Heat Get 50th Pick James Ennis For Future 2nd Rounder

They didn’t trade into the first round. But they did trade into the second.

For most of the night, Shane Battier was the Miami Heat’s only presence at the NBA Draft.

Then they made a late move by trading a future second-round pick (top-40 protected in 2017; unprotected in 2018) for the rights to Battier’s potential apprentice – 6-foot-7, 206-pound Long Beach State swingman James Ennis, who turns 23 on Monday – just before the draft ended. He was originally selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 50th pick.

It was not an impulse decision.

The Heat became aware of the Southern California product when he was still playing at Ventura College more than two years ago, and scouted him in person before he ever took the floor for Long Beach State as a junior.

“I heard about (Ennis) when he was (still) at Ventura College,” Heat vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer said.

“His first year at Long Beach State, I went to practice there with coach (Dan) Monson, and watched the first weekend of practice. They had this real good team with Casper Ware, (Larry) Anderson and (TJ) Robinson. I went to watch those guys. But when I got there to watch the practice, I noticed this young, long wing. By the end of the practice, I was really impressed with him. I said, ‘There’s the best pro prospect on the roster.’ ”

The Heat were particularly attracted to Ennis’ versatility.

He fits the mold of a Heat player these days – he can play multiple positions and shows a varied set of skills. In his college career, he proved he could shoot, rebound, pass and defend – and do all those things with explosiveness.

Using Inspector Gadget-like arms and springy legs, Ennis has become a highlight-reel waiting to happen with his explosive dunks. He started dunking before his sophomore year of high school. He increased his leaping ability at college by high jumping for his track and field team. His personal best was 6 feet, 11 inches.

But perhaps most important is his potential as a floor spacing shooter. He’s not quite there yet – he shot 36% from 3-point range as a senior – but, given his shooting stroke, he projects as someone who can develop nicely in that role. 

Without a pick, Miami did not work out Ennis individually. The team’s initial plan entering the draft was to monitor the top 14 of its draft board and make a move if any dropped into the lower half of the first round.

When none of those players fell into the 20s, Heat president Pat Riley switched gears.

“Coach Riley thought that we should see if there was somebody we liked around the middle of the draft, maybe in the early 40s,” Kammerer said. “James was the guy that we sort of targeted there.”

Ennis was a primary focus for the Heat because, while Miami is developing young players at point guard and in the post in Norris Cole and Jarvis Varnado, it is in need of a young swingman for the long term. The five wings on its current roster — Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and James Jones — will average nearly 35 years of age next season and none are signed past 2013-14. The team needed a young wing that it can develop.

The Heat valued Ennis in the mid 30s and worked diligently until it snagged its target.

“As the draft went along we thought we had a pick in the early 40s and it didn’t work,” Kammerer said. “We tried again in the mid 40s and he was still on the board, which was surprising to us.

“We had almost given up because we had lost out on a couple times — teams wanted more than we were willing to give –until we saw we could get the 50s pick. When it came to us at 50, we were elated because he was still on the board.”

Ennis will have a year to hone his skills and adapt his game to the NBA, so he is ready to step in when his position needs new blood in 2014. Whether that means Ennis will make the opening day 2013-14 roster or spend the year in the D-League or overseas honing his skills is still yet to be determined.

He is due in Miami on Tuesday for his first professional camp. The Heat is one of the few teams who have summer league teams in both Orlando (July 7-12) and Las Vegas (July 12-22), and Ennis is expected to be a part of both teams.

“We’ll have him for almost three weeks coming up real shortly,” Kammerer said. “That’s the beginning of the process. He’ll have opportunity to be coached and begin his introduction into Heat basketball and our culture and those things.”

Ennis is a California native whose family moved to Texas and Florida chasing jobs before returning home for Ennis’ senior year at Ventura High. He was talented, but not widely recruited out of high school. He spent his first college season at Oxnard C.C., where he earned acclaim, and his second at Ventura College, where he landed on the college radar and was quickly wooed by Dan Monson, head basketball coach of a Long Beach State school just an hour and half drive across the 101 and down the 405. His junior year as a role player for the 49ers was both effective and instructional, and opened the door for him to become an NBA prospect as a focal point a year later.

He averaged 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds as a senior, shooting 49% from the floor and 36% from 3-point range. He was named Big West Player of the Year.

2 Responses

  1. RemoteHeatFan says:

    Seeing that I live in Santa Barbara, 30 miles north of Ventura, I had to point out a itsy bitsy comment.

    You have to go a decent chunk on the 101 until you hit the 405 to get to Long Beach.


    Thanks again for your wonderful work here.

    PS. It is hotter here in Santa Barbara today than it is in South Florida. It is a rare occurrence for that to happen.

  2. Albert says:

    I know. I believe the slight majority of the ride is on the 101, a road I am quite familiar with (though not so much down by you). I actually mapquested the route before writing it.

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