Miami Heat 2015 NBA Draft preview
The Miami Heat dodged a bullet when they retained their lottery pick this year by holding on to the No. 10 spot in the draft lottery last month. Now the true test begins to find a player that can bridge the gap between their championship glory years and the new, transitional period of regrowth where several holdover players still remain from the "Big 3" era.
The franchise is in unfamiliar territory, long accustomed to postseason success and acquiring established veterans via trade and free agency.
"This is the fourth time we’ve been in the lottery and we hope that we can catch a player that will go with those guys and help us win," team president Pat Riley said back in April after the conclusion of the regular season.
While Riley continues to stick with the team’s philosophy that experienced, battle-proven veterans are the foundation for deep playoff runs, a healthy youthful core that can simultaneously be developed can hold the key for the next generation of Heat basketball. Additionally, cap-friendly rookie contracts can be easily accommodated given the fact that Chris Bosh was signed to a max deal last year and Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, and Luol Deng will likely be seeking new deals this summer with Hassan Whiteside due for a raise next year.
Instead of rebuilding primarily through the draft as fellow lottery teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers are doing, the Heat firmly believe they can already be an elite team if their key players can stay healthy and a few missing pieces can be fit into the puzzle.
Though Miami has rarely been in the lottery since Riley assumed control of basketball operations 20 years ago, they already have a well-balanced starting five in place should Wade, Dragic and Deng return and will likely be in no rush to immediately incorporate their rookie into their rotation. In other words, they can swing for the fences and take a player with plenty of upside and raw talent. After finding success molding talent in James Ennis and Tyler Johnson while also bringing out the best in career journeyman Hassan Whiteside, the Heat have full confidence in their training staff they can get the job done.
Players who fit that mold who could be available when the Heat make their selection include Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein, Texas power forward Myles Turner and Kansas’ Kelly Oubre.
However, Riley does like NBA-ready players and there are several who will be potentially available once the Heat are on the clock. As he surveyed the playoff landscape last month, he noted in his May media session that virtually all the teams in contention at the time did not have a single rookie in their rotation.
He did note how many of the best players out there battling for the NBA championship had a versatile skill set able to match up against other elite teams.
"While we felt we had enough maybe on the perimeter, that might be an area that we look at but I don’t want a one-dimensional guy," he said. "We call them ‘3-P-and-D’ players — guys that can make 3s, guys that are playmakers and guys who can defend. I’m not saying the perimeter is what needs to be filled. We’re going to take the best player that’s available unless there’s somebody there that we really like at a specific position."
Prospects deemed more NBA-ready than their peers that could be available with the No. 10 pick include Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin, Devin Booker from Kentucky, and Stanley Johnson out of Arizona.
FIVE TO WATCH
SF Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6-6, 242 pounds: Miami is thin at the small forward spot and Deng, even if he returns, isn’t the long term answer at that position. Johnson may take a while to fully develop, but he could be a star in the right system. He needs plenty of work, however, to be a reliable scorer in the NBA.
SG Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6-6, 206 pounds: One of the best shooters in the draft, maybe even the best, and the Heat certainly could have used that kind of firepower last season after the loss of Ray Allen. Booker has good size and could do plenty of damage off the bench in support of Wade, but is he too one-dimensional?
PF/C Myles Turner, Texas, 6-11, 239 pounds: An intriguing big man prospect who has plenty of upside and can stretch the floor with his shooting. With Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem on their last legs, the Heat will need to compliment Bosh and Whiteside with some help off the bench and Turner could be the best of the bunch if they want to fortify their power rotation. He won’t be able to immediately step in and contribute, but the Heat might be fine with that for now.
SF Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6-7, 203 pounds: One of the more complete players in the draft, Oubre can put the ball through the net, but also is a strong defender which always is a major plus for the Heat. His versatility and pure athleticism will be tough to pass up if he’s still available. Still, there is plenty of to work on before he can be a legit rotation player in the pro ranks.
SF Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6-9, 219 pounds: Already accustomed to playing alongside talented teammates on the big stage, Dekker could immediately provide the Heat with a little bit of everything should he be selected. He also fits well into the Heat’s stated preference of picking up the tempo of their play to better accommodate point guard Goran Dragic. There may be other players availabe with more upside, however, and his inconsistency with his shot is not something the Heat may want to stomach after last season’s shooting woes.
Since they make such few appearances this high in the draft, the Heat should roll the dice, swing for the fences and pick the player with the most potential. Riley loves skilled big men and Turner could be the best one available. His talent makes him a solid backup for Whiteside and insurance in case Whiteside leaves in free agency next year or does not live up to the lofty expectations he set for himself last season.