|With the last pick in the 2000 Usenet Mock Draft we have the Miami Heat. Their GM is another lifetime achievers, Rob Clough. Rob Selects:|
I. Team History
Another year, another crushing disappointment. The Heat once again captured the Atlantic Division crown and once again fell to the hated New York Knicks in the playoffs. As per the norm, the series went to the max, despite heavy injury problems for the Knicks. The Heat's dilemma this year was the same problem as last year: the lack of a healthy Tim Hardaway. Without Tim around as a reliable scorer who could force double-teams, the Heat became too dependent on Alonzo Mourning taking jumpers and Jamal Mashburn creating his own shot. The Heat's offense was ugly and stagnant, but the post defense and rebounding were so superb that it kept them winning game after game. And the fact that this was a veteran group that had been together awhile gave them an advantage over many other teams, particularly on team defense.
It's getting tough to figure this group out. Riley has certainly led the team to unparalled levels of success, but at a time when the team was ready to go to the finals, they can't get past their arch-rivals. The Heat recovered from losing to the Knicks in '99 on a last-second Allan Houston shot by once again displaying their defensive prowess and having several players step up their play. Mourning showed that his incredible '99 season was no fluke by once again putting up some excellent all-around numbers. Jamal Mashburn finally started to live up to his potential by becoming the Heat's top three point shooter and poising himself as a consistent offensive threat. Voshon Lenard, Dan Majerle, PJ Brown and Clarence Weatherspoon were solid support players, while rookie Anthony Carter was a nice surprise. But Tim Hardaway missing 30 games and proving to be largely ineffective in the playoffs killed the Heat's chances, especially against a team that knew all their weaknesses.
The playoffs started promisingly enough, with a 3-0 sweep of the Detroit Pistons. But this proved to be fool's gold, as Detroit was forced to play without Grant Hill for much of the series. The fact that Detroit's inside play was pathetic played right into the Heat's hands, as they forced jumper after jumper from the dispirited Pistons.
And the Heat never fell behind the Knicks in the playoffs, as they had 1-0 and 3-2 leads in the series. But a game six collapse, where the Heat blew an 18 point, 3rd quarter lead, proved to be their downfall. While the Heat also had a lead throughout much of the contest in game seven, one could sense the Knicks just waiting for the Heat to fold. Without Hardaway confidently taking big shots at the end, as well as a quick guard who could check the Knicks' speedsters, the Heat's superior defensive and rebounding ability was simply not enough. Beyond that fact, the Knicks played with energy and confidence, while the Heat played tentatively.
The Heat were bitter about the loss, to the point where they openly whined about the officiating afterwards ("8 on 5 out there") and refused to give any credit whatsoever to the Knicks. I found this response pathetic, though understandable given the circumstances. But it showed that the Knicks had gotten to them mentally. Some have suggested that Riley is too much of a slave-driver, that his practices are too intense. I say that the Heat simply don't have a second superstar to help Mourning. Hardaway was that player, but I'm not sure he can be for much longer if his injury problems keep up. Mashburn has shown flashes, but hasn't dominated the way the Heat have needed him to at all times. The Knicks are an especially tough matchup for the Heat because they're so quick at every position. The Heat simply couldn't match up with Sprewell, Houston, Camby and Ward simultaneously, and Ewing still had enough left to give Miami problems down low. But if the Heat are ever to get by them, they will need a great perimeter player. That's obviously not going to happen through the draft, so if Riley plans to alter the team makeup (not a bad idea considering the team psyche is rather damaged at this point), it will be through a trade.
The Heat had to send Utah their pick for taking a late first rounder some years ago (resulting in the legendary Martin Muursepp, whom the Heat parlayed into Mashburn), which is OK since there's not much of value left by the end of the first round. So as Heat GM, I'm hoping to pick up a player that got overlooked by the other GM's, though I'm not holding my breath.
Team Roster/Contract Status:
Player/# Years Pos Signed Notable Stats/Accomplishments Through: Alonzo Mourning/8 C 2003 Defensive POY; 2nd Team All-NBA, 21.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.7 bpg, 55% FG Duane Causwell/10 C 2002 2.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg PJ Brown/7 PF 2003 9.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 apg Mark Strickland/6 PF 2001 4.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg Otis Thorpe/16 PF 2001 5.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg Clarence W'rspoon/8 PF 2001 7.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg Harold Jamison/R PF 2000 1.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg Jamal Mashburn/7 SF 2001 17.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.9 apg, 40% 3FG, 1 spg Bruce Bowen/5 SF 2000 2.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg Tim James/R SF 2002 2.8 ppg Dan Majerle/12 G/F 2001 7.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, 40% 3FG, 1.29 spg Voshon Lenard/5 SG 2002 11.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 39% 3FG Rodney Buford/R SG 2000 4.3 ppg Tim Hardaway/11 PG 2000 13.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 7.4 apg, 36% 3FG, Anthony Carter/R PG 2000 6.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.8 apgx
Tim James was the first Riley rookie who has actually stuck with the Heat, though he predictably barely played. But the big surprise for the Heat was the play of rookie Anthony Carter, a player Riley picked up as a free agent. Riley is well-known for finding talented CBA players and developing, and Carter was the latest of his projects who played a crucial role for the team with Hardaway being injured for much of the season. Rodney Buford was another rookie who actually found some quality minutes last year as a scoring-machine type player. His drug offenses may put his career with the Heat in peril, however. Otherwise, Riley builds through trades and free agent acquisitions. The Heat, as always, are capped out, so Riley will hope to get a decent player or two with the million and two million dollar exceptions.
II. Player Overview:
Overall: Mourning once again held the team together, proving that he has fully embraced superstar status both physically and mentally. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award and proved to be the best center in the admittedly lacking Eastern Conference. Otis Thorpe was brought in to back up Mourning, but was injured most of the year. He did have a few solid moments, however.
Mourning is indisputably one of the very best centers in the league, perhaps only behind Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan. He has overcome his maturity problems and mental errors in games to become a formidable and consistent all-around threat. His forte is still defense, as his shotblocking and power are both excellent. He has improved the range on his jumper considerably, though he still works better down low. He has become the heart and soul of this team; no one works harder than he does. The decision to build the team around him turned out to be a good one. He is in the prime of his career, and will be at a very high level of play for several more years.
Duane Causwell was once again just a practice player, albeit a big one. The presence of Otis Thorpe and Mourning's good health meant few minutes for Duane, and I don't see that changing any time soon.
Thorpe is a natural power forward, but he also spent a bit of time at center.
Overall: The Heat are well-stocked at power forward, though their group in general is there more for defense and rebounding than scoring. PJ Brown continues to excel at defense, while Clarence Weatherspoon is a dependable veteran. Otis Thorpe didn't help as much as expected, while Mark Strickland had some occasions to show off his awesome hops. Harold Jamison also had his moments.
Brown's purpose is to play team defense, hustle, and rebound. And he does all three quite well. His offense is limited, but he's not there to take shots away from Mourning, but rather to help set up Mourning for more opportunities. Brown tied Mourning in offensive rebounding (2.7/game) and scored enough to keep the double-teams away. He makes very few mistakes and plays his role perfectly. He almost never misses games.
Spoon has always played bigger than his size (6-7). His wide frame is a big reason why, as well as his aggressive and physical nature. Like Brown, he loves the dirty work and was the team's third-leading rebounder while only playing 21 minutes a game. He proved quite capable of stepping up when Brown or Mourning were out, utilizing a solid set of post tools. Spoon doesn't mind coming off the bench but has the experience of starting for other teams.
Thorpe was a disappointment, but his injury had a lot to do with it. Riley likes veterans who have won elsewhere, but Thorpe only suited up for 51 games and didn't really start to produce until the end of the year. He'll be around for one more year, so hopefully he'll have more to show for his stint with Miami.
Strickland is the team's best athlete and most exciting player, but a limited set of skills limits him to mop-up duty.
Jamison is a muscular forward who loves to rebound and play defense. His height and offensive skills made him little more than a bench player, and was on "injured reserve" for most of the year. I'd be surprised to see him around next year.
Overall: Mashburn's improvement this year has boosted the Heat here, but they still lack athleticism and slashing ability. Mashburn became a credible threat, especially from behind the arc. Majerle did his usual solid job, particularly on defense. Bowen proved to be yet another solid hustle player.
Mashburn had his best season with the Heat, staying healthy and boosting his scoring average. He didn't have a single game under double figures until January, and exploded for a 34 point game early in the year. He did disappear in the last couple of games in the series with the Knicks, but New York had started to really focus on him. The most heartening aspect of his development was his great improvement from the three-point line. He led the team in shots attempted and made, as well as finishing second in accuracy. The bottom line was that while he improved greatly, it wasn't quite enough to get the team over the hump. But his strong performance and durability did make him more attractive in trade talks; don't be shocked if he gets swapped.
Majerle had yet another solid year. He was healthy for most of it, allowing him to play his usual brand of tough defense. He was by far the Heat's best perimeter defender, although he wasn't always quick enough to stop the league's best athletes. He put up good rebounding numbers, but his shooting was not that great. Second on the team in three-pointers made, he shot only 36%. Majerle led the team in steals and was fourth in assists. He has an option to leave the team, but I'd be suprised if he exercised it.
Bowen is one of those guys who doesn't put up huge numbers, but every NBA coach would love to have him. Like an Adrian Griffin, he's a player who does everything on the court. He scraps hard, he plays defense, he sets picks, and he can shoot. While he's not overwhelming in any one area, he's a perfect sub and practice player because he's talented enough to get the job done and has no ego. He's not quick enough or athletic enough to dominate a game, but he is clever enough to get his own shot and he always seems to come up with at least one big defensive play. He had a big steal at the end of game three of the Knicks series, for example. I hope Riley can save a spot for this guy.
Overall: The team's biggest weakness by far. Lenard is just OK and there are no real backups here. Young Tim James and Rodney Buford both have great potential, particularly Buford, but the Heat has long lacked sizzle at off-guard.
Lenard had his usual decent season where he proved to be a perfectly capable player who was rarely spectacular. His main role on the team is to his threes, but he was only fourth on the team in this capacity, and shot a mediocre 39%. He's a player with backup talent forced into a starter's role, and while he never embarrasses himself out there, he simply doesn't have the talent to take over games.
Buford. The 52nd pick of last year's draft surprised everyone by making the team and actually contributing a bit. He can really score; one to keep an eye on. He will most likely be back next year.
James. Only got into a handful of games; he was on injured reserve for part of the year, but the truth is that he had no real chance of playing. He's signed for two more years, so perhaps he'll be able to move up in the rotation if the Heat moves a number of players in the off-season.
Overall: Both the strongest and weakest position on the team. When Tim Hardaway is healthy, the Heat are set, because Anthony Carter has proven he has what it takes to succeed in the league. When Tim is injured, the position is dangerously thin. While the Heat like Carter quite a bit, they're not quite ready to make him a full-time starter.
Hardaway is still a very good NBA point guard. The problem is, he used to be a great NBA point guard. He only managed to play in 52 regular season games and only a couple more in the playoffs. His numbers suffered as a result. While his 3:1 assist:turnover ratio is impeccable, his scoring average dropped considerable and his field goal percentage was an anemic 39%. His defense was not what it once was, nor his overall quickness. How well he recovers in the off-season, as well as how much he's willing to play for will determine his future in Miami.
Carter started 30 games in Hardaway's absence, and did a very respectable job. His assist:turnover ratio was over 2:1, not bad for a rookie point guard. His quick hands made him second on the Heat in steals. Carter's first step often made him tough to stop on the way to the basket, where he would throw up his usual high-arcing floater. His quasi-legal shot against the Knicks won a memorable playoff game for Miami. Keeping him should be a priority. Carter's main liability is long-range shooting, hitting an anemic 13% from three with only 23 attempts.
This was not an exceptional year for Riley the GM. His attempt to get Steve Francis in last year's draft fell through, and he wouldn't pull the trigger on any trades. His one big free agent signing, Otis Thorpe, was a big disappointment, though injuries played a part in it. On the other hand, he managed to snag handyman Bruce Bowen for a song, and came up with the very solid Anthony Carter, who proved essential in a number of wins. A good year, but not a spectacular one. He pretty much chose to stick with the same group of players.
Riley the coach showed rare patience with Carter, allowing him to make mistakes because the team needed his help desperately. He stuck with his usual grind-it-out offense, which was good enough to complement the always- sticky defense. As always, he got the most out of his players, but was constantly outmaneuvered by Jeff Van Gundy in the playoffs. Riley has done a lot for the franchise but there is going to be a point soon where his presence brings diminishing returns. His dictatorial style of coaching may get the most out of lesser talents but it may end up scaring off the league's younger and more talented players in the long run. Time will tell.
The question has become: Can Riley really handle the pressures of being both coach and GM? Would the team be better served with someone else handling some of the decision-making? Despite the Heat's ugly exits, Riley still has a year or two before that question needs to be asked loudly.
III. Draft Needs:
The Heat's crippling flaw during the Riley era has been the lack of a consistent third scorer. While Mashburn picked up his game this year, improving his numbers across the board, this gain was nullified by Tim Hardaway's ineffectiveness. Also, the Heat don't have much in the way of young big men. Riley is usually not that interested in developing his young players by giving them playing time and in general rarely looks to the draft for help. But giving it my best shot, I'll be looking for a high-scoring wing as my first priority, and a big man project as my second. Taking a good young power forward might make PJ Brown expendable, finally freeing him up to trade for a top-notch scorer.
IV. My Selection:
Magliore is a rough-and-tumble guy with long arms and good defensive ability. He doubled his career scoring average as a senior, but no one is mistaking him for an actual offensive threat. His bread-and-butter is shotblocking, but even more impressive was that he doubled his career rebounding average as a senior as well. A good backup center or power forward with a solid body. He was my top choice at this spot and I was surprised to see him around.
V. Others Considered:
Dalibor Bagaric, Croatia. A 20 year old 7-footer with a good body and excellent shot-blocking skills. Can also hit three pointers. Given a year or two to develop, he could be a great backup.
Michael Redd, Ohio State. Top-notch scorer who helped bring Ohio State back to respectability. Not a great shooter, but he can create his own shot and rebound. Good size for a guard, and he can slash, something the Heat always need.
Mark Madsen, Stanford. Excelled in the camps, and his hard-nosed style of play make him a good fit for Miami's physical defense. Good rebounder and defender who is not all that quick, but will work hard and score more than expected.
Primoz Brezec, Slovenia. Another foreign big-man project, he is a great shot-blocker and can hit the three, but will need extended tutelage in low- post play. A project, but a hard one to resist.
JaRon Rush, UCLA. Great talent who has displayed a lot of immaturity in his career. His NCAA troubles are well-documented, but more disturbing is his arrogance and difficulties following team rules. Still, he can hit the three and rebound, and is a great athlete. Certainly not a bad choice for a late pick.
VI. What The Heat Should Do:
Re-sign Hardaway. There frankly aren't any point guards on the free-agent market who are better than Tim, even a Tim that's slightly damaged goods. The question is if he will accept a one-year deal.
Re-sign Carter. A no-brainer, really. He's a solid back-up who can score, and he'll be a bargain.
Re-sign Bowen. He's the kind of role-player that's handy to have around. His ability to hit the three as well as play defense make him very valuable.
There are some good free agents out there who may be available at reasonable salaries: Cuttino Mobley, who would help the Heat's shooting; Rashard Lewis, who would be a solid young big man with considerable offensive skills; and Derek Anderson, an all-around talent. If the Heat can't pull off any big trades, they might try one of these players.
VII. What The Heat Will Really Do:
The Heat are currently trying to land FA Eddie Jones of Charlotte. He apparently isn't very interested in staying with the Hornets. His defensive ability would make him a perfect fit with the Heat, and his slashing moves and decent jumper make him an incredibly attractive player. His quickness would give the Heat the perimeter stopper they have so desperately needed the last few years, someone to complement Mourning and Brown. Jones apparently isn't interested in the $2 million exception, so the Heat would have to engineer a sign-and-trade, possibly with a third team.
The Heat are also interested in possibly obtaining Tracy McGrady from Toronto. While he isn't the defender that Jones is, he is a great athlete who is starting to get a feel for the NBA.
There's also a possibility that the Heat will take Isaiah "JR" Rider, the troubled-but-talented guard who last played for the Atlanta Hawks. Rider's ability has never been in question, but his ability to accept discipline and show up on time has. If he can't play for a coach as generally beloved by his players as Lenny Wilkens, I find it hard to believe that he'll be able to deal with Pat Riley. We'll see how desperate Riles really is if this one happens.
(Thanks to the Miami Herald for info on the Heat's potential plans.)
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