From the Department of Why Bother?, the NBA took the time on Monday to break the tie for the Miami Heat’s 2022 first-round draft pick, with No. 27 now belonging Pat Riley and his front office.
The question is whether the announced selection on June 23 need even be sized for his Heat draft hat.
It’s not that the Heat shy from competitive youth, it’s just that rarely has the developmental pipeline been so stacked.
With the shift of NBA-ready Caleb Martin to a standard contract, the Heat have Mychel Mulder and Javonte Smart primed for time in summer league, with both under two-way contract for next season.
There also was the midseason conversion of Haywood Highsmith to a partially guaranteed standard deal, with the 25-year-forward also on developmental detail.
Then there is center Omer Yurtseven, last year’s summer standout whose 2021-22 developmental program was interrupted by the return of Bam Adebayo from thumb surgery and the team’s turn to a win-now focus in the playoff race.
Beyond that, there are the ties to Marcus Garrett, the guard who continued to rehab at the Heat’s facilities after wrist surgery left to a roster parting in January, and big man Micah Potter, who earned All-Rookie distinction this season with the Heat’s G League affiliate.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the Heat again are poised to participate in two summer leagues in July.
Already, the Heat could field an offseason developmental roster of Mulder, Smart, Highsmith, Yurtseven, Garrett and Potter. And that’s not even getting into the youth of former two-way players and ongoing developmental projects Gabe Vincent, 25, and Max Strus, 26. (Both were with the team in 2021 summer league, with little need for returns this summer.)
So where does that leave the Heat when it comes to the draft during the rarest of times when their first pick will far earlier than where the Miami Dolphins will select in this coming week’s NFL Draft?
Most likely, weighing cost-benefit analysis, as well as considering trade value.
While the rookie scale for the No. 27 pick in June’s draft is $1.84 million, or roughly the veteran minimum, even such numbers can get in the way of the luxury tax, as was the case when the Heat opted to sell off 2019 second-round pick KZ Okpala in February to the Oklahoma City Thunder for luxury-tax roster relief.
Beyond that, No. 27 also could stand as trade sweetener, perhaps if the Heat see the need to offload the $16.9 million due Duncan Robinson next season.
That’s not to say there can’t be value added.
Among recent No. 27 selections have been Pascal Siakam, Rudy Gobert, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kyle Kuzma, Robert Williams, Larry Nance Jr. Heck, Dennis Rodman made the Hall of Fame from No. 27 in 1986 (when that pick came in the second round). And former Heat legend Vladimir Stepania also was a member of the No. 27 club, in 1998.
But with their trade-deadline deal with the Thunder pushing back the need to forward a first-round pick until 2025, at the earliest, the Heat are free to trade their 2022 first-round pick at any time — today, tomorrow, at the draft, after the draft.
In fact, by flipping their 2022 first-round pick for another team’s future first-round pick, it could unlock similar freedom to deal first-round picks in subsequent years (a possibility now encumbered starting in 2024 due to the protected pick due to Oklahoma City, with teams not allowed to be without first-round picks in consecutive future drafts).
So, yes, the Heat did score their first victory of the season over the Golden State Warriors when they won the draft tiebreaker, after both teams finished the regular season at 53-29.
But this Heat roster, with the win-now talents of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, hardly has the time to wait for No. 27 to turn into a contributor, especially with the development pipeline already so well stocked.
For those who insist on considered the possibilities, those listed in the Heat’s range at No. 27 include Milwaukee forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., G League prospect MarJon Beauchamp, Ohio State wing Malaki Branham, Alabama guard JD Davison, Serbian forward Nikola Jovic, Duke guard Trevor Keels, Auburn center Walter Kessler (nephew of late Heat big man Alec Kessler), Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell, Overtime Elite guard Jean Montero and Kentucky guard TyTy Washington.
So off to the May 16 combine in Chicago it will be.
But as buyers? Or sellers? Intervening playoff results well could play a factor.
IN THE LANE
A BIG FAN: Denied the opportunity for the award himself, largely because of the time missed due to injury, Warriors forward Draymond Green instead lashed out at those who did not have the Heat’s Adebayo as a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, which ultimately went to Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart. “I thought it was a shame that Bam Adebayo wasn’t top three,” Green said on his podcast. “I’m not sure what Bam has to do to get into the top three. But it was a crying shame that he didn’t make the top three. I can go on and on about that. But I think we all know how ridiculous it is that Bam Adebayo, sitting first place in the East, did not make the top three. Absolutely terrible. Bam I’m not sure what you got to do my brother.” Green, who teamed with Adebayo for Olympic gold last summer, added, “It don’t be adding up to me. I see Bam Adebayo. I see him switch on the five. I see him be the catalyst to that defense, be the anchor to it. I see all of that. I see you Bam. I appreciate your defense my bother. I don’t know what you got to do to get some recognition for it.”
61ST PICK MOVES UP: In previous years, the goal for the Heat often was to wrap up No. 61 in the immediate wake of the NBA draft, the perceived best player to go undrafted. That included their poker face with Duncan Robinson through the 2018 draft process. This year, it will be a bit different. Again without a second-round pick, as they seemingly always are, the hunt will be for Mr. 59. That is one pick after the selections will end in June. What would have been the No. 55 pick was forfeited by the Heat as the result of the NBA’s ruling of early contact with Kyle Lowry ahead of last summer’s free agency. And what would have been No. 54 was forfeited by the Milwaukee Bucks over their free-agency shenanigans in the 2020 offseason with Bogdan Bogdanovic, who instead signed with the Hawks and is facing the Heat in this first round. The forfeited Heat pick was the one obtained from the Denver Nuggets in the 2019 draft-night trade for the rights to center Bol Bol. The Heat do not hold their own second-round pick until 2028.
TANK TIME: Now dealing with the injury loss of Khris Middleton, it could be argued that karma has caught up to the Bucks. Positioned to finish No. 2 in the East on the closing day of the regular season, the Bucks instead laid down against the Cleveland Cavaliers, to get into the perceived easier No. 3-No. 6 opening-round matchup against the Chicago Bulls. That decision, however, came at the cost of vaulting the Celtics to No. 2. The cost now could be playing as the road team against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, should both teams advance. And the way the Celtics have been playing, it well could turn out to be a careful-for-what-you-wished-for scenario. For their part, the Heat went for and achieved No. 1, with homecourt throughout the East bracket of the playoffs. (Although with a win on closing night in Orlando, when they sat their starters, the Heat lost out on the chance of hosting an NBA Finals against the Warriors. So perhaps down-the-road second-guessing there, as well.)
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: If nothing else, Heat 2020 first-round pick Precious Achiuwa arguably got the worst moment of his NBA career out of the way relatively early, when he missed a pair of final-seconds free throws that could have given the Toronto Raptors a Game 3 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. “First time I’m actually playing significant minutes in the playoffs, just learning,” Achiuwa said. “Moving on, just getting better. Definitely I know I’m going to be back here a lot of times in my career. It’s a learning experience moving forward for me.” Said veteran Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, “He’ll lose some sleep over the free throws, as we all do. We’ve all been there.”
18. Playoff-series won since 2009 (Erik Spoelstra’s first season as coach) for Spoelstra and Steve Kerr, tied for the most in the NBA over that span. Gregg Popovich is third on that list at 13, followed by Tyronn Lue (12).
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