First in a series.
The slogan for the Miami Heat’s 2015 NBA Draft party Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena should be “Preparing for the future while building for the present.”
In many ways, the Heat enters this draft from an enviable position. With a loaded projected starting lineup, the team should be a playoff contender next season if everyone remains healthy. That luxury gives team president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and the team’s scouting department some flexibility with their two drafts picks (10th and 40th overall). They could draft players who might help immediately, invest in developing talents for the future, or perhaps try and do both.
In preparation for the draft, the Miami Herald will break down three areas of need the Heat might address in the 2015 NBA Draft, beginning with a young rebounder and rim protector.
But wait. Why would the Heat need a young inside presence? Doesn’t it have that exact asset in Hassan Whiteside? Of course, yes, but the only problem for the Heat is that there is no guarantee Whiteside will be on the team in two years. The 26-year-old is entering a contract season, and he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2015-16 season. The Heat hopes Whiteside will stick around, but the team would be wise to draft some insurance.
And then there’s this: Even with Whiteside, the Heat ranked 30th, or dead last, in rebounds per game last season (39.0).
The Whiteside dilemma leaves the Heat in an intriguing position before this draft. In a way, the Heat felt like it won the lottery in November when it signed Whiteside out of the D-League. The 7-foot center, who was drafted in the second round by the Sacramento Kings in 2010, wasn’t exactly an unknown quantity last season, but his sudden impact with the Heat was one of the NBA’s biggest surprises.
Whiteside had his moments of doubt. There was that bizarre week in March with the rash of technical fouls and ejections, but it wasn’t enough to detract from an excellent second half of the season. Despite the Heat not making the playoffs, Whiteside received a few first-place votes for the league’s Most Improved Player award.
Unlike a true lottery pick, though, Whiteside isn’t under a rookie contract with the Heat, and the team doesn’t even hold the center’s Bird Rights, which would allow the Heat to offer Whiteside a five-year contract, or one more year than every other team. He could walk after next season and the Heat would have nothing to show for it.
The uncertainty is frustrating, especially considering the potential team the Heat could build around Whiteside if he stayed in Miami.
It’s a lot to think about, and that’s without factoring in the pre-draft uneasiness between guard Dwyane Wade and the Heat, but even if Whiteside is in the Heat’s long-term plans, at some point he’s going to need someone on the young side of 30 years old to back him up. The Heat can find that player in this draft.
With several veteran centers and power forwards on the roster, the position isn’t a pressing need, but it’s certainly an area of concern for the near future. Udonis Haslem, the Heat’s all-time rebounding leader, will be 35 when next season begins. Chris Andersen will be 37. A young center learning from those players wouldn’t be a bad idea.
If Riley falls in love with a post player before the draft, and he is available at No. 10, the Heat might have a hard time passing. Conventional wisdom and past precedents point to the Heat possibly using its second-round pick on a big, but that approach hasn’t panned out for the Heat. Dexter Pittman, 32nd overall pick in 2010, never fulfilled his potential. Justin Hamilton, a 2012 second-rounder, at least developed into a secondary trade piece that helped bring Goran Dragic to Miami.
There is some tasty potential that might be around by the 10th pick. Kentucky 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein fits the mold of tough inside players whom Riley covets. Texas freshman Myles Turner, a 6-11 center, could be a gamble worth taking. Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky, a 7-footer with range, could provide an immediate impact off the bench.
Centers/Power forwards of interest