The LB NBA Mock Draft: The Miami Heat Select Cleanthony Early #26 Overall

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Miami needs some help now. Cleanthony Early can fill one of their biggest holes.

Since the Big Three era started four years ago, the only first round pick the Heat have made and kept for themselves has been Norris Cole, at 29th overall. While it has since been proven that Norris Cole does not make the Heat unstoppable (RIP), his selection was both a strong one given the draft slot and, to me, represents what Miami wants out of a draft pick - if the team keeps the selection, that is.

I don't think that will happen, as the Heat have every incentive to trade out of the slot. There will be demand for the pick late in the round, as this is the most likely to be available in a deal. The Heat won't have the patience to draft-and-stash an international player, as their window for contention is now (and they do need help). And the Heat need cap space that won't be there when they make the selection here to open as much money for a potential Big Four scenario.

So given these factors, this is the most likely late first rounder that the Sixers (or any other team itching to move from round 2 into the late first) will make a move for. Want the 7'3" potential shot blocking mammoth Walter Tavares, who's quite clearly a draft-and-stash prospect? The Heat will oblige, probably for a second rounder or two. 32 and 54 probably gets this deal done. Second round picks contain no cap holds, and the Heat could easily select a role player at 32 that could have been the selection at 26. That looks like a win-win for both teams.

Pimping Prospects

But in this mock, we're not projecting trades. Instead, I'm taking the Norris Cole approach for the Heat, where the team looks for what appears to be an NBA-ready role player that fills a need and hopes that player can do it successfully. As Zach Lowe mentioned during his ECF coverage, the Heat drafted Cole knowing he filled a hole as a defensive-minded backup point guard after they struggled defending J.J. Barea in the Dallas finals series. If the Heat could not find a trade partner, or if the team chooses to keep the selection, the same approach will likely be employed.

The Heat could use a young, mobile rim-protector, some shooting at the wing positions for a potential Ray Allen retirement, possibly a point guard to replace Mario Chalmers, and a hybrid forward who can space the floor to replace the retiring Shane Battier and the free-agent-to-be Rashard Lewis.

Of those holes, the easiest to fill at this point is probably the hybrid forward role. The Heat received very little production out of Battier and Lewis until the ECF began, and even then Indiana and San Antonio openly welcomed possessions where Rashard Lewis shot the ball. The Heat could use a better athlete in that spot as well. Two candidates left on the board fill that role quite nicely given their current profiles: Glenn Robinson III and Cleanthony Early.

Of the two, Early is the better fit for the Heat. He played a stretch-four role at Wichita State, so what he will be doing isn't all that different than what he did in college. He shot 37% from three at the college level, and the Heat would hope he can do that with the deeper line and the greater competition. He's more developed from a physical standpoint than Robinson and roughly three years older.

Early is undersized for a power forward, but the Heat don't need him to be that big. They need him to be athletic and rangy, and competitive and strong enough to at least make post match ups a wash. He's done that at the college level, and if he can do it in the pros, he would be a solid pick for Miami. Robinson is probably a year or two away from contributing, and that's too long for the Heat's window of title contention.

Tomorrow, Michael Baumann will make (yet another) Phoenix Suns selection.

1. Cleveland CavaliersJoel Embiid
2. Milwaukee BucksAndrew Wiggins
3. Philadelphia 76ersJabari Parker
4. Orlando MagicDante Exum
5. Utah JazzNoah Vonleh
6. Boston CelticsAaron Gordon
7. Los Angeles LakersJulius Randle
8. Sacramento KingsMarcus Smart
9. Charlotte HornetsNik Stauskas
10. Philadelphia 76ers - Gary Harris
11. Denver NuggetsZach LaVine
12. Orlando Magic - Dario Saric
13. Minnesota TimberwolvesKyle Anderson
14. Phoenix Suns - Doug McDermott
15. Atlanta Hawks - James Young
16. Chicago Bulls - Elfrid Payton
17. Boston Celtics - Clint Capela
18. Phoenix Suns - Adreian Payne
19. Chicago Bulls - Rodney Hood
20. Toronto RaptorsTyler Ennis
21. Oklahoma City Thunder - P.J. Hairston
22. Memphis Grizzlies T.J. Warren
23. Utah JazzK.J. McDaniels
24. Charlotte Hornets -  Jusuf Nurkic
25. Houston Rockets - Jordan Adams
26. Miami Heat - Cleanthony Early
27. Phoenix Suns


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