The NBA draft can be a power play for the Heat or again just as mundane. . . best available – The Denver Post

The value of living in the moment is not having to think about elaborating out of necessity. For most of the Pat Riley era, this made the process relatively clear to his scouting team.

This year may be the exception.

If PJ Tucker ignores his choice as a Heat player for next season and moves to free agency, there won’t be a single winger on the roster.

Not with Bam Adebayo at the center. Not with Omer Yurtseven yet to show the ability to play hard. And not unless Jimmy Butler agreed to play positionally, on a smaller ball approach.

So a four at number 27 in Thursday’s NBA draft?

“We have these conversations between now and the draft. And you can weigh it, based on need,” said Adam Simon, vice president of basketball operations for the Heat.

But the Heat’s odds of entrusting that role to a neophyte are likely no greater than when the team recruited Precious Achiuwa from the University of Memphis in 2020 amid a similar power vacuum. . . only to exchange it 10 months later.

So yes, again it can be as mundane as the best tried and true player available, even if that means boxes left unchecked after selections in the Barclays Center.

“I think it’s the same thing you don’t want to sit down a year from now and say we selected need and moved on to a player we thought was a better talent, just because we needed a position,” Simon said.

Sometimes the best talent available has a way of fitting in, as Dwyane Wade did in his move to point guard in 2003. And sometimes need-based drafting leaves you short, as was the case with Shabazz Napier in 2014.

In 2017, even with Hassan Whiteside in the squad, the Heat called up Adebayo. The move produced a win for the best available player.

Likewise, the Heat didn’t let Josh Richardson or Justise Winslow (or even Dion Waiters) get in the way of Tyler Herro’s 2019 first-round selection. Another score with the best approach available.

“I look at times when you can fill free agency,” Simon said of meeting the offseason’s positional needs. “I think when you’re in the draft, you’re trying to find someone who can become a player because you have him under contract for a few years or more.

“So I’m always trying to find the best talent. It’s hard enough to put them in order, you know, 27 to 60, or this year 58.”

So, the board will go to the FTX Arena, a final classification of Simon and his team after the last of the practices, interviews, video sessions, analytical analysis, internal debates.

At the top of the draft, the Heat could have it both ways, with Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero all projected as elite contenders in power.

At #27? Not so simple, a draft stage where the wings can end up spreading their wings.

“I’m certainly trying to give general advice and I look at it that way,” Simon said, following up with the three safest and arguably most pragmatic words of any draft evaluator, “best player available.”

It worked with Adebayo, Herro and, formerly, with Wade and Caron Butler.

And so not so much with Winslow, Achiuwa or even second-round KZ Okpala, whose rights were acquired at the cost of three future second-round selections.

“It’s not an exact science of writing,” Simon said. “We’ve had a lot of success with the choices we’ve had, and the ones that have changed, whether it’s trades or not, you hope for the best. Obviously we want them to get it right, otherwise you’re going to tell us how we missed the choice.

“So even if they move on, we all hope to pick the best player at that moment. In the end, sometimes it’s situational, whether that player fits your team or maybe didn’t have the opportunity to play. And then maybe there’s another team that has a better situation, or vice versa. Sometimes you don’t get the best out of a player until the second team or second contract.”

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