Miami Heat: Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been labeled as the “NBA-ready” pick from the 2023 draft. He was a player who stuck around through his senior year after three deep tournament runs for the UCLA Bruins. A player like Jaquez makes more sense on a win-now team like the Miami Heat than on an up-and-comer like the OKC Thunder. So what would the Thunder want with him?
I may be buying too much into the excitement of March Madness, but what I’ve seen from Jaquez is gritty toughness and a strong will to win. He’s the type of player who makes his presence known on the floor, constantly moving and screening for his teammates. Jaquez uses his heavy frame to punish guards who get switched onto him.
Some concern is that the NBA may be too fast and athletic for Jaquez. I don’t see that being an issue. He’s not especially slow-footed, nor does he rely on absurd size or strength advantages like other successful college players.
The key for Jaquez is going to be finding consistency with his three-pointer. If he can stay in the mid to high 30s, I could see him playing a Kenrich Williams role for a team.
I was torn between Jaquez and Heat forward Nikola Jovic when putting this list together. Jovic is taller, younger, and already has a year of NBA experience. As the higher-ceiling prospect, it makes sense that OKC would instead take a swing on Jovic and pray for a home run. The truth is, I don’t feel I’ve seen enough flashes from Jovic to warrant picking him over the promising rookie Jaquez.
There’s just something about Jaquez that stands out to me. He exudes the same confidence that I see from Chet Holmgren. Throughout his college career, Jaquez showed he can make winning plays for a team. If Oklahoma City is ready to start competing, a player like Jaime Jaquez Jr. will only help with that goal. That is, if he is not on his way to Portland in a Damian Lillard package.