|Miami has the 35rd pick. They traded their first round pick
to the Clippers as part of the Brent Barry. In the real
draft, Miami picks #51. Their GM is: Rob
Who selects: Andre Patterson, PF, 6-9, Indiana
I: TEAM NEEDS/HISTORY:
This was a season full of promise for the Heat that went sour. The Heat's roster had finally stabilized, and the players were finally used to Pat Riley and each other. With the Bulls losing Heat-killer Brian Williams to the Pistons, many thought that the Heat could knock off the aging Bulls in the playoffs. Instead, the Heat faced a lot of adversity. Alonzo Mourning was injured for two major stretches during the season, and offensive hope Jamal Mashburn also missed a lot of time. More crucially, Riley traded key bench player Ike Austin to the Clippers for Brent Barry, who would have little impact in his Miami stay. The good news is that when Riley turned to his bench, players like Mark Strickland and Eric Murdock came up big. The fact that the rest of the Atlantic Division was either ravaged by injuries (Knicks,Magic), ravaged by ego (Wizards), menaced by youth and attitude (Sixers), or talented but too young (Celtics, Nets). As a result, the Heat won the Atlantic going away, but they were not sharp for the playoffs, and ended up facing their arch-rivals, the New York Knicks. Alonzo Mourning got into a slap-fight that caused a one-game suspension, and this helped the Knicks move to the second round. Noticeably, Pat Riley stood behind Mourning all the way. It's clear that he plans to stand or fall with Mourning.
Speaking of President-For-Life Riley, he again managed to get some impressive production out of some players who were better known as underachievers. The best example is Eric Murdock, who made life a little easier for Tim Hardaway. Another is Mark Strickland, a run-and-jump wunderkind whose developing skills produced some big games. On the other hand, he got almost nothing from tubby three-point shootin' big man Terry Mills. After going to all this trouble developing his bench, he abandoned it almost entirely in the playoffs. The Heat starters looked tired or half-dead, and even bench players like Dan Majerle didn't offer much. While it's important that your best players should get the most playing time in the playoffs, I think that abandoning some players who helped get you there, especially while the starters were struggling, was a bad move. Still, while Maximum Leader Riley is around, he will draw players to Miami. Players like him because he makes most of them better, and his teams never lose. He may be an egotistical tyrant, but he gets results. If the Bulls wind up breaking up, the Heat still have a chance to make it to the finals without a major overall.
One thing that Riley has rarely relied upon are rookies. In fact, he hates 'em. If he can dump a rookie to get a veteran player, he will do it virtually every time. What follows is a history of Heat first-round players.
As you can see, the best in the bunch are Rice, Smith and Seikaly. And to show how little Riley cares about the draft, he gave away this year's pick as well. I imagine he could really care less; with a weak draft, there's not likely to be anyone available at #22 who could make an immediate impact. Instead, Riley will try and lure a couple of free agent bargains or maybe pull off a big trade. The current buzz: ship a combination of players (including Jamal Mashburn) to Golden State for Latrell "Clutch" Sprewell. More on my opinions on that move in the "What the Heat will do" section.
Team Roster/Contract Status:
Heat: 45% FG, 36% 3FG, 74% FT, 42 rpg, 21 apg, 8.1 spg, 15 tpg, 5.2 bpg, 95 ppg Opp: 43% FG, 33% 3FG, 74% FT, 40 rpg, 20 apg, 7.8 spg, 15 tpg, 4.5 bpg, 90 ppg
II. PLAYER OVERVIEW:
Overall: Mourning is a star player, but the Heat could use another decent big man with more size, some offensive firepower, and/or a taste for rough play.
Alonzo Mourning had a season of extreme highs and lows. Injured for 24 games, he had particular trouble adjusting to playing with goggles after he had his orbit shattered. He had more trouble dealing with his volatile temper; players like Dennis Rodman and Larry Johnson knew that the key to beating Mourning was to make him lose his cool. And Mourning did this far too often. The most egregious example came in the playoffs against the Knicks, when he and Larry Johnson went at it in a slapfight with 1.4 seconds left in the game. He was suspended for one game and the Heat ended up losing the series in five games. It was the most telling sign of the uneasy relationship he has with the team and fans: he's the team's franchise player, a remarkable athlete in his prime, and one of the league's best defenders. But when crunch time comes and their opponents key on him, he has often not risen to the occasion. But he's the Heat's future, and Riley is totally behind him. The main task will be harnessing his amazing intensity into something continuously positive, and learn how to distance himself from old grudges. As far as his skills go, he really needs to improve his foul shooting (67%) and work on his jumper a bit more. Having a decent backup would also help take some of the pressure off him. Mourning is still a top defender, shotblocker and rebounder. When he keeps his cool, his ferocious intensity makes him a valuable asset.
Duane Causwell was brought in as a big body for practice, and as insurance. Turns out he was needed in both roles. When Mourning went down, Causwell got some minutes. When Ike Austin was traded, Causwell got some minutes. As a veteran, this was valuable, but his lack of skills really speak to the Heat's need for a versatile back-up center or power forward. He makes about $1.5 million a year, so I doubt he'll be traded, unless it's for salary cap reasons.
Overall: A solid but not great position on the team. Strickland deserves a chance for more playing time, but the Heat really need another consistent post scorer. A counterpart for PJ Brown is what's needed: a big muscular player who can consistently score down low.
PJ Brown had a standard PJ Brown kind of year--solid, consistent effort; good rebounding, great defense, very little offense. He's a perfect role player, but the Heat desperately need someone who is willing to become more of an offensive threat down low. They thought they would get that with Terry Mills, but that's not his game. Mark Strickland has the potential to do this, but he's still too green. PJ Brown's glaring flaw, his limited offense, really hurt the team, especially on nights when Mourning's jumper was off. Still, Brown is Riley's kind of player, and if the Heat had one more superstar, he's the sort of chemistry player that can win close games.
Mark Strickland is an amazing young talent with fantastic ups. He got some major playing time late in the year when Mourning went down (again) and Austin had been traded. He produced in a big way, with spectacular jams and steady rebounding. Unfortunately, Riley didn't go to him much in the playoffs when Mourning needed SOMEONE to help out. The reason is probably because Riley always prefers to go with veterans in the playoffs, even if they're not playing well. (Recall the extensive use of Terry Cummings last year) With Austin gone, he now has the chance to grab a lot more minutes next year.
Terry Mills was a colossal disappointment. Signed away from the Pistons to provide offensive punch off the bench, he ended up being out of shape, injured and ineffective the whole year. Moving the 3-point line in really hurt his effectiveness. I bet Riley would love to move him, but I doubt he'd get any takers. Not sure what his role next year will be; if I was him, I'd slim down and work on extending my range. But it's always problematic when you have a guard in a power forward's body; he's just not interested in mixing it up down low.
Marty Conlon was brought in late in the season after a rash of injuries. Riley liked him enough to put him in a bunch of games. He offers a decent shooting touch and some size but very little athleticism. He's a free agent and I'd be surprised if he was kept around.
SMALL FORWARDOverall: A weakness on the team. Mashburn deserves a chance to show what he can really do, but injuries and trouble adjusting to Riley's system have slowed him down. Still, the talent is clearly there, but Riley would trade him in a second if he could get a more consistent offensive weapon. Jamal Mashburn is a case study in frustration. The talent is there, the offense is there, but things keep holding him back. This year, it was an injury that knocked him out of the lineup at a time when he was getting into a groove. His defense is also not yet up to Riley's standards, and he's not a great athlete to make up for it. Mash is potentially the missing piece for the Heat's often stagnant offense, but he hasn't put it all together yet. Don't be surprised to see Riley dangle him as trade bait all summer long. Dan Majerle had his moments this year, but his constant injuries limited his effectiveness. It particularly hampered his ability to get to the basket, forcing him to jack up 3's. A classic streak shooter, he could shoot the Heat in and out of games, and frequently did both. Still, his toughness made him the sort of player that Riley admires. An excellent bench player. Keith Askins, "Mr Heat", continues to be the longest-running player on the team. I suspect he'll re-sign with the team this summer, with a small contract. Riley loves his kamikaze defense (especially in practice), his toughness, his versatility and his shooting. Another excellent bench player. Tony Lang was a late season CBA pickup. I imagine Riley picked him up because of his NBA experience and the injuries that plagued the team. Lang didn't play much, and I doubt that he'll be back. He is a good rebounder and defender, but never developed a decent jumper.
Overall: See Small Forwards. While Lenard never misses a game, his level of play is not within hailing distance of "star". Riley would love a big-time upgrade.
Voshon Lenard is one of Riley's finest CBA reclamation projects. A rock in the starting lineup, he often was the difference between victory and defeat for the Heat. When his shot was on, the Heat were nearly impossible to stop since Mourning could be left alone down low and Hardaway could be left alone to penetrate. He also has become a decent defender as well. All this being said, Lenard is still only a competent NBA starter who may actually be more appropriately used as a bench player. Riley would love to stick an all-star caliber 2-guard in this slot, giving him the third star that might propel the team further in the playoffs. Lenard has a wonderfully pure shot, but doesn't drive to the basket much and works better as a spot-up shooter.
Brent Barry was the prize in the unfortunate trade that sent Ike Austin, Spider Smith and a draft pick to the Clips. Bones got injured almost instantly, and spent most of the season either on the IR or on the bench, as Riley was unwilling to disrupt his rotation in the backcourt. From what I've heard, however, Riley really likes his ballhandling and athleticism, and wants to sign him. I find this a somewhat questionable move since defense is not exactly his strong suit, and I don't know if the Heat's physical, grinding style would best showcase his open-court abilities. We'll see, though; count on him being signed, if only for future trade bait.
Rex Walters was another late-season pickup. A former first-round choice, he's bounced around the league for awhile. His biggest problem is his inconsistent shot. Another free agent, I don't think he'll be retained.
Overall: The best position on the team, with an excellent starter and back-up.
Tim Hardaway was easily the team's MVP. A dependable starter, he routinely bailed the Heat out of many tough spots. With Mourning gone for much of the year, Hardaway took the role of primary offensive option and kept the team winning. When the game is on the line, there's no one on the Heat that I'd rather see with the ball. Even at 6'0 or so, he can post up other guards all day long; his little hook shot is a unique weapon for a point guard. Of course, his crossover is still an amazing weapon. Hardaway's main flaw is his sometimes questionable shot selection; he's also a very streaky shooter. Still, he is at superstar level and still has several good years left.
Eric Murdock was a revelation as a backup point guard. His shooting and overall offense were superb. He was an active defender and gave the Heat a different look at PG, with someone quicker than Hardaway who's a better pure shooter. His experience as an NBA starter definitely made him a valuable asset. The Heat would be insane to let him go; they're not likely to find a better backup PG.
President-For-Life Riley has done a fine job getting the most out of some ex-CBA players (Lenard, Austin), players who were considered washed-up (Hardaway, Majerle) and other marginal players (Murdock). He's one superstar away from having a title-contending team. The only real mistake he made was getting rid of Ike Austin, but that could still be a benefit if Barry adjusts to the system, and/or is signed and traded for a player of value. Some have criticized his offense for being too stagnant and depending too much on a couple of players, but then you could say that about many NBA teams. The other criticism leveled at Riley is that he works his team too hard, leaving them drained when playoff time comes. There's something to that, although I'd say that this happens because he shortens his bench too much. Riley will have this job as long as he wants it, since he has total control, and the team is winning like never before. If the Heat start losing, well, in Miami, that's not a good thing. Even Don Shula was forced out, after all...
The Heat having no glaring weaknesses. Instead, they have a number of areas that could use improvement, both with starters and bench players. The two biggest needs are another offensive threat at SG or SF, and another big man, either at C or PF. The Heat would especially love an impact player at SG/SF, a player who could consistently take the pressure off Mourning and Hardaway. The Heat know that they're certainly not going to get a player of that caliber so low in the draft, so look for them to go to the free agent market or try and swing a trade. Instead, I think they should look to get a project big man of some kind, and see what he can do. What the Heat really want, another superstar, won't be accomplished by way of the draft.
IV. MY SELECTION:
Disappointing college career, but his potential has always been tantalizing. Knows how to play in an ultra-disciplinary system, which is a plus. Great physique, just needs to learn how to play tough.
V: OTHERS CONSIDERED:
Casey Shaw, C Toledo. Good size, good performance in Desert Classic. Doesn't sound like a great athlete, but was a decent shotblocker and a durable performer.
Torraye Braggs, F Xavier. Got rave reviews at PIT and the Desert Classic, a PF in a small forward's body. Physical player who can score, though a bit undersized. A value as a second rounder.
DeMarco Johnson, F UNC-Charlotte. Extremely physical but undersized player is a hard worker. He could be the extra post player the Heat need, although his lack of height is a problem.
VI: WHAT THE HEAT SHOULD DO:
Sign a solid big man FA. I nominate Theo Ratliff (currently with the 76ers) and Terry Davis (currently with the Wizards). Ratliff is a rangy shotblocker who is a great leaper. Davis is a solid veteran (and former Heat player) who does a lot of things well down low.
Resign Eric Murdock.
If they can get a superstar for more than equal value (say a trade involving Mash and Lenard for one great player), do it. Riley can handle most prickly personalities. But don't go overboard, and don't do it at the expense of the bench.
VII: WHAT THE HEAT WILL REALLY DO:
Pull out all the stops to get Latrell Sprewell. Apparently, Riley has Tim Hardaway's blessing on this move, despite their former animosity at Golden State. Lenard, Mashburn and a resigned Barry could be the bait, plus maybe a draft pick.
There's also a rumor that the Heat might try to reacquire Glen Rice, but others say that it's just David Falk trying to intimidate the Hornets into giving up the big bucks. The Heat would have to part with PJ Brown, Lenard and Mash. They might get back Matt Geiger, though.
The nuttiest rumor is one that almost happened some years back: the Heat getting Hakeem Olajuwon. This would cost them Brown and Mashburn. The rebuilding Rockets get two solid young players, and the title-hungry Heat get a now-healthy great veteran who has tons of championship experience. It would move Mourning over to power forward and give the Heat a real weapon. However, I don't see the Rockets pulling the trigger unless they would get more.
If there's someone Riley really wants in the draft, he will almost certainly do what he did a couple of years ago and pull the trigger and make a deal. Martin Muursepp didn't do anything for the Heat, but he did help them land Mash.
|Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner|