If he’s still with the team after the seemingly inevitable Lillard trade, Jaquez will undoubtedly experience the growing pains that all rookies endure. Yet, the Heat seem to feel that the rookie has the mental makeup to adapt and then thrive as part of a title-contending team.