It was an interesting introduction into the NBA for Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. the UCLA star chosen by Miami with the 18th pick in this year’s draft. Not long after he was picked, speculation about a trade for Damian Lillard began to churn and, in the process, Jaquez’s name came up as a potential chip to be sent to Portland.
It made sense. The Blazers wanted young assets and draft picks in a Holiday package, and Jaquez counts as a very young asset. But it should be noted: At no point did the Heat ever include Jaquez in their discussions with Portland.
Still, Jaquez knew things could change quickly.
“I won’t lie, at first it was in the back of my head,” Jaquez told the Miami Herald last week. “Like what’s going to happen? Am I going to leave? You never know. But as we moved on and time went on, I just got really comfortable in my situation that whatever happens, happens. I just believe it’s all a part of a bigger plan. Things happen for a reason.
“If I stay, great. If I get traded, it was fun while it lasted. But I try not to worry about that. I can only control what I can control.”
Heat Love Jaquez’s 2-Way Ability
The Heat were enamored of Jaquez in June, especially after their remarkable run from the play-in tournament to the NBA Finals. Not only does he fit the Heat’s mentality as far as defense and hustle go—those were his calling cards with the Bruins—but he gives Miami something the team felt it was lacking last year, a playmaker on the wing.
The Heat also brought in former Miami guard/forward Josh Richardson, another defensive-minded playmaker who can handle three positions.
One of the challenges for Jaquez will be to take his collegiate defensive abilities and apply them to the much more difficult NBA. He also must get better at knocking down perimeter shots—he made just 31.7% of his 3s last year as a senior.
He has also put on weight this summer while working with Heat trainers, and said his body fat has dropped from 8% to 6%.
“Just being able to knock down shots consistently and being able to play defense. I think those are the two major things for this upcoming season,” he said.
Jaime Jaquez Taking Advice from Heat Vets
Jaquez also said he spent most of the summer living in and getting adjusted to Miami, after spending his life in California. There has been a lot of individual tutelage, both in conditioning and in skill work, with the Heat, who are renowned for their ability to develop young talent.
But Jaquez also has made connections with the elder Heat statesmen—he appeared in a commercial with Jimmy Butler, who posted photo of the two hanging out in Beverly Hills. And he’s had conversations with star Bam Adebayo and veteran forward Kevin Love this summer.
“Kevin Love has been around a lot more, so it’s been great talking to him. Obviously, he’s a UCLA guy,” Jaquez said. “Bam [Adebayo], I’ve probably seen him the most in my time in Miami. He’s just been around. They just tell me to keep it slow and be ready to shoot that thing when it gets to you. It’s going to be a long season, take it slow, one step at a time, there’s going to be ups and downs. Just stay steady through it all.”