Heat Check

Heat preparing for draft as usual – just don’t ask Spo about it

I didn’t mean for it to come out this way, but I asked Erik Spoelstra the wrong question Thursday morning at shoot around.

The exchange went like this:

I know you have a scouting department that prepares for the draft, but when do you get involved in watching film or the evaluation process? After the season?

“Wrong question, Manny,” Spoelstra fired back with a bit of a smile on his face. “Not a chance, pal. No way. I’ve got enough film watching this group and trying to find solutions. We have a very deep staff and I know they’re at work. But I’m not thinking along those lines at all.”

Spoelstra, who has moved further up the food chain in the Heat organization and is more than just a coach (he’s one of the five heads Pat Riley considers the Heat brain trust), obviously doesn’t want to give anyone any idea his focus is on anything beyond this season.

I know he hasn’t. Spoelstra is the last guy who ever would.

But the thing is a lot of people outside the organization don’t think the Heat is going anywhere but the lottery when the regular season ends, and while Spoelstra won’t get involved in any draft talk until after the season (I’m firm on this now), fans should know other guys in the organization are hard at work preparing for it as usual.

General manager Andy Elisburg said Riley has already been to a couple college basketball games during a tournament at Madison Square Garden earlier this season. Riley has always attended college games during March Madness and at various points throughout the season.

So, is the Heat doing even more homework than usual for this year’s draft considering the franchise has already traded it’s 2018 first round pick away as part of the Goran Dragic deal and sorely needs to hit a home run in the upcoming draft? Not necessarily, Elisburg said.

“To some extent you approach it the same every year,” Elisburg said. “You never know where you can get into the draft. So at some level you have to prepare every year for all paths. When you have a pick – and you have a higher pick – you may then do a little bit more homework, do more things, or put a little more focus at a specific spot when you get closer to the draft.

“At this point in time, though, you’re scouting everybody. You’re seeing everybody for the draft because these players are entering the NBA and they can become future players, which means future trades or future free agents. You’re beginning a file on them. So you’ve seen them at the beginning. Maybe once they’ve been in the league three or four years, you remember them as a freshman in college and chart the growth they’ve had in three or four years. So, it’s an ongoing process.”

Elisburg said the Heat’s scouting department and Riley work together throughout the season. Usually, Elisburg said, Chet Kammerer, vice president of player personnel, and assistant general manager, Andy Simon, will identify games for Riley to go watch and he goes.

“Pat will also watch on Synergy [a player tracking system] and look at things throughout the year,” Elisburg said. “Erik obviously focuses on the team and the game right now. Usually for the head coach, during the season, you have enough to deal with. After the season he'll get up to speed on where things are.”

In the end, though, Riley will go through all recommendations and make the final call on whom the Heat drafts, Elisburg said.

And it doesn’t matter if the point guard position is loaded, he adds.

“I think we’ve always looked at the draft as the best available, best talent for the team, the best players you can get,” he said. “If you’re drafting a player for their career, some are going to have a career of 10 to 12 years. Your needs will change over that period of time. You try to find who is the best player. At the end of the day, you try to find the best player you can.”

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