Former Heat forward KZ Okpala resurfaces in deal with Kings – The Denver Post


An impression former Miami Heat forward KZ Okpala created last summer while with the Nigerian national team apparently has led to an NBA second chance.

Out of the league since being dealt by the Heat to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the February NBA trading deadline and then waived two days later, Okpala has agreed to a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings.

The agreement reunites Okpala with Mike Brown, who in May was named Kings coach and had coached the Nigerian national team last summer.

It was during Brown’s work with the Nigerian team that Brown said Okpala had the ability to possibly emerge as an NBA stopper.

“KZ is a remarkable talent,” Brown said. “This is a young man that, in my opinion, he has a chance to be, obviously, an elite defender. And these are high expectations, but the short time I’ve had him, he could be a Defensive Player of the Year type candidate once he figures some things out to get consistent minutes on the floor.”

Brown, who had been serving as a Golden State Warriors assistant before taking the Kings job, has compared Okpala to Golden State defensive ace Draymond Green.

“His potential on that side of the ball is remarkable,” Brown said of Okpala, 23.

It was a limited offensive repertoire that eventually had the Heat moving on from the 2019 second-round pick out of Stanford.

Over a three-season injury-plagued tenure, Okpala appeared in 63 games for the Heat, including nine starts, averaging 2.8 points and 1.8 rebounds, shooting .406. The 6-foot-8 forward appeared in 21 games for the Heat this past season before he was dealt.

Acquired during the 2019 draft at the cost of three future second-rounds picks, Okpaka was dealt to the Thunder for the lesser of the 2026 second-round picks held by the Thunder, Dallas Mavericks or Philadelphia 76ers.

The Okpala machinations in February were part of a Heat roster reshuffle that shifted Caleb Martin from a two-way contract to a standard contract and also allowed the Heat to sign forward Haywood Highsmith to a three-year contract.

With the agreement with Okpala, the Kings now have five members of last summer’s Nigerian national team: Okpala, forward Chimezie Metu, Brown and assistant coaches Jordi Fernandez and Luke Loucks.

Heat guard Gabe Vincent and former Heat forward Precious Achiuwa also were part of that Nigerian national team.

Among Okpala’s competition for playing time with the Kings will be Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Trey Lyles, Richaun Holmes, Alex Len and Metu.

The Mitchell saga

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Heat are playing from behind in the chase for Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.

According to the Tribune, the Heat’s initial offer was first-round picks in 2023, 2027 and 2029, first-round swaps in other years, and a player package built around Tyler Herro, a package the Jazz deemed “insufficient.”

According to the Tribune, “At least one voice in the Jazz’s front office prefers Herro as a return to [Knicks guard RJ] Barrett.” Among those in the Jazz’s front office are former Heat guard Dwyane Wade and former Heat assistant coach David Fizdale.

Previously, Bleacher Report polled NBA executives at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League regarding Herro and Barrett, with that poll showing Barrett with a greater trade value than Herro “by a wide margin, particularly because of Barrett’s improving strengths on the defensive end.”

Summer schedule

The NBA finalized the Heat’s summer-league schedule in Las Vegas with an 11 p.m. Eastern game on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers (NBA TV).

The scheduling of the Heat fifth and final game in Las Vegas had been contingent on previous results.

Saturday will make it four games in five nights for the Heat, who Tuesday lost to the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, with a late Friday game against the Toronto Raptors following.



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