The value of life at the moment is not to think about what is necessary. For almost the entire Pat Riley era, this made the process relatively clear to his scouting staff.
This year may be an exception.
If PJ Tucker retires his Heat option next season and goes to free agency, there won’t be a single power forward on the roster.
Not with Bam Adebayo in the middle. Not with Omer Yurtseven, who has not yet shown the ability to play a power forward. And only if Jimmy Butler signs up for positional play with a smaller ball.
So, the 27th overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday?
“We have these conversations before the draft. And you can weigh it based on need,” said Adam Simon, vice president of basketball operations for the Heat.
But the Heat are probably no more likely to entrust such a role to a rookie than when the team selected University of Memphis power forward Precious Achiuwu in 2020 amid a similar lack of power. . . only to trade it 10 months later.
So, yes, it can again be as mundane as the time-honored best player available, even if it means unchecked after being selected in the Barclays Center.
“I think it’s the same when you don’t want to sit in a year and say that we chose the right player and turned down the player that we thought was more talented just because we needed the position,” Simon said.
Sometimes the best talent available can adapt, as Dwyane Wade did when he moved to point guard in 2003.
In 2017, even with Hassan Whiteside on the roster, the Heat chose Adebayo. This move resulted in the victory of the best available player.
Likewise, the Heat kept Josh Richardson or Justice Winslow (or even Dion Waiters) from getting in the way of Tyler Herro’s 2019 first-round pick. Another estimate with the best available approach.
“I look at it from time to time where you can replace him with a free agent,” Simon said of addressing positional needs in the offseason. “I think when you’re in the draft, you’re trying to find someone you can grow into as a player because you have a contract with him for a couple of years or more.
“So I’m always trying to find the best talent. It’s hard enough to rank them in order, you know, from 27 to 60, or 58 this year.”
So, at the top of the FTX Arena board, the final rating from Simon and his staff after the latest training, interviews, video sessions, analytical showdowns, internal debates.
At the peak of the draft, the Heat could have had both: Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero all emerged as elite power forward candidates.
In number 27? It’s not all that simple, the draft phase where the wings can pretty much spread their wings.
“Of course, I’m trying to give an overall board and look at it that way,” Simon said, continuing with the safest and arguably most pragmatic three words of any draft evaluator: “the best player available.”
It worked with Adebayo, Erro, and once upon a time with Wade and Caron Butler.
And then, not so much with Winslow, Achiuwa, or even second-round player KZ Okpala, whose rights were purchased at the cost of three future second-round tackles.
“It’s not the exact science of drafting,” Simon said. “We’ve had a lot of success with the picks we had and the ones that went further, whether they were trades or didn’t work, you hope for the best. Obviously we want them to hit, otherwise you’ll tell us how we missed.
“So even though they’re leaving, we’re all hoping to pick the best player at the moment. After all, sometimes it’s situational whether this player is right for your team or maybe he didn’t get a chance to play. And then, perhaps, there is another team whose situation is better, or vice versa. Sometimes you can’t get the best out of a player until he joins another team or gets a second contract.”