Miami Draft Preview: The Heat Need Another Forward
Right now the Miami Heat are solely focused on making the playoffs. This spring's NBA draft is far from a top concern at the moment.
But a not insignificant portion of the Heat fan base would rather focus on the draft than a team most likely heading to a first-round exit.
Miami actually owns its own first-round pick, a rarity under team president Pat Riley. And in recent memory, the team has done fairly when actually making a selection, taking Justise Winslow in 2015 and Bam Adebayo in 2017. Throw in Josh Richardson, a terrific two-way threat, and the Heat have found great success in recent drafts.
This year, Miami will look to add more young talent to a growing core as the team makes its way back to title contention.
The most obvious need for Miami is an elite go-to scorer. As one would expect however, those kinds of players are tough to find, especially as the Heat are projected to land something like the 15th overall pick. Perhaps the team can fill another need.
In looking at the roster, it’s overall well constructed with plenty of good role players. The center rotation consists of Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside, with Kelly Olynyk able to play spot minutes in case of foul trouble, or to go to in smaller lineups. Bam is a young promising center while Whiteside is a terrific backup still under contract until 2020. Today’s league is moving away from the center position so Miami shouldn’t need any more centers beyond those three.
Miami is also well-stocked at the guard position. Justise Winslow officially starts at point, and is backed up by former All-Star Goran Dragic. Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson can play one through three, though are both better at the two. If brought back, Rodney McGruder can play spot minutes as well.
This leaves the forward as an opportunity to improve.
Ryan Anderson is more likely to be bought out this summer than fill a roster spot next season. Olynyk, meanwhile, is a great floor spacer, cutter, and passer but is a step slow at seven feet tall, which limits his defense both in transition and on the perimeter. Jones Jr is a high-energy pogo stick with a surprisingly solid jumpshot, but doesn’t have the bulk to guard bigger forwards. James Johnson has had a bad year marred by injuries and inconsistent play.
Miami needs a player that can play on the wing but also bang down low. Someone with the physical tools to defend larger forwards, the Lebron James and Giannis Antetokounmpos of the world. According to ESPN’s NBA draft big board, there are two players that could fit that need and should be available for Miami to take.
P.J. Washington from Kentucky would be an excellent fit, projected at 13th. At 6’8” and 223 lbs, he has the size and length to be a good perimeter defender and rebounder, though hasn’t consistently shown during his college career. Head coach Erik Spoelstra can make anyone a better defender.
The second prospect is Rui Hachimura from Gonzaga, projected at the moment to be selected 15th overall. Like Washington, he has great size and length at 6’9”, 234 lbs. But unlike Washington, Hachimura is has the speed and athleticism that could make him a one to four defender and a lob threat to boott.
Hachimura’s biggest negative is his lack of playing time, having only started playing basketball at the age of 14. But in a great player development system like Miami’s, there’s the potential for him to catch up quick and put his athleticism to good use defending while developing a raw offensive game.
Between the two, I’d choose Hachimura. His lack of experience doesn’t scare me when Miami has shown such a consistent ability to maximize a player’s ability. If he can show commitment to growing on the defensive end he’ll certainly get minutes in Miami’s rotation. In either case, Miami would have a backup plan in case James Johnson has another injury-plagued season.