MIAMI (AP) — Even if nothing else winds up happening in his career, the player who gets selected with the 30th and final first-round pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft can say he was part of LeBron James’ fabled decision.
Technically, that’s the case.
It’s a stretch to think the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat will get much better during Thursday’s draft, since going into selection night, they have no picks. Their first-round selection belongs to the Phoenix Suns, after a series of trades involving the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs originally obtained what would have been the No. 30 pick this year as part of the sign-and-trade that sent James to Miami in 2010.
“I’d do that every time,” Heat President Pat Riley said.
Not having a pick doesn’t mean the Heat plan to sit around idly on draft night.
The franchise has gone through its player analysis and preparations as usual, and if nothing else, a few phones will be ringing to gauge interest on potential deals if Miami decides it wants to get into the draft.
“Our staff has really been working,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Every time I came into the office during the last three weeks of the playoffs and saw our whole scouting staff scouring through all the information, you just kind of laugh and chuckle and say, `That’s the furthest thing from my mind.’ But you also realize that, as we’ve done before, things can change very quickly. If the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll be involved.”
Heat scouting director Chet Kammerer said his staff was instructed to prepare for any variety of options, including Miami getting into the lottery portion of the draft, or picking in the 20s, or early in the second round. The team has been to several workouts, though did not bring anyone in for individual sessions.
If nothing else, Kammerer said Miami will get what he called the 61st pick – meaning a free agent left on the board when the draft ends.
“We didn’t prepare this year any differently than if we had the 24th pick,” Kammerer said. “In fact, I think we worked harder.”
The most logical scenario where the Heat could wind up as draft-night players is through trades, and if any deals happen they will almost certainly be done with paring payroll in mind. Miami is in line to face some major luxury-tax issues in the coming years, especially as a much higher, much more punitive tax rate starts to kick in as part of the league’s latest collective bargaining agreement.
Still, blockbuster moves probably are not likely, so don’t expect James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh to be filing any change-of-address forms come Friday morning. But the Heat are expected to have some tough decisions to make with regard to veterans like Mike Miller and Joel Anthony. Miller is owed $12.8 million for the next two seasons, Anthony will make $3.8 million this coming season, and neither was a mainstay in Miami’s regular-season rotation.
Plus, some creativity this summer could pay off next summer.
Miami could see James, Wade and Bosh all opt out after next season and become free agents, which would spark another circus much like what the NBA experienced in 2010. And while whatever moves the Heat make now surely are at least some small part of whatever the master plan is for 2014, the company line for now is that Miami is trying desperately to enjoy the present.
“It’s about this season, then it’s about next season,” Riley said. “It’s about now and this team and these coaches and players.”
For now, Miami is one of only three teams with no selections in this draft, joining Golden State and Toronto. What would have been Miami’s second-round pick, the 60th and final selection, now belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the Dexter Pittman trade this past season.
So as of now, the only Heat employee who’s guaranteed to really be doing something on draft night is forward Shane Battier. He’ll be part of ESPN’s coverage team, interviewing some of the top players immediately after they get selected.
Spoelstra, however, indicated that anything could be possible.
“You know how we are,” Spoelstra said. “More importantly, how my bosses are.”