Who will make the final cut?
The Miami Heat's summer league team got knocked out of contention for the NBA Las Vegas Summer League championship, so it's time to be honest in our evaluations. Despite the team loss, there are still individual winners and losers.
Don't let the pretty casino cut-ins and smaller crowds fool you, for the guys who played on this roster, this isn't some fun in the sun intramural basketball league; this is the next level.
Yes, believe it or not, while their games were broadcast for your viewing pleasure, they were also hoping to make a tough roster that actually saw a recent vacancy to compound a few nagging cavities the Heat face going into next season.
After gritting their teeth and utilizing the amnesty clause, the loss of Mike Miller means the Heat could use another swingman/guard in the rotation, but according to Miami Heat President Pat Riley (via SunSentinel), that void could easily be filled via free agency.
Miami would also welcome a cheaper younger frontcourt, however, so if any of the winners of this summer league contingent were impressive enough in the eyes Miami's front office, they might be getting a call up to the big leagues for the regular season, or more likely, a couple 10-day contracts here and there.
So let's get down to it—who has the best shot of taking their talents to South Beach, and who could expect to find themselves playing in the Siberian Basketball League this upcoming fall?
Jarvis is no stranger to being among the the NBA's elite, or at least being among them putting on sneakers in the locker room before a game. Varnado was a signed to a pair of 10-day contracts this past season, and he's been a member of Miami's development system for some time.
Considering Miami's familiarity with his skill set, they are no strangers to what he brings to the table. He's a swatter, shot-blocker and defensive anchor—whatever adjective you opt to use, that's what he does. He's hustle, he's grit, he's all of that.
He isn't exactly a game changer, but he's a nice young spark plug to keep stashed away on the bench.
If anybody on Miami's roster is giving him glares, it's likely Joel Anthony. Varnado might as well be a younger, cheaper alternative to Anthony, and it's certainly possible the Heat are grooming Varnado to assume Anthony's role at some point.
Varnado is averaging a solid 7.7 points, 6.7 boards and 2.5 blocks per game—a decent line, despite it being in the summer league.
While his numbers don't exactly stand out, they're good enough, and he's already familiar with their system. Expect Miami at some point to replace Anthony in favor of Varnado. So performance aside, his prospects for the future look pretty solid with Miami.
Despite getting 19.6 minutes per game, virtually the same amount as leading scorer James Nunnally, Tony Taylor is averaging about six points per game with two assists and a turnover per contest.
Based on the generous minutes he's getting, it's clear the Heat wanted to work him out and see how he'd do—and unfortunately for both parties, it's unlikely Taylor is worth a roster spot of any kind in the NBA. He's still a little too raw, so for now, he's definitely going to be relegated to a D-League-level role or find himself playing overseas.
The nail in the coffin for Taylor is the fact he's averaging nearly 20 minutes yet being so unproductive compared to the likes of James Nunnally. However, it should be noted that there's half a foot of height difference between Nunnally and Taylor, and Taylor plays the point—an extremely challenging position to man at a high level.
Taylor just doesn't shoot the ball well enough, and he doesn't do anything exceptionally well to deserve any recognition whatsoever. He's also playing for a team that has two proven young players in Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, so the odds of him making the regular-season roster were already heavily stacked against him.
Safe to say that Mr. Taylor is going to have to take his L and continue to improve his game in preparation for the next opportunity he gets to prove he belongs at the next level.
The Heat have been very generous to D.J. Kennedy, and he's making the most of it.
No one else on the roster is getting more than Kennedy's 25.6 minutes per game, a sure sign the coaching staff wants to see what he can deliver. One commonality between the three highest minute-men (James Ennis, Kennedy and James Nunnally) is the fact that all bring similar tools to the table.
All three are 6'6"-6'7" swingmen/guards who stretch the floor and are competent enough to put the ball on the floor and score if they have to. Like his counterparts, Kennedy is doing a good job of scoring the ball when and where he has to.
Whether it's from deep or off the dribble inside the arc, he's a nice, streamlined shooter who has the physicality to eat well at the next level. The Heat certainly want to find someone to bolster their roster, and a young wing would be the perfect addition.
In their most recent outing, Kennedy was 5-of-8 from the field in the Heat's two-point loss to the Phoenix Suns. Aside from the nice shooting efficiency, D.J. scored 18 points and snagged six boards.
He can certainly play, and whatever happens, he performed well in the NBA's glorified showcase.
It's no secret—the Heat's biggest weakness is their undersized frontcourt.
If you're an undrafted rookie like Jamelle Hagins who meets the job requirement of an NBA big man, you'd want to ensure you show up and give it your all.
Well, frankly, it's tough to do that when you're allotted less than five minutes of playing time. Hagins is still very raw, and he has a very limited understanding for the game at this level.
He certainly has the physical tools based on his build and length, but he's not much more than a physical body at the professional tier. The fact he's been basically given scraps for minutes is a sure sign the Heat don't care whatsoever about what he brings to the table.
Even the likes of Tony Taylor, who is under-performing at a considerable margin, is getting around 20 minutes. Poor Hagins is getting less than a nickel.
With their eyes set squarely on Jarvis Varnado as the most likely big-man prospect on the squad, the Heat have likely determined that Hagins is quite simply the odd man out.
While it isn't the end of the road, Hagins is without a doubt frustrated with his current situation.
No one likes to adjust to the role of being a benchwarmer, especially a benchwarmer on a team of guys who are trying their hardest just to earn the privilege of being benchwarmers—albeit for a much better squad.
It's hard to be a leading scorer on an entire roster and not consider yourself a winner.
As it stands, James Nunnally is just another guy hoping to make the cut, but considering his build as a 6'7" forward, he could feasibly fit somewhere in the league—whether it's for Miami or elsewhere.
It's important to remember that everybody responsible for scouting or ascertaining who can and can't ball pays attention to summer league, even if it isn't for their respective squad.
Even if a leading scorer like Nunnally doesn't get a spot on the Heat roster, he'll definitely get one somewhere else due to his scoring prowess and physical tools.
Aside from that individual performance, Nunnally is averaging around 13 points per game, and his other statistical categories aren't really notable enough to even worry about.
Put it this way, he's a guy who's capable of shooting at an elite level based on his performances. Playing well on any squad with the Miami Heat namesake attached to it is a great look, and to be shooting the ball as well as he has, he should feel tremendously confident in his ability.