The Heat found value at the bottom of the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, and the team’s decision-makers are hoping to do the same on Thursday night.
Miami has the 27th pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Last year, the Heat moved up a few spots to draft Norris Cole, a seasoned collegiate point guard who made an instant impact during the first half of the season and provided a spark in the postseason. The team will use that same template this year, only at a different position.
“We’ve spent hours watching video. We’ve done the statistical analysis, and we’re ready,” said Chet Kammerer, the Heat’s vice president of player personnel on Wednesday. “If we make a mistake, it won’t be because we’re not prepared. We’ve worked at it, and we like the potential we have.”
Kammerer, team president Pat Riley and chief executive officer Nick Arison evaluated 41 potential draft picks at AmericanAirlines Arena in the two months leading up to the draft and took notes on many others. Conventional thinking points to the Heat drafting a center, an obvious position of need, but the team proved during the playoffs that traditional logic — and a traditional lineup — isn’t the only way to win a championship.
The Heat’s front office met Tuesday to discuss its draft options and the team’s philosophy. In past years, Riley and the Heat have leaned toward erring on the side of size and length, but the Miami’s “small ball” run to the title has altered the team’s approach. With Chris Bosh at center and Shane Battier at power forward, the Heat gave away size in favor of speed. That strategy, coupled with a preference to draft an experienced collegian, could weigh heavily in selecting the Heat’s next rookie.
More specifically, the Heat would like to draft a player who can complement LeBron James and perhaps provide the reigning MVP with some defensive relief during the 82-game season.
“It’s not that we’re not going to be interested in a big guy, but if we can find a guy who we think can help we have the greatest player in the world on our roster,” Kammerer said. “I think what we have to do is bring a player in who will complement him and our stars. That would be a priority as far as who we draft.”
Kammerer reminded reporters on Monday that the Heat drafted Dwyane Wade in 2003 when Eddie Jones was the returning starter at shooting guard. If finding a small forward to backup James is a priority, then available players who fit the Heat’s profile that could be available late in the first round include Draymond Green of Michigan State and Jeffrey Taylor of Vanderbilt.
Both Green (6-7, 236 pounds) and Taylor (6-7, 213 pounds) are seniors from respected programs in major conferences. Green was named Big Ten Player of the Year and helped lead the Spartans to the Sweet 16. Taylor was selected to the All-SEC first team as well as the conference’s all-defensive team.
“We would like to think we could draft someone this year at 27 who could have an influence and maybe not be a rotational player, but someone we feel could not only make our roster but be a significant player for us,” Kammerer said.
The Heat hasn’t ruled out drafting a center, but Kammerer said “it’s going to be difficult to find someone at 27 that’s going to totally excite us.”
Syracuse center Fab Melo, who played in high school at Weston Sagemont, received some attention from the Heat and could be an option if he’s still available late in the first round, but Kammerer said he expects Melo to be drafted before Miami’s pick. Melo, who declared for the draft after two seasons at Syracuse, was the Big East Defensive Player the Year as a sophomore.
“There’s a player who has lot of upside mainly because he has only played four or five years of organized basketball, which is quite different than the average guy who is 21 years old,” Kammerer said.
Former Mississippi State defensive stalwart Jarvis Varnado, whom the Heat selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, will rejoin the Heat on its summer league team in Las Vegas. Varnado played in Israel and Italy last season.
The summer league runs from July 13 to July 22. Cole will participate in the summer league along with the Heat’s new draft pick. Terrel Harris and Dexter Pittman, both unrestricted free agents, are expected to re-sign on July 11.
SADNESS FOR HEAT
Pat Cummings, who was on the Heat’s first team in 1988, was found dead on Tuesday in an apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village. He was 55.
Cummings played 12 years in the NBA. His stint in Miami lasted two years. While playing for the Heat, Cummings lived at the Clevelander on South Beach. He was the starting power forward in the Heat’s first game as a franchise.