It took only a few hours following Tuesday night’s NBA Draft lottery for the Heat to have a clear vision of its perfect prospect.
With its No. 10 pick in the draft, the Heat wants three things: a defender who can guard an opposing team’s best perimeter player, a shooting threat who can stretch the floor and make space in the lane for paint attacks by Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, and, finally, a player who moves the ball with ease in coach Erik Spoelstra’s offense and creates plays for others.
In other words, the Heat wants a player like Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson, or at least that’s what Pat Riley said last month when asked about June’s NBA Draft. Thompson was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 draft, and his defense and shooting are key components to the Warriors’ transition offense. In the final minutes of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, Thompson limited Houston Rockets MVP finalist James Harden on one end of the court while triggering the MVP winner, Stephen Curry, on the other end.
Remember that fall-away three-pointer by Curry that sealed the victory for the Warriors? Thompson started that fast break when he forced Harden into a turnover. Of course, it’s easy enough for Riley and Spoelstra to want a player like Thompson, but it’s another thing to actually draft the perfect complementary shooting guard. Such a player might not even be available when it’s the Heat’s turn to make its selection.
“If you watch Golden State play, and I know what’s on coach’s mind as to what he wants to formulate with this team, and I agree with him wholeheartedly because I started my career as a fast-break coach,” Riley said. “So if you watch Golden State … Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, they’re everything. They’re the most complete backcourt in the league.”
Riley has a name for the type of prospect the Heat covets. He calls them “3-P D-players.”
“Guys who can make threes, guys that are playmakers and guys that can defend,” Riley said. “And, so, 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 is someone there we like at a specific position.”
A look at some of the best players available in this year’s draft class who fit Riley’s description:
D’Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
Height/weight: 6-5, 180 pounds.
Scouting report: Considered by some to be the best player in the draft, Russell likely will be taken long before the Heat’s pick at No. 10. Still, Russell is worth mentioning based on his skill set and potential. A freshman from Louisville, Kentucky, Russell averaged 19.3 points per game for the Buckeyes. He can finish at the rim and shoot it from outside. In short, if the Heat had a top-three pick in the draft, he might have been the team’s top target.
Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Barcelona
Height/weight: 6-8, 218 pounds.
Scouting report: A 20-year-old Croatian, Hezonja seems to be the perfect complement to the Heat’s current team. He worked his way into Barcelona’s rotation last season, and averaged 7.7 points in the Euroleague. He was 8 of 8 from three-point range in one game. While young, Hezonja has been a professional for several years. Mock drafts project Hezonja going before the Heat’s pick at No. 10.
Justise Winslow, F, Duke
Height/weight: 6-6, 225 pounds.
Scouting report: Winslow is included in this group because he went to Duke and everyone knows how much Micky and Nick Arison like players from that school. A freshman, Winslow averaged 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds. He has decent range and can finish at the rim. Unfortunately for the Arisons, Winslow likely will be drafted before the Heat is on the clock.
R.J. Hunter, G, Georgia State
Height/weight: 6-6, 190 pounds.
Scouting report: Hunter can play off the ball and has a history of hitting big shots, but his percentages were down his junior season. He shot just 30.5 percent from three-point range in his final season.
Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
Height/weight: 6-6, 206 pounds.
Scouting report: Booker was the sixth-man for the loaded Wildcats, and although he never started a game for the Kentucky last season, he featured in 38 of the team’s 39 games averaged 10 points per game. A pure shooter, Booker was 58 of 141 from three-point range (41 percent). The freshman also had the best free-throw shooting percentage (83 percent) among Kentucky’s regular contributors.
Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
Height/weight: 6-9, 230 pounds.
Scouting report: A key player on the Badgers’ national championship team, Dekker is a fearless competitor with decent range. He shot 33.1 percent from three-point range in his final season in Madison, Wisconsin.