The value of living in the moment is not having to consider drafting for need. For almost all of the Pat Riley era, that has made the process relatively clear cut for his scouting staff.
This year might be the exception.
If P.J. Tucker bypasses his Heat player option for next season and moves into free agency, there would not be a single power forward on the roster.
Not with Bam Adebayo cast at center. Not with Omer Yurtseven yet to show an ability to play power forward. And not unless Jimmy Butler would sign off on playing up positionally, in a smaller-ball approach.
So a four at No. 27 in Thursday’s NBA draft?
“We have those conversations between now and the draft. And you could weigh it, based on need,” said Adam Simon, the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations.
But the odds of the Heat entrusting such a role to a neophyte likely is no greater than when the team drafted University of Memphis power forward Precious Achiuwa in 2020 amid a similar power void . . . only to trade him 10 months later.
So, yes, it again could be as mundane as the tried-and-true best player available, even if it means boxes left unchecked after the selections at Barclays Center.
“I think it’s the same thing where you don’t want to sit a year from now and say we drafted need and passed on a player we thought was a better talent, just because we needed a position,” Simon said.
Sometimes the best available talent has a way of fitting in, as Dwyane Wade did in his shift to point guard in 2003. And sometimes drafting based on need leaves you falling short, as was the case with Shabazz Napier in 2014.
In 2017, even with Hassan Whiteside on the roster, the Heat drafted Adebayo. The move produced a best-available-player victory.
Similarly, the Heat did not allow Josh Richardson or Justise Winslow (or even Dion Waiters) to stand in the way of the selection of Tyler Herro in the 2019 first round. Another score with the best-available approach.
“I look at it at times where you can fill in with free agency,” Simon said of addressing offseason positional needs. “I think when you’re in the draft, you’re trying to find someone you can develop into a player because you have him under contract for a couple of years or more.
“So I’m always trying to find the best talent. It’s hard enough to put them in the order, you know, 27 to 60, or this year 58.”
So up the board will go at FTX Arena, a final rating from Simon and his staff after the last of the workouts, interviews, video sessions, analytical breakdowns, internal debates.
At the top of the draft, the Heat could have had it both ways, with Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero all projected as elite candidates at power forward.
At No. 27? Not so simple, a stage of the draft where wings could largely wind up spreading their wings.
“Certainly I’m trying to give an overall board and I look at it that way,” Simon said, following with the safest, and arguably most pragmatic, three words of any draft evaluator, “best player available.”
It worked with Adebayo, Herro, and, back in the day, with Wade and Caron Butler.
And then, not so much with Winslow, Achiuwa or even second-rounder KZ Okpala, whose rights were acquired at the cost of three future second-round selections.
“It’s not an exact science of drafting,” Simon said. “We’ve had a lot of success with the picks we’ve had, and the ones that have moved on, whether they are a trade or didn’t work out, you hope for the best. Obviously we want them to hit, otherwise you’re going to tell us how we missed the pick.
“So even though they move on, we all are hoping to pick the best player at that time. In the end, sometimes it’s situational, whether that player fits your team or maybe didn’t have an 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 of a player until their second team or second contract.”