Greg Cote

Miami Heat, Riley need to have hit big with Kentucky guard Tyler Herro in NBA Draft | Opinion

Tyler Herro won the draft, sartorially. The Kentucky guard wore a purple-ish, paisley-ish floral print jacket that would have made Prince proud.

“It speaks for itself,” he said Thursday night after Miami made him the 13th overall pick in the NBA Draft. “I mean, look at it!”

The question now: Will he look as good in a Heat uniform?

Herro is a 6-6, 192-pound combo guard out of Kentucky, Pat Riley’s alma mater. Scouting reports hail him as one of the best shooters in the draft, able to play the pick-and-roll and create shots set or moving. A weapon offensively.

But, as ESPN analyst Jalen Rose said, “At this point in the draft there’s an eye-of-the-beholder aspect.”

No assurances, in other words.

So how did Riley do in his estimation of Herro? That’s the real question. With a name way too close to “Hero” to avoid, has Miami just selected the one it needs?

Riley needs to have hit big on the Heat’s top draft pick Thursday night — the fifth-highest pick of his quarter-century tenure here. That’s because Miami is in NBA purgatory at the moment, a very bad combination of being a very average team that is money-strapped, unable to spend on big free agents this summer, and with a roster light on star power despite the high, over-the-limit payroll.

That’s all on Riley, one more reason he needed to hit a draft home run Thursday.

Some teams have the luxury of drafting for depth, a rotation piece.

Miami really needs this new guy to be more than that. A starter. Dare say a star?

The Heat has a modestly attractive young nucleus in Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. They need instant impact and star potential from their new No. 1 pick to make that new nucleus more attractive to top free agents in 2020 or ‘21, when Miami will have money to make big moves but still will have to convince available superstars that the Heat is once again a destination team poised to win big again.

NBA drafts have a reputation for being talent-heavy at the very top and then a steep falloff. As if expectations for a 13th overall pick should be modest. Too many exceptions throughout basketball history for that to be an excuse, though. Too many exceptions for Heat fans not to dream big, and trust that maybe the gold-mining Riley just hit on something.

(The Heat may be due a bit of luck, right? After Zo’s kidney and Bosh’s blood clots and LeBron bolting after four years and no draft-lottery miracles?)

Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone. Those Hall of Famers were drafted 13th overall. I’m just sayin’.

Guys drafted lower than 13th include Spencer Haywood, Artis Gilmore, Tony Parker, George Gervin, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Dennis Rodman, Steve Nash, Manu Ginobli and Draymond Green.

Not drafted at all: Ben Wallace, Udonis Haslem, Bruce Bowen and on and on.

Drafted 15th: Arguably the best young player in the league right now, the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Just sayin’: Somebody drafted Thursday and not named Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or R.J. Barrett (the top three picks as expected) will be a big star in this league.

Herro, maybe?

Another reason Riley could use such a kiss of fate:

His Heat draft history has been spotty. Is that blasphemy?

I’m not saying bad, no. One pick, the generational difference-maker Dwyane Wade in 2003, deliverer of three championships, is the ultimate ace Riley can play against all such criticism.

But this is true, too: In the 18 Heat drafts on his watch before Thursday (Miami has not had a pick five times during his time), he has drafted only one other player besides Wade who made an All-Star team. That was Caron Butler in ‘02.

His previous two drafts have been solid. Adebayo in 2017 and Winslow and Richardson in ‘15 may yet be All-Stars. Even if not, they are valuable pieces moving forward predicated on their continuing ascension — not untouchable, but guys Riley would much prefer to keep. That is some of why recent trade talks for Mike Conley broke down.

Other than Wade/Butler and Adebayo/Winslow/Richardson, though, only four other of Riley’s 33 total Heat drafts picks have played even 100 games for the team. They were non-difference makers Eddie House, Rasual Butler, Dorell Wright and Michael Beasley. Fifteen of Riley’s Miami draftees, almost half, never played a minute for the team.

Herro, now.

He needs to prove to have been a great pick.

More than that, Pat Riley needs him to be.

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