A Look Ahead to the 2010 NBA Draft

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Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe would be an intriguing option if available to the Heat at No. 18

The Heat has four picks in the upcoming draft – the 18th pick in the first round, and the 41st, 42nd and 48th picks in the second round.

The three mid second round picks won’t provide much value. They hardly ever do. So let’s focus on the first rounder.

In this post I suggest that the best alternative for the Heat may be to swap it to a trade partner in exchange for a 2011 first round pick.

Why? Because the Heat needs every bit of its cap space in order to build a title contender. It’s certainly possible. Take a look at what $56.1 million can do.

The prospect of winning the Larry O’Brien trophy in just five months is certainly thrilling.

Wouldn’t it be even more thrilling to win the trophy next June and then enter the 2011 draft later in the month with two (or potentially three, should the Raptors make the playoffs) first round draft picks? Imagine the dynasty that could be created if those three first round picks were traded in exchange for just one lottery pick.

That’s what I see. It sounds all too perfect.

That is, unless the Heat can snag a game-changing talent here and now. The 2010 draft may just have a couple of those types of players, and both might just be worth selecting if available.

***

Eric Bledsoe: Point Guard, Kentucky Wildcats

Offense:

Bledsoe figures to be this year’s Russell Westbrook lite. The freakishly athletic 6’1″ guard is as explosive a player as there is in the NBA, with a lightning quick first step that makes him almost impossible to stay in front of. That makes him a terror in transition and wonderful at breaking down a defense.

The problem is that, so far, he has no idea what to do from there. With projected No.1 overall pick John Wall running the point for the Wildcats, Bledsoe spent most of his freshman season playing off the ball and didn’t get much of a chance to develop his point guard skills. As a result, there are serious concerns about his decision-making. He didn’t show any play-making abilities and turned the ball over way too much in his lone season at Kentucky. All of which means that while he’s nominally a point guard, he has absolutely no idea how to run an offense. And despite posting some relatively strong numbers, his perimeter jump shot is still very much a work in progress, so playing off the ball isn’t the greatest alternative for him either.

But he’s only 19 years old. Experience should alleviate some of these concerns.

Defense:

Bledsoe’s true value may just lie at the other end of the floor. His freakish wingspan and superb lateral quickness suggest he has what it takes to be an elite defender at the next level. His suffocating, ball-hawking defense keeps opposing point guards from getting into their half court sets, and from getting into the lane and breaking down the defense. He’s an active, athletic defender with freakishly long arms that enable him to rack up blocks, steals, and rebounds by the bunches.

Summary:

Bledsoe’s stock appears to be all over the place. Some analysts suggest he is a certain lottery pick while others have him pegged as a clear-cut second round pick. Opinions about him vary greatly. Where he will be taken off the board is anyone’s guess.

Bledsoe is the unlimited upside pick. If and when he figures things out offensively, he’ll be absolutely impossible to guard. If he doesn’t, his ceiling will be as a solid defensive-minded backup.

As a potential member of the Miami Heat, Bledsoe would not be overly pressured to initiate offense (a task that ultimately falls to Dwyane Wade and hopefully LeBron James). Therefore, for the Heat, it’s really all about his ability to develop a consistent outside shot. If he’s ever able to do so, with the quality of defense he is already capable of playing, he’d be a surefire starter and a possible future All-Star.

***

Paul George: Guard-Forward, Fresno State

Offense:

George is all about an incredible upside. He wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. He didn’t really dominate in his two years at Fresno State. He has never really been in any discussions about top players. He doesn’t have the cache of a Gordon Hayward, who led his Butler team to an incredible NCAA tournament run that fell one half court heave away from the ultimate goal. But he’s the best overall wing prospect in the draft. His game oozes solid play and big potential in just about every capacity.

At 6’9”, the 20-year-old is a long, smooth wing with natural scoring instincts. He is an elite athlete with terrific quickness and tremendous leaping ability, which makes him dynamic in transition and a strong finisher at the rim in the half court set. His jump shot has unlimited range, and his sheer size coupled with the elevation he gets allows him to get it off whenever he pleases. Big wings who can shoot never go out of style.

When he’s not taking jump shots, he struggles. His shot is not nearly as effective off-the-dribble, which causes his overall shooting efficiency to dip. He also turns the ball over far too much. But, again, he’s only 20 years old.

Defense:

The most impressive part of George’s pro game potential may very well be his defense – something he rarely showed at Fresno State. His outstanding size, length, lateral quickness and instincts give him the potential to develop into an elite wing defender. He can defend up to three positions at the NBA level, and is fully capable of impacting a game on that end. He rebounds, blocks, steals and provides solid off-the-ball defense. You name it, he’s got it.

Summary:

George’s stock has been all over the place. In Chad Ford’s first mock draft at the beginning of the month, he went No. 28 to Memphis. In pre-draft workouts thus far, though, he’s been stellar, and his draft stock has risen accordingly. He now appears to be a mid-to-low lottery selection. He may not be available when the Heat selects at No. 18.

George has the talent to be a solid starter for the next decade, with the potential to be a perennial All-Star at some point in his career.

As a member of the Miami Heat, if he becomes an opening day starter, then either something in free agency went wrong (i.e., the plan is clearly to have Wade and James at the 2/3 positions) or the head chose to slide Wade to the point to open up more creative rotation possibilities. If not, he could quickly become the Heat’s go-to sixth man. And with his floor spacing and defensive capabilities, as well as his tremendous versatility, he could become a crunch-time regular.

***

Gordon Hayward: Small Forward, Butler

Offense:

Gordon Hayward’s pro potential isn’t simply overhyped because of a spectacular NCAA tournament. He’s not flashy, but he’s the real deal — a terrific NBA prospect.

Hayward is a versatile swingman who can do a little bit of everything. He’s a natural leader with a high basketball IQ who’s tough, has great court awareness, can handle the ball, score, pass, rebound, and though he didn’t really show it this year, is a very good shooter.

He has the potential to take over on offense, but more within a flow-of-the-offense as opposed to a give-me-the-ball-and-get-out-of-my-way kind of way. Put him in a structured NBA set offense like the one the Heat likes to employ, and he will excel.

To maximize his potential, though, he does need to start connecting on more of his threes. After shooting a spectacular 44.8% during his freshman year, he posted a rather awful 29.4% in his sophomore year. He’s a far better shooter than that.

Defense:

Hayward certainly isn’t the incredible athlete that is Bledsoe and George. He doesn’t have great lateral quickness, which probably puts his defensive upside at somewhere around average.

Summary:

Hayward should go somewhere between the late lottery to mid first round. It should be a tight race for who between him and George gets selected first. He may not be available when the Heat selects at No. 18.

George has the talent to be a solid starter for the next decade, with the potential to be an All-Star at some point in his career.

As a member of the Miami Heat, he wouldn’t be an immediate starter. But he’d be a solid and versatile option, who could provide a playmaking punch off the bench as a de facto backup point guard. He should keep getting better and better as he develops his game season after season. He could ultimately become an understated team leader.

***

If one of these three guys is available, the Heat should snag him.

If all are off the board, the Heat should try to trade the pick for a first rounder next year.

2 Responses

  1. Francisco Garcia says:

    Trade Beasley to Indiana for number 10 pick. Draft Paul George and Eric Bledsoe. Trade a future no.1 and 2nd-round picks to move up and draft Hassan Whiteside. Sign Wade and Bosh to max contracts. Split cash that was supposed to go to 3rd star to get John Salmons and Brendan Haywood. Haslem at mid-level. Fill rest of roster with minimum free agents that will work hard. Rotation: PG Bledsoe SG Wade SF Salmons PF Bosh C Haywood 6th Haslem 7th George 8th Whiteside 9th Chalmers.

  2. Albert says:

    Your suggested lineup is certainly intriguing, but I don’t see an ability for it to fit under the cap (assuming UH, BH and JS would all require contracts of at least $5m, and possibly much more).

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