It may be not 2008 again, but for the Miami Heat, this year’s draft is one worth paying attention to.
With the impending lockout still hanging over everything like a Midwestern dust storm, Miami’s options for the future are limited.
Outside of trading one of the Big Three (unlikely), there aren’t many ways Miami can improve.
The draft is one way and because of all the future draft picks the team conceded in the Bosh and James sign-and-trades, the Heat won’t have too many more opportunities.
And while Miami doesn’t have a first round pick this year — get used to that—the team does hold the first pick of the second round, or thirty-first overall.
For that reason, this year’s pick carries more weight than it normally would.
Every year there is a late pick that turns heads. Don’t forget the Spurs took Tony Parker with the 28th pick a few years back and George Hill with the 26th pick more recently.
And it was in the beginning of the second round where Miami found Mario Chalmers in 2008.
Looking at last year’s roster, one thing is clear: this team doesn’t have much young talent.
And while the Riley ethos has long been experience over youth, this team sorely needs more of the latter, especially in the backcourt.
Instead of going another round with the rapidly aging Mike Bibby, there are a number of young guards who could add some welcomed athleticism and energy to the bench.
Yes, this draft is weak at the top but Miami doesn’t need an all-around point guard.
Miami point guards must be able to do two things: hit open shots and not be a liability on defense. The occasional drive to the rim doesn't hurt either. It’s why Chalmers, hardly a pure point guard, looked so good in the Finals.
For most teams, scoring point guards, commonly known as shooting guards trapped in a point guard's body, are liabilities.
But not for Miami. Next to James and Wade, shooting is the prerequisite, not playmaking.
For these reasons, Duke senior, Nolan Smith, should be at the top of the Heat’s list.
Smith is a tough, experienced guard who would fill many of Miami’s holes.
Go down the list.
Good shooter? Check.
Defense? One of the best at the position, according to Chad Ford.
Mental toughness? He played for the most despised school in the country- the Heat hate will be nothing new.
Smith offers a good balance of youth with experience. On this team, you don’t want a wide-eyed 18-year-old with potential. No time for another long-term Dorell Wright experiment.
You want a player that has already experienced his share of big moments; someone who can contribute right away.
Considering how much Chalmers impressed in the Finals, another team could very well make him an offer he can’t refuse and one the Heat can’t match. Should that happen, Smith would be the perfect replacement.
And if that doesn’t happen, Smith would still fit in seamlessly and not allow Chalmers to become complacent, something Chalmers has been susceptible to in the past.
While Miami should make Smith a priority even if it means buying a first round pick—something Heat owner Mickey Arison doesn’t often opt for, and even if he did, would be a challenge given how other executives feel about the Heat — all is not lost if the Heat miss out on him.
There are a few other enticing options backcourt.
Here are, in order, the next best five:
1. Reggie Jackson, pg, junior, Boston College.
Word is Pat Riley has had his eye on this ACC product all season. Athletic 6-foot-3 point guard with an improved three-pointer (42 percent) last year. His ridiculous Rondo-like seven-foot wingspan could make him a devastating defender. One downside: will probably be gone before Miami’s pick comes up.
Chad Ford’s big board: 29th overall.
2. Iman Shumpert, pg, junior, Georgia Tech
Shumpert’s height (6-foot-6) would allow him to play either guard spot. He’s a solid, lanky defender, something Miami lacked against Jason Terry. He is also arguably the most athletic guard in the draft, with his 42-inch vertical. However, his less than accurate three-point stroke (28 percent last year) would be a concern.
Chad Ford’s big board: 24th overall.
3. Norris Cole, pg, senior, Cleveland State
Chad Ford ranked Cole as the next best point guard behind the obvious four: Irving, Knight, Kemba and Jimmer. The 6-foot-2 Cole is seen as one of those all-around point guards who doesn’t do one particular thing exceptionally well, but doesn’t have a weakness either. Interesting option.
Chad Ford’s big board: 23rd overall.
4. Josh Selby, pg, freshman, Kansas
Certainly the riskiest option, considering he only played a year of college ball and his numbers were far from mind-blowing (7 ppg, 35 percent from three). Still, there is certainly a lot of room for growth considering his athleticism (He tied Shumpert for highest vertical leap in the entire draft: 42 inches) and ability to attack the rim. The problem is he would probably take some time to develop.
Chad Ford’s big board: 31st overall.
5. Darius Morris, pg, sophomore, Michigan
At 6-foot-5, he is one of the taller natural point guards. More of a playmaker than a shooter (25 percent from three), you get the feeling that he might not be the ideal fit. Still, a solid option.
Chad Ford’s big board: 35th overall.
All in all, as long as Riley addresses the Heat’s backcourt in some fashion, you would have to feel fairly satisfied coming away from Thursday’s draft.
Miami has a big man for the future in Dexter Pittman, the getting-slimmer-by-the-second center. Now it is time to continue to round out its roster in phase one of year two.
As long as Riley doesn’t channel his inner Bill Belichick and trade away the pick in a distant deal, then Thursday night should be interesting enough.
And even if it isn’t, many basketball fans will talk themselves into enjoying it, since it could be the last taste of the game for a long, long time.