Role play a concern for potential Heat draft pick Nassir Little

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO -- Among the challenges of drafting in the middle of the first round is getting a vision of potential possibilities, especially with so many floaters hindering the focus.

Which brings the Miami Heat to Nassir Little, with forecasts placing the North Carolina freshman wing everywhere from several slots ahead of the Heat's No. 13 selection in the June 20 draft to several slots afterward.

To a degree, Little sets up as an ideal Heat fit, at least when it comes to coach Erik Spoelstra's fascination for coaching position-less options.

And yet listen to Little at the NBA draft combine and he points to such positional uncertainty among the reasons he stands as a floater.

"Throughout the year, I didn't feel like I played like myself," he said. "The guy people saw in high school is really who I am as a player. That's the guy people are going to see at the next level.

"The coaching staff didn't really understand exactly what my role was early on, especially in the offense. That created a lot of hesitancy, which didn't allow me to play like myself."

The comments were offered in contrast to those of potential Heat No. 13 candidates Romeo Langford and Kevin Porter Jr., who each stressed their positional diversity.

Listed at 6 foot 6, 220 pounds, Little slimmed down between the end of the season and the combine, having drawn comparisons to the two-way skill-set of Kawhi Leonard, but not quite there as a shooter.

There have been others comparisons, as well.

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"I heard a Carmelo Anthony comparison, which is not a bad one to have," he smiled.

Still, he said he never felt settled with the Tar Heels, playing as a reserve behind senior Cameron Johnson.

"Playing out of position created some confusion on the court which caused me to be hesitant," he said.

That said, the McDonald's All-American out of Orlando, Fla., who was named MVP at both the McDonald's and Jordan Brand showcases, said there still was tangible value to his season under Roy Williams in Chapel Hill.

"On the court I developed, my body developed and became more mature in the weight room there, learning about the game, playing against actual defense," he said. "In high school, there is no help -- you beat your guy, you're going to get a dunk. Going to college exposes you to what's helpful for the NBA."

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