The Miami Heat rarely relied on youth the past four seasons, with Norris Cole being the lone exception.
However, this year should be different.
With LeBron James heading to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Shane Battier retiring and the uncertain future of other former Heat veterans (Ray Allen, Greg Oden, Rashard Lewis, etc.), Miami will have no choice but to dish out playing time to some younger guys.
Fortunately for Miami, despite not placing much of a priority on the NBA draft recently, the team still has a few intriguing up-and-comers that are currently in the midst of Summer League action.
Let's check on those prospects, evaluate their summer performances and see what they could do for the Heat in 2014-15.
Shabazz Napier, PG
Napier has actually been a massive disappointment in Summer League play, but he remains Miami's most intriguing prospect.
In five Orlando games, Napier struggled mightily with his shot and taking care of the basketball. He averaged 9.2 points on a putrid 27.1 percent shooting from the floor and an even worse 15.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc, while turning the ball over a frighteningly high 4.8 times per game.
Things are looking up for Napier, though. He put together a fine performance during the Heat's first game in Las Vegas, scoring 10 points on five shots (2-of-2 from three) and five assists. (However, he did rack up five turnovers.)
Even factoring in his overall Summer League woes and Miami's re-signing of Mario Chalmers, expect Napier to be a solid contributor for the Heat next season.
This is still a guy who was flat-out dominant in college in 2013-14 (18.0 PPG, 40.5 3P% 5.9 APG) and is eventually going to get comfortable with the NBA game and its increased competition.
James Ennis, SF
Without a doubt, Ennis has been the Heat's MVP in Summer League play.
Miami acquired Ennis' rights on draft night in 2013 from the Atlanta Hawks. He spent the past season in Australia and Puerto Rico, is primed to make the Heat's 2014-15 opening night roster and will be a valuable asset for the team.
Ennis is an athletic freak, and that's surely been on display this summer. But his game isn't just flash.
Ennis can shoot the ball, finish at the rim, rebound the ball and defend with his exceptional length. He averaged a team-high 17.0 points (52.4 percent shooting from the field and from outside), 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in Orlando. He also put up 19 points and eight rebounds in the Heat's first Vegas contest.
With multiple wing players from last season's Heat team leaving, such as James and Battier, Ennis' emergence couldn't be coming at a better time for Erik Spoelstra and Co.
Justin Hamilton, C
Hamilton spent time on Miami's roster last season but was little more than a benchwarmer. He appeared in just seven games, averaging 3.7 points and 1.0 rebound per contest.
Hamilton has been one of the Heat's top performers this summer and is likely doing enough to maintain his roster spot.
The big man averaged 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in Orlando. However, he left more to be desired from an efficiency standpoint, as he shot just 41.8 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc during those five games.
The 7-footer broke out in the Heat's first Vegas game, scoring 21 points on 12 shots, knocking down his only three-pointer and grabbing seven boards.
The continued development of Hamilton's outside shot will be integral to him making the Heat, as Spoelstra has clearly shown an interest in using his bigs as floor-spacers the past few seasons.
Still, with Miami re-signing Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen, and working to bring back Udonis Haslem, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, it will remain difficult for Hamilton to see the court very often next season, if he ultimately makes the team.
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