PHILADELPHIA -- The Heat’s chances of securing a pretty attractive first-round pick in June’s draft seem to be declining by the day, largely because of the disappointing play of its opponent Saturday.
The Heat will get Philadelphia’s first-round draft pick this season only if the 76ers make the playoffs. The first-round pick is lottery protected for 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Heat’s own 2013 first-round pick belongs to Cleveland as a result of the LeBron James sign-and-trade.
Philadelphia entered Saturday 31/2 games behind Milwaukee for the eighth playoff spot and remains without center Andrew Bynum, who hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury and isn’t close to returning despite practicing Friday, coach Doug Collins said.
Toronto entered Saturday 4 1/2 games back of the No. 8 spot, with the No. 8 team likely drawing the Heat in the first round. The Bucks are the favorite, even more so after acquiring J.J. Redick from Orlando before Thursday’s trade deadline.
If the Sixers surprisingly make the playoffs, the pick the Heat would receive likely would be the 15th overall. Otherwise, Miami will have to wait until a year the 76ers make the playoffs or in 2016 — whichever comes first.
Though the Heat will use primarily veteran players as long as it is a championship contender, there is a benefit to developing young, cheap labor, especially as the league’s luxury tax becomes more onerous in the next two years.
The Heat could have a few roster openings this summer, even beyond the one that already exists. Miami likely will use the amnesty clause on Mike Miller. Chris Andersen will be a free agent and Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis have opt-out clauses, though Lewis said he won’t use his. There are contract options for Jarvis Varnado (Heat’s decision) and James Jones (his decision).
The Heat acquired the pick on draft night last June when it chose former Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultree at No. 27 and sent him to the 76ers for the 45th pick and a future first-rounder.
The Heat used the 45th selection on LSU center Justin Hamilton, who is playing overseas and will be invited to join the Heat’s summer program beginning in July. Moultree has played in only 19 games for the 76ers, averaging 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.
BOSH SPEAKS OUT
Without naming the Knicks, a New York reporter asked Chris Bosh before Saturday’s game if it annoys or amuses him when teams say they can beat Miami in a seven-game series. Knicks coach Mike Woodson and forward Carmelo Anthony made that claim recently, with Woodson saying: “I think if we’re in a seven-game series with them, I truly believe we have an opportunity to beat them.”
Bosh answered this way: “People have been saying that for a while, and it’s only happened once. When it’s go time, when it’s time to put it all on the line, we feel we’re the best team out there.
“During the season, late season, early playoffs, late playoffs, when we’re playing at our best, we’re the best team in the league.”
THIS AND THAT
• After a defensive drop-off earlier in the season, the Heat is back where it typically stands — in the top 10 in key defensive categories. Miami entered Saturday eighth in field-goal shooting percentage against (44.1) and 10th in points per game allowed (96.1). “Their defense is fabulous,” Collins said before Saturday’s game.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who made only minor tweaks to the team’s defensive approach, said: “The consistency wasn’t there in the first 20 games, but our guys understand what our identity is.”
Is there another level the team can go defensively once the playoffs start? “There better be,” Spoelstra said.
• Collins, before the game: “If you get in transition against the Heat, you’re toast. You have no chance. … LeBron James has no weakness.”
Miller stayed in South Florida with an inner ear infection but should be available for Sunday’s home game against Cleveland, Spoelstra said.