The Heat got its consolation prize for a losing season Tuesday night: The 10th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Now it’s up to the Heat’s front office to identify a prospect who can help the team next season, but perhaps more importantly develop into a reliable starter for the future. The dream, of course, is to find a player who turns out to be one of the best in the NBA.
For that to happen at No. 10, however, Heat president Pat Riley noted last month that the player has to go “above and beyond.”
The NBA Draft is June 25 and this is the first time since the Heat drafted Michael Beasley that the franchise has had a Top 10 pick. As lottery picks go, the Heat has done well in the past (Dwyane Wade, fifth pick in 2003), but the process of selecting high in the draft is never a sure thing (Beasley, second pick in 2008).
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The stakes aren’t as high this time for the Heat — the team expects to have a loaded roster next season — but drafting a solid contributor is necessary. Already Riley has indicated areas of need — perimeter defending and three-point shooting. If the Heat’s free agents return as expected, the team’s starting lineup for next season appears to be set (Wade, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside), but unlike those glory years with LeBron James, there will be room in the rotation for a young player.
“This is the fourth time we’ve been in the lottery, and we hope we can catch a player who can go with those guys,” Riley said.
After finishing the regular season with a record of 37-45, or the 10th-worst in the league, the Heat had an 87 percent chance in Tuesday’s weighted draft lottery to score the 10th pick. It all played out without any surprises for the Heat, which was represented in New York by team general manger Andy Elisburg and player-turned-executive Alonzo Mourning.
The Minnesota Timberwolves received the top pick. If the Wolves keep the pick, they would have each of the past three No.1 overall picks on their roster for next season. Minnesota received the previous two top picks (Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins) in a trade last year with the Cavaliers.
The Lakers defied the percentages and moved from a projected fifth spot in the lottery to second. The 76ers landed the No. 3 pick.
With the Heat’s draft position now secure, the next step will be zeroing in on the team’s top targets. Heat scouts attended the pre-draft combine last week in Chicago, which featured many of the players available for the upcoming draft. The Heat will invite some of those players and others to Miami for individual workouts over the next month.
In a perfect world, Riley has made it clear he would like to draft a player similar to Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson, who was the 11th pick of the 2011 draft. A player such as Thompson would complement the Heat’s current backcourt, which is heavy on attackers but could use some additional shooting touch from outside.
“A lot of times you have a player or two players who are playmakers that are your best playmakers and your best scorers, but they might not have that kind of range or that kind of game, so you need to go out and get two or three of those kinds of players,” Riley said after the regular season. “And so, while we felt we had enough maybe on the perimeter, that might be an area where we look, but I don’t want to be a one-dimensional guy.”
▪ There were actually better odds of the Heat losing its draft pick Tuesday than jumping into the top three spots. The Heat had a 9 percent chance of losing its draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. It didn’t happen, which means the Heat still owes Philadelphia a first-round pick.
That transaction is a remnant of the deal that sent James in a sign-and-trade from Cleveland to Miami in 2010. The pick is “top 10 protected” next season as well, which means if the Heat finishes with a record between first and 20th in the NBA, the 76ers will get Miami’s 2016 first-round pick.
▪ The Heat had a 1.1 percent chance of getting the No.1 overall lottery pick. No team has ever landed the top spot with so small of a chance.