Miami Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. has drawn some tough defensive assignments in the team’s first three games this season, but he’s embracing the challenge.
Over Miami’s last two games, Jaquez has found himself matched up with Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards. However, he’s taking pride in doing what he can to slow them down.
“I would just say just trying my best to not let anything get away from me,” he said of matching up against Tatum and Edwards. “Make them take tough shots, just staying in front.
“I was challenged with those assignments. I take pride in it. I’m just trying to get as many stops as I can, get the ball out of their hands and keep learning.”
There have definitely been some growing pains for Jaquez – as evidenced by his defense on Tatum – but there have been some bright spots too.
In this play, Jaquez gets fooled by a fake cut from Tatum, and he ends up giving up a dunk at the rim.
Tough play sequence for Jaquez, he gets lost as Tatum fakes the slice cut, doesn't see Smith switching for him and then gets dunked on by Brissett. pic.twitter.com/fAI5aSnlZY
— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) October 28, 2023
However, he does a really solid job of staying with Tatum on another play in the game, forcing a tough 3-point shot.
Jaime makes up for it shortly thereafter.
Looks like Boston’s flowing into a double drag.
KP flips the screen & Jaime navigates it very well.
Jaquez stays with him step-for-step. Tatum takes an ill-advised stepback 3. Very good contest. Miss. pic.twitter.com/zNkBPEz9xB
— Matt Hanifan (@mph_824_) October 28, 2023
Even though Jaquez played four seasons in college at the University of California, Los Angeles, he’s going to have to take some time to adjust to the NBA and playing defense against some of the game’s best players.
So far in his rookie campaign, Jaquez is contributing solidly for Miami. He’s playing 15.3 minutes per game and has already made a start in his first three NBA contests.
Jaquez is averaging 4.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.7 steals so far this season while shooting 66.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra explained the decision to match Jaquez up with some of the game’s best offensive stars in just his first three contests in the NBA.
“Welcome to the league and the introduction of our defense and responsibilities and all that,” Spoelstra said regarding giving Jaquez tough defensive assignments. “Because of where he is right now, he’s in a great place, but still on the minutes restriction. I figured it would be best to start him, and might as well give that challenge.
“And he’s a smart player. He picks up things fast. So day by day, he’s improving.”
It’s clear that Spoelstra and the Heat have high hopes for Jaquez, and as he gets more reps, he should get more comfortable on the defensive end of the floor.
It will be interesting to see if Jaquez draws a tough assignment on Monday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.