After producing one of best rookie seasons in Heat history, Jaquez named to All-Rookie First Team

Miami Heat forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. wasn’t a lottery pick in last year’s draft, but he was still one of the NBA’s top rookies.

The NBA’s All-Rookie teams for this season, which were revealed Monday afternoon, provided further confirmation of that. Jaquez was voted onto the first team, with five players regardless of position making the All-Rookie First Team and another five players regardless of position making the All-Rookie Second Team.

Jaquez, 23, is just the seventh Heat rookie in franchise history to be selected for the All-Rookie First Team. The others to do it in a Heat uniform were Sherman Douglas (in 1989-90 season), Steve Smith (1991-92 season), Caron Butler (2002-03 season), Dwyane Wade (2003-04 season), Michael Beasley (2008-09 season) and Kendrick Nunn (2019-20 season).

This season’s All-Rookie First Team includes Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brandon Miller of the Charlotte Hornets, Brandin Podziemski of the Golden State Warriors, Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs and Jaquez.

The All-Rookie Second team includes Keyonte George of the Utah Jazz, GG Jackson II of the Memphis Grizzlies, Dereck Lively II of the Dallas Mavericks, Amen Thompson of the Houston Rockets and Cason Wallace of the Thunder.

Among the panel of 99 media members who voted on the NBA’s regular-season awards, Jaquez received 89 first-team votes and 10 second-team votes. Only Holmgren (99 first-team votes), Wembanyama (99 first-team votes) and Miller (97 first-team votes) received more votes for this season’s All-Rookie First Team.

Jaquez, who was taken by the Heat with the 18th overall pick in last year’s draft following a four-year college career at UCLA, averaged 11.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and one steal per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from three-point range this regular season. He finished fourth in the voting for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award that went to Wembanyama.

Jaquez played a big role for the Heat as a rookie, appearing in a team-high 75 games (20 starts) for the Heat this regular season. He’s only the 16th different Heat player in franchise history to play in 75 or more regular-season games as a rookie, joining a list that also includes Mario Chalmers, Grant Long, Bimbo Coles, Douglas, Beasley, Anthony Carter, Kevin Edwards, Butler, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, Alec Kessler, Rony Seikaly, Glen Rice, Willie Burton and Udonis Haslem.

But considering Jaquez played in every game he was available for as a rookie, he could have played in more games if it wasn’t for a strained groin that forced him to miss two weeks of action in late January.

“With Jaime, if he had not gotten hurt with the groin earlier in the season, because he plays, he would have played 82 games,” Heat president Pat Riley said earlier this month during his season-ending news conference. “He ended up playing 75 games. Believe me, he was hurting when he missed those games. But he’s a proud young warrior that will play every night for you.”

After also missing the Heat’s season-ending loss in Game 5 of its first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics because of a hip injury, Jaquez said on exit interview day that the biggest lesson he took away from rookie season was “learning the importance of just taking care of your body and your health and your mind.”

“I think that’s probably the biggest thing to learn, that it’s a long season,” Jaquez continued. “Your health is very important — mental and physical. So always got to keep that in check.”

When Jaquez was healthy, he provided plenty of memorable moments this season. There was an efficient 31-point performance on 15 field-goal attempts to lead the Heat to a Christmas Day win over the Philadelphia 76ers, a stat line of 20 points and nine assists in a win over the Toronto Raptors in the final days of the regular season, and a 16-point playoff debut in a loss to the Celtics last month.

Jaquez, who earned the first two Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards handed out by the league this season, also took part in the Rising Stars event and Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend in February.

But there was still a rookie wall for Jaquez, who hit a rough patch after missing time with his groin injury.

Before the injury, Jaquez averaged 14 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from three-point range in his first 39 appearances of the season.

After returning from that groin injury, Jaquez averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and one steal per game while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 27.9 percent from behind the arc in his final 36 appearances of the regular season. Charlotte Hornets forward Brandon Miller was named the East’s Rookie of the Month in January, February and March during that time.

“He hit a wall somewhat with the first groin injury and then he went through other injuries and then his role changed a little bit,” Riley said when discussing Jaquez’s season. “That doesn’t help a player.”

With Jaquez’s defense an issue at times and his outside shooting proving to be shaky, he pointed to one-on-one defense and three-point shooting as two areas he wants to improve this offseason.

“Just being able to be a lockdown defender, I think, is one of the things I’m looking forward to being in my coming years,” Jaquez said. “As well as just a consistent knockdown shooter. Those are probably the two biggest things for me.”

Continuing to refine his already polished post game will be another goal for Jaquez this offseason. While Jaquez generated a lot of offense for himself and others through his post-ups, opponents adjusted to play a more physical style and send extra defenders when he had the ball in the post as the season went on.

“I would say sometimes they would try to send two [defenders],” Jaquez said of the adjustments he saw from opposing defenses. “So be prepared for the trap, especially down in the post is where I think the scouting report was out on me. So just developing counters and reading defenses and understanding how to still get to my spots.”

The bottom line, though, is Jaquez still managed to produce one of the best rookie seasons in Heat history.

Among the 16 Heat rookies who averaged double-digit points during their first NBA regular season, Jaquez finished with the second-best season-long field-goal percentage behind only Douglas and the top season-long shooting percentage on two-pointers.

Jaquez also closed the regular season ranked No. 8 among all Heat rookies in franchise history in win shares (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player) behind only Chalmers, Butler, Haslem, Long, Wade, Douglas and Bam Adebayo.

“It’s been great just having such an experienced group of veterans around me,” Jaquez said when asked about playing alongside the Heat’s leading duo of Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. ‘They have so much experience, so to be able to learn under them and take what they’re giving me has just been huge. I think it’s given me an advantage being able to play my rookie season, just learning from guys like that.”

The NBA will announce the All-Defensive teams on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Adebayo, who finished third in the voting for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award, is expected to be named to one of the two All-Defensive teams.

The NBA will announce the All-NBA Teams on Wednesday at 8 p.m.