An almost-traded Heat player is drawing rave reviews for his early-season play

Jaime Jaquez Jr, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler
Jaime Jaquez Jr, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Six weeks into the NBA regular season and we're beginning to see how several high-profile offseason moves have panned out. Perhaps the biggest off-season move was the one that sent all-star Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks instead of the Miami Heat.

That move seemingly boosted the Bucks while dooming the Heat, who not only lost out on Lillard but also saw a rival get better and superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo sign an extension to stay in Milwaukee.

Fortunately for Miami, they have been more resilient than expected, partly thanks to rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. Jaquez Jr., who was nearly included in a deal for Lillard, has emerged and helped change the perception of the almost-deal for Miami.

Jaquez Jr. is already making an impact on the Miami Heat as a rookie.

Through the first 20 games of the season, Jaquez Jr. has arguably been the third-best rookie in this year's draft class, behind Victor Wembanyama and Ausar Thompson. In just 26.6 minutes per game, he's averaging 12 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals—not bad for the 18th pick. Better yet, he is under contract for the next three seasons after this one, for just $13.5 million.

That production as a rookie has already made him a key member on the Heat, and he should only grow in that role. Compare that to Lillard, who is beginning to show his age at 34 and is owed $170 over the next three seasons, and it's clear why some around the NBA may prefer to have
Jaquez Jr. going forward.

Overall, the decision not to trade Jaquez Jr. looks like a great move for the Heat, with him being an immediate contributor. While it remains to be seen how Lillard will impact the Bucks in the near future, Jaquez Jr. is much younger and only getting better while on a drastically cheaper contract, making him arguably a better asset.