Miami Heat

Facing long odds at top pick, here’s a look at Heat’s situation entering draft lottery

Spoelstra: “This season without question would be the growth of our young players”

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during the season-ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday April 12, 2019 in Miami.
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during the season-ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday April 12, 2019 in Miami.

Even with no cap space and a payroll that’s right around the luxury tax threshold, there is one clear way the Heat can improve its roster this offseason.

In the first round of the June 20 NBA Draft.

The Heat will learn where it will pick in next month’s draft on Tuesday night during the NBA Draft lottery, which will take place at the Hilton Chicago to determine the first-round draft order of the 14 non-playoff teams. The lottery results will be unveiled at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN, with former Heat center and current vice president of player programs Alonzo Mourning representing the team on stage and Heat general manager Andy Elisburg working behind the scenes at the actual lottery before the picks are unveiled to the public.

The most likely result for the Heat is coming away with the 13th overall pick after a random drawing last month to break the tie between the three teams that finished with a 39-43 record (Charlotte, Miami, Sacramento) left the Hornets with the No. 12 seed for the lottery, the Heat with the No. 13 seed and the Kings with the No. 14 seed.

Miami enters the lottery with a 90.6 percent chance of coming away with the No. 13 selection and a 4.7 percent chance of securing a top-four pick, with only the first four selections randomly drawn and the remaining lottery teams picking in inverse order of their 2018-19 records. As the No. 13 lottery seed, the Heat can come out of the lottery with the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 13 or No. 14 pick in next month’s draft.

Miami, Charlotte and Sacramento have a 1 percent chance at the top overall pick, which is expected to be Duke forward Zion Williamson. The three teams also have a 1.1 percent chance at the No. 2 pick, a 1.2 percent chance at the No. 3 pick and a 1.4 percent chance at the No. 4 pick, and the Heat can fall to No. 14 if the Kings climb into the top four.

“I get excited about that stuff because I’m an Irish guy,” Heat president Pat Riley said last month, alluding to the team’s long odds for a top-four pick. “I sling shamrocks around all the time. That’s my favorite emoji, is to throw out shamrocks to all my friends. Just type in Irish, that’s all you got to do, and there it is.”

While the lottery odds are stacked against the Heat moving to the top of the draft, teams have gotten lucky before.

Most recently, the Cavaliers (1.7 percent chance of winning the lottery) moved up from the lottery’s ninth seed to the No. 1 pick in 2014. The Cavaliers also overcame the odds in 2011 when it jumped from the eighth seed (2.8 percent chance) to the top pick, and the Bulls went from the ninth seed (1.7 percent chance) to the No. 1 pick in 2008.

But Miami has never had such luck. The Heat has previously appeared in the lottery 10 times and has never improved its lottery seed, actually dropping from its seed in the lottery six times.

A top-four pick in this year’s draft could mean Williamson, Murray State guard Ja Morant or Duke wing R.J. Barrett.

While those names — as expected — are considered better NBA prospects than any who would be available if the Heat stuck at 13 or fell to the 14th pick, Riley believes there will be a quality player on the board who could make Miami better wherever it lands in the lottery.

The Heat used its past two lottery picks on Bam Adebayo (No. 14 pick in 2017) and Justise Winslow (No. 10 in 2015).

“I think it’s deeper than what people say,” Riley said of this year’s draft. “… I’ve seen 30 players that are very good players. We’re at No. 13. I do think we would get something that would be equivalent to who we have on our team right now, Bam and Justise and Josh [Richardson] and Derrick Jones Jr. There are going to be players that I think in that area will help us.”

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.