The day after the draft, where exactly are we?
At No. 18, both Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley were available for the taking. If you believe either had the potential to be a future high-quality starting point guard in this league, then that was the true cost of the Cook blunder. If you’d rather have seen the pick traded for a future pick, then such a pick – perhaps between Nos. 16 and 20 overall next season – is the true cost.
The Thunder, who took on Cook in exchange, used the No. 18 pick to draft Bledsoe, who was subsequently dealt to the Clippers for a protected future first round pick. So… at the very worst, Riley sacrificed his point guard of the future. At the very least, if he preferred the extra $1.2 million in cap space pick No. 18 eats up, he sacrificed a protected future first rounder. It’s hard to believe that the price to jettison Cook couldn’t have been substantially cheaper. As far as general managers go, Pat Riley got used by Sam Presti on that one.
The Heat did get the 32nd overall pick in the trade, which it used to acquire 22-year old University of Texas senior Dexter Pittman. Pittman is an undersized center, at 6’9.5″ without shoes, with a huge 7’6″ wingspan and the biggest hands in the draft (whatever that means). He tips the scales at over 300 pounds, having already dropped more than 60 pounds during his four seasons with the Longhorns and playing at nearly 400 pounds in high school. His nearly 21% body fat (fourth highest in draft history) suggests he still has a long ways to go with his conditioning.
The pick has its doubters. At the time of the selection, Florida State’s Solomon Alabi and Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside, a pair of seven-foot shot-blocking centers, were still on the board. Whitesite went to the Kings with pick No. 33. Alabi was selected at pick No. 50 by the Mavericks, and subsequently moved to the Raptors. Pittman has the best offensive repertoire of the three, with a nice touch around the basket, and has the potential to be a solid near-term contributor if he can get his weight issues in check.
The Heat also held the 41st, 42nd, and 48th picks in the draft.
At 41, Miami drafted 6’9″ Mississippi State power forward Jarvis Varnado. While I was muttering to myself “who,” Varando comes with a serious shot blocking pedigree. He led Mississippi State in blocks and holds the record for most blocks in NCAA history, and serves as a potential replacement for free agent Joel Anthony.
At 42, Miami drafted 6’7″ West Viriginia swingman Da’Sean Butler. It was certainly an intriguing pick. There were questions as to whether Butler would even get drafted after he tore up his left knee (who can forget the sight of coach Bob Huggins cradling him on the floor) in the NCAA playoffs. But prior to his injury, Butler was thought of as a potential first-rounder. Establishing career-highs in scoring, rebounding and assists while minimizing his turnovers, the senior emerged as the go-to option for a team that spent the regular season ranked amongst the top in the country and made a run to the Final Four. If Butler rehabs his knee and can get to his old form, he may be the steal of the NBA Draft. While he won’t be able to participate in the Summer League, he has been told that he will have a clean bill of health in time for the start of training camp.
At 48, Miami drafted 6’8″ forward Latavious Williams of the D-League, but sent him on to the Thunder in exchange for a protected second-round pick in 2011.
That’s three players drafted that are grounded in potential controversy, but three that actually have a shot at making the ball club.
One thing is clear: the Heat has gone all in on the summer of 2010. It’s going to be a one-on-one, fight-to-the-death battle with the Chicago Bulls for the premium talent. Despite all the criticism (of which I find myself at the forefront), you must give Riley credit for putting the team in an outstanding position to make big things happen. Miami has definitely put itself in legitimate title contention and has the ability to make it happen.
Does Riley have the sales pitch? For years, we’ve been hearing his free agency failures were all about the money. Well, he has plenty of it now.
All we can do now is wait to see if it goes down.