MIAMI – Based on the Miami Heat’s limitations in free agency under new salary-cap rules, and with the Heat having only one selection in last week’s NBA draft, multiple positions well could stand as areas of needs.
Enter Heat first-round pick Jaime Jaquez Jr..
Been there. Done that. Played them all.
Listed as a guard/forward by UCLA, where he played four seasons, Jaquez arrived to Kaseya Center as the No. 18 pick saying he not only could also play in the power rotation, but already has done so.
“My four years at UCLA,” he said, “I was playing pretty much the four position, although we did switch a lot, interchangeably. We also played small a lot, too. So there were times where I was even playing the five alongside some of my teammates, and I was the biggest guy on the floor.
“So I’m pretty accustomed to guarding those bigger guys.”
Considering the Heat played most of last season with 6-foot-5, 205-pound Caleb Martin as their starting power forward, Jaquez, listed by the NBA at 6-6 and 226, arguably already measures up.
“But as far as bulking up, I don’t necessarily think I feel the need to,” he said of potentially stepping into a power role. “Caleb Martin is a great example of just using that agility and quickness against those bigger guys. But I also do feel like I’m pretty strong at my size and I’m going to be able to sustain my weight.”
With Kevin Love an impending free agent, the Heat’s power rotation stands particularly thin going into the offseason.
Of course, to coach Erik Spoelstra, positional delineations often end with the first move by his defenses, be it with constant switches or in the zone defense that helped propel the team to the NBA Finals.
“At UCLA, all we did was switch,” Jaquez said. “I was guarding big guys; I was guarding little guys. So it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before. When I get to this next level, it’s going to be the same, a lot of switching, guarding big guys, guarding little guys, and you just got to be ready for it.
“I think I’m prepared. I’ll get prepared this offseason even more than I already am.”
On the offensive end, Jaquez already has shown a willingness to take his game into the post, which could work particularly well in the Heat wing rotation, either when Jimmy Butler goes out, or when Butler misses his typical volume of regular-season games.
“I think I can do that,” Jaquez said. “I think, at first, I just got to earn my minutes and find a way on the floor. But hopefully looking down the future, that’s going to be something that I think we can expose and take advantage of.”
Like Butler, there is a deliberate, slo-mo approach by the 22-year-old California native when it comes to maneuvering for his shots.
“I think it’s more of my philosophy of looking at the game,” he said. “As you’re young, they always tell you, as you go up in the level of the game, it always gets faster. But I found out that as it gets faster, you need to go slower. So just trying to always stay under control is something that I’ve really tried to do in my career.
“At UCLA, Coach (Mick) Cronin was a big help in making sure that I was always under control and was very sure of my decisions. So I think just playing at my own pace is something, like looking at guys like Luka (Donic), I think has really helped, just watching the way that he’s always in control, never sped up, and playing his game.”
As for the toughness and persistence that helped make him a master of so many positional elements, Jacquez praised his parents, Angela and Jaime, who both played collegiately at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. It is a lineage that includes Jaime’s sister Gabriela, who is coming off her freshman season at UCLA.
“I would say as far as my toughness and going at 100 all the time probably from my mom,” Jaime said. “She always told me that I wasn’t as skilled as anybody else, but I just worked harder than everyone. I think I got that from her.
“And I think the skills? Probably my dad. He was a point guard, and when I was little, he decided to coach me because he didn’t want any other coach to put me in the post and just not let me do anything else. So I think I got all the skill from him, and the toughness and going after everything I think I got from my mom.”