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Miami Heat draft preview: 3 NBA Draft targets, including Dariq Whitehead

The defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat are likely to use their first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft to find more immediate help after falling to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

However, we thought front office head Pat Riley and Co. were headed in that direction last June before they selected Nikola Jović with the 27th pick. We already know to expect the unexpected from this organization.

Even after earning the Eastern Conference title in 2022-23, there are some major needs for Miami. Guards Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are set to hit free agency. Both are expected to receive at least $15 million annually on the open market. That might be too rich for Miami’s blood. Depth in the frontcourt and behind Kyle Lowry at point guard are also both needs.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at when the Miami Heat will be on the clock in the 2023 NBA Draft and what players they might target with that selection.

Related: Sportsnaut’s full 2023 NBA mock draft

Miami Heat picks in 2023 NBA Drat

Here is the sole Miami Heat pick in the annual event in New York on June 22. Though, the team could opt to buy a second rounder once things get going.

  • 1st round, 18th pick

Miami Heat targets in 2023 NBA Draft

Cason Wallace, guard, Kentucky

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Scott Utterback/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s not yet known whether the 6-foot-3 Wallace will be available at 18. At this point, we’re going to bet against it. Instead, Miami looks to move up a few spots while yielding some future assets for a potential point guard of the future.

Despite pretty decent play in the postseason, Kyle Lowry is 37 years old and well past his prime. He’s also going to be entering the final year of his contract in 2023-24. As mentioned above, Gabe Vincent is slated to hit free agency in July. He might be too reach for Miami’s blood.

Enter into the equation a former top-eight recruit in Wallace who started all 32 games for Kentucky last season. The Texas native averaged 11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists. While limited in terms of upside, Wallace already brings plus-level perimeter defense with him to the NBA. He’s also turned into a capable outside shooter and can run a team without the turnover bug becoming a major issue.

Related: Top 100 NBA Draft prospects of 2023

Nick Smith Jr., guard, Arkansas

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David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

A top-three recruit in the Class of 2022, Smith Jr. should have returned to the Razorbacks for his sophomore season. The 6-foot-5 guard struggled big time as a freshman, shooting 38% from the field. However, he was also hampered with a knee injury throughout the 2022-23 campaign.

What we do know is that Smith brings a tremendous amount of upside with him to the NBA. There is athleticism and raw talent to his game that can’t be taught. It will make him a top-20 pick once June 22 comes calling.

For Miami, there’s going to be a focus on adding scoring to the mix behind Jimmy Butler. Short of the Heat pulling off a blockbuster trade, it makes perfect sense to take a chance on a high-upside off-ball guard such as Smith Jr.

Related: Miami Heat mentioned as suitor for seven-time All-Star

Dariq Whitehead, forward, Duke

miami heat draft targets: dariq whitehead
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Noticing a theme here? Miami is in a unique position in that it finished as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, only to pull off some historical upsets once the postseason started. It’s not too often that an NBA Finals contestant picks within the top 20.

We can expect Pat Riley and Co. to take advantage of that by looking at the highest-upside possibilities available. Why play it safe?

That’s also where Whitehead comes into play. The No. 1 overall recruit in the nation last year, the 6-foot-6 wing just underwent the second surgery on his foot over the past calendar year. While he should be ready for training camp, it could impact his draft stock some. As a freshman for Duke last season, Whitehead shot a resounding 43% from three-point range. He’s solid on defense, too, making the youngster a high-upside 3-and-D option at the next level. This seems to be an ideal fit for both sides.

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