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Scout analyzes Heat's pickups; More Arian Foster chatter; UM basketball buzz; Marlins trade deadline talk; Radio note

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

So what is the Heat getting exactly with its new players?

We asked a veteran NBA scout (for another team) who has evaluated each of them. Some feedback, with the scout noting that “all these guys are journeymen”:

• Forward Derrick Williams: “When he was at Arizona, he got to the line a lot [8.2 free throw attempts per game]. He was a post up 3 [small forward], got to the basket and got fouled. But that hasn’t translated to the NBA. [He has averaged 3.1 free throw attempts per game as a pro].

“He doesn’t have a great feel; that’s part of it. He started off in a bad situation in Minnesota. Not that smart a player and not a good shooter. He’s a super athlete, but you can neutralize that if you don’t have something beyond athleticism at this level. He can run and post up some, and he played a little better for the Knicks last year. But he didn’t turn the corner. He’s a tweener, more a 4 [power forward] than a 3.”

• Forward James Johnson: “That was a strange [signing]. Super athletic, not a good shooter, questionable decision maker. Didn’t play much for Toronto in the playoffs [12 total minutes in the seven-game Heat series]. You can throw alley oops to him. He can offensive rebound and he’s explosive. You are not going to rely on his jump shot. He’s a tweener; not skilled enough as a 3. His game is around the basket. With Williams and Johnson, Miami has athletes who are physical defensively and theoretically can match up with LeBron [James] and Carmelo Anthony.”

• Guard Wayne Ellington: “I’ve always liked him. Can make shots. Average defender but will try to guard. He is a good locker-room guy. But he’s limited. The more you play him, the less you get out of him. He’s bounced around.”

• Forward Luke Babbitt: “He’s a shooter; that’s it. Every other aspect of his game is questionable. But he can make shots and has proven that. He’s a 4. He can’t guard 3s well. Defensive liability. He’s a specialist.”

• Center Willie Reed: “He’s got a little jump hook; pretty athletic. He’s serviceable as a third-string 5 [center]. If he’s playing a lot, I can’t imagine that will help you.”

• Guard Rodney McGruder: “He can guard, can make a three, plays with good intensity, plays hard. I saw him in Orlando [summer league], and he competes. He helped them win the D-league championship. He might get into a game, but I don’t think he’s a rotation guy on a good team.”

• On point guard Briante Weber: who signed with the Heat during the last week of the regular season: “I watched him [in summer league] and he held his own. He’s very quick; he can penetrate and dish; is good defensively. His shooting is questionable. Potentially Patrick Beverley without the three-point game.”

• The scout said while he understands why the Heat didn’t want to lose an asset in Tyler Johnson, they could regret matching the four-year, $50 million Nets offer: “He would really have to emerge to justify that. He will play some backup 1 and 2 [both guard spots]. Shoots it pretty well. His decision-making is OK. A little undersized. He’s not special. You don’t pay $19 million [in year three] for that. That was a case of market desperation.”

Please click here for our post from earlier today about Johnson discussing his desire to validate that contract.

CHATTER

• Since we’re hoops-heavy today, some buzz we’re hearing on the UM basketball team, off a Sweet 16 appearance but with significant roster changes:

Among the four players in UM’s best freshman class ever, shooting guard Bruce Brown internally is considered the most ready to contribute; he can shoot, penetrate and he’s already physically strong. Some believe he could be a college version of Russell Westbrook….

But forward Dewan Huell, guard Dejan Vasiljevic and perhaps center Rodney Miller also should play as freshmen… A natural two-guard, Vasilijevic has reinforced in offseason workouts that he’s a great shooter, with some toughness and polish and ability to play some point guard…

Sophomore center Ebuka Izundu has gained more than 15 pounds (essential for him to be able to move people in the post), has a nice jump shot and is ahead of where departed Tonye Jekiri was at a similar point in their careers. Izundu and Kamari Murphy will compete to start at center; Huell can play center or power forward and will obviously grow into a starter eventually…

Ja’Quan Newton, who replaces Angel Rodriguez at point guard, has spent a lot of time refining his jump shot…

UM has one more scholarship and would love to add another ballhandler. Miami is among the schools on the radar for Buffalo sophomore transfer Lamonte Bearden but is not a favorite for him.... Davon Reed, UM’s most accomplished returnee, could play small forward if San Jose State transfer Rashad Muhammad seizes the starting shooting guard job.

“He's a very different athlete from [now Washington Wizards guard] Sheldon McClellan,” Jim Larranaga said. “Rashad is a shooter/scorer. Can really shoot the three. Has very clever moves going to the basket. His area of emphasis is to get better defensively, become a rebounder and get stronger.”...

UM is one of five finalists (with Oregon, Pittsburgh, Butler and Creighton) for four-star Vermont Academy shooting guard Christian David (a top 100 player) and one of four finalists for four-star Norcross, Ga.-based 6-9 power forward Lance Thomas (with UF, USC and Louisville). Rivals.com ranks Thomas as the 111th best player in the 2017 class.

• Angel Rodriguez, who helped lead UM to the Sweet 16 last season but played just 13 minutes in Summer League for the San Antonio Spurs, signed with a team in the top pro league in France, his Miami-based agent Pedro Power told me Tuesday.

• Fox's Ken Rosenthal reports the Marlins are willing to trade shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (hitting .243) for a quality starting pitcher (preferably Tampa’s Chris Archer, Matt Moore or Jake Odorozzi) and hand the shortstop job to ace defender Miguel Rojas, who’s hitting .259.

That's not surprising because of this: Hechavarria is eligible for free agency after 2018 and we're told the Marlins were surprised by what he asked for in extension talks last winter; the sides were far apart and broke off negotiations. So if the Marlins are going to lose him in a couple years, trading him at some point before that would make sense.

Eager for a fifth starter, Miami also is interested in Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson and San Diego’s Andrew Cashner, as Fox reported.

The hope is that a team will take a decent prospect or two in return, but Miami has considerable competition and there aren't a lot of quality starters who are impending free agents/short-term rentals.

• Besides Arian Foster’s talents as a runner (his 31 100-yard rushing games are the most in the NFL since 2010), the Dolphins also place high value on his receiving skills.

Consider: Foster, Le'Veon Bell and Shane Vereen have a 9.1 career average per catch, and only three active backs are higher than 9.1: Joique Bell, Danny Woodhead and D’Angelo Williams.

“Catching the ball out of the backfield might be where he has the biggest impact [in Miami],” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said. 

Former Pro Bowl linebacker LaMarr Woodley, now on NFL Net, said: “Me being a linebacker covering Arian Foster one on one out of the backfield, I know how tough that can be. I know the quarterback is going to be looking down saying we can beat this guy one on one.”

And more from Jeremiah: "This is a good fit for him because they have some bodies in place there. I really like Jay Ajayi as a young developing player. [Foster] is going to have a good offensive line in place.... That's a good group for him to run behind and also be able to catch the ball out the backfield."

• Whereas the Dolphins switched radio partners (from WINZ to WQAM), the Heat and Panthers are staying put. The Heat struck a new deal with 790 The Ticket, and the Panthers are expected to announce this week that they're staying with WQAM-560.

• Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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