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Posts Tagged ‘NBA Draft’

The Anatomy of a Spectacular Miami Heat Failure

June 15th, 2014 4 comments

The Miami Heat’s bid for basketball immortality – four straight NBA Finals appearances and three straight NBA titles, a feat which has only been accomplished once in league history – has fallen spectacularly short. In the wake of this colossal failure, we’re all left wondering how it all went so wrong so quickly – how our team ended up looking so old, so slow, so flawed, so unable to adapt, so unable to defend.

Is it an organizational philosophy that failed us?

“I don’t think you win championships with young, athletic players that don’t have experience. I think we’ve learned over the years that building with young players is very frustrating.”

That was Pat Riley in June 2011, describing his aversion to developing youthful talent.

It is a philosophy that he has expressed many different times in many different ways over the years. It is a philosophy that has permeated his every decision in preparation for and during the Big Three era. It is a philosophy upon which the Stepien-like decisions to surrender a whopping six future first round draft picks in a period of less than five months from February to July 2010 were predicated. It is a philosophy upon which the decision to constantly fill the roster with post-dated bench-warming veterans was predicated.

It was a philosophy which, initially, didn’t bother us. We were all so captivated by the moment. Riley had a plan. He executed upon it with deadly precision. He got the big things so right that it didn’t matter how he handled the little things. In Riley we trusted.

The winning that followed only validated that ideology.

But, quietly, things weren’t as wonderful as they appeared. In the wake of the signings of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the summer of the 2010, the front office lost sight of its need to build for the future. Everything was always only about the moment.

Some of us couldn’t help but wonder. If your mission is to win as many titles as possible while the Big Three are still in their primes, then wouldn’t you like to have some upside around? Some players who will be getting better with time? Some players who can keep the energy level high when the stars need to rest?

Riley has always had a clear affinity for the seasoned veteran versus the inexperienced rookie. He’d rather have the sure thing than the potential next big thing. But as much as these veterans are low risks to make stupid, rookie-type decisions, none will break free off the dribble in crunch time or make that key defensive stop and then sprint up the floor for a breakaway jam – they’re zero risks to become more athletic, to develop new parts of their games, or to be usable as trade bait should the need arise.  Read more…

The Cost of All Those Traded Draft Picks Becoming Clearer for Miami Heat

April 20th, 2014 4 comments

In the summer of 2010, the Miami Heat changed the course of team and league history. As a result of two trade calls held with the NBA league office in less than an hour on July 10, the Heat completed sign-and-trade transactions with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the process.

James and Bosh were to be paired with Heat incumbent free agent Dwyane Wade as the launching point for what would ultimately become the Big Three era. In the three subsequent seasons, the Heat have gone on to reach the NBA Finals all three times, winning the NBA championship twice. Their pursuit of a third consecutive title begins tonight.

Amidst the jubilation of the day, some questioned the manner in which Heat president Pat Riley chose to acquire his two new players. The Heat had the necessary cap room at the time to sign them outright. Why, then, pursue the trade?

Both players were eligible for maximum salaries of $16.6 million in the first year of any new contract signed, whether it was with their prior teams, with the Heat, or with anyone else. But while the starting salary was to be the same no matter where they signed, the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the home team a financial advantage when it comes to re-signing its own players. Both players’ home teams were eligible to offer their respective player one more year (six instead of five) and bigger annual raises (10.5% instead of 8%). That translated to a maximum potential offer of $125.5 million over six years, versus the $96.1 million over five years that the Heat could offer.

James and Bosh utilized the structure not to make the increased money, but rather to mitigate the impact of taking less. They leveraged the sign-and-trade structure to take a reduced starting salary of $14.5 million – $2.1 million less than the maximum – in order to accommodate the contracts of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. (Wade, too, did the same).

Each structured the longer six year deal with the higher 10.5% maximum raises, but with the lower starting salary. The contracts paid out $109.8 million over the six years, roughly $15.5 million less than they otherwise could have made had they accepted full max deals.

The sign-and-trade structure, however, came at a cost for Miami.  Read more…

Miami Heat Are Talking Trade, But With Limited Assets to Offer

December 7th, 2013 4 comments

Dwyane Wade has already missed five of the Miami Heat’s first twenty games this season.

The Heat have a lot of legitimate concerns over the health of Wade – he hasn’t been healthy, really, in any of the last three postseasons; he is still recovering from offseason OssaTron treatments to deal with tendinitis in both of his knees, long after the typical recovery timeframe for such procedures; he is in the early stages of a season-long maintenance program designed to treat and preserve his troublesome knees; and they have no good indication of how his thirty-something body will hold up over the rigors of an eight-month NBA season.

They also understand that flipping one of the team’s centerpiece performers in and out of what has become a flotsam of rotations is sending the Heat into a rhythmic chaos.

The Heat over the last two seasons reinvented themselves as a small-ball scoring machine built upon killer shooting, intricate motion offense, and a furious trapping defense. Battier spotted up for 3s and guarded power forwards so LeBron wouldn’t have to, Bosh stretched his range, the read-and-react playbook expanded, and Miami became unguardable.

Now they’re scrambling to maintain any semblance of consistency. They have just a single reserve shooting guard, Ray Allen, on the whole of the roster. Coach Erik Spoelstra has compensated for uncertainty on the perimeter by playing Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers together more, an ultra-small look that could prove untenable as time marches on. LeBron James has played about as many minutes without Wade this season as with him.

The Heat, simply, has no continuity. And so, with no clear alternative, the Heat have initiated trade talks seeking backcourt help.  Read more…

The Cost of Protection

July 5th, 2013 5 comments

Is there time value to draft picks? Should there be time value when built into trades?

The Miami Heat would argue that there should not. Past history would suggest the Heat would argue that, disregarding the potential talent in any given draft, a first round pick in one season is worth exactly one similarly-numbered first round pick in a future season. Possibly even less.

How do you feel? It is an interesting question in light of recent events.

The Utah Jazz have reportedly agreed to accept $24 million in expiring contracts – those of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, and Brandon Rush – from the Golden State Warriors. It cost the Warriors first round picks in 2014 and 2017 and two undisclosed second round picks.

Jefferson and Biedrins were dead weight, and Rush, after missing nearly the entire 2012-13 season with a torn ACL, is still rehabbing and surely isn’t being counted on to offer much. It was a salary dump that can’t help but make you wonder.

Think back to June of last year.

The Heat selected Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie with its No. 27 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, but then promptly dealt the SEC’s leading rebounder to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers got the big man many figured they would take with their No. 15 pick.

In exchange, the Heat received a future first round pick from the 76ers and the No. 45 pick in the second round of the draft, which Miami used to select LSU center Justin Hamilton. The first-round pick the Heat acquired was lottery protected for the next three seasons, meaning the Heat would get the pick as soon as Philadelphia made the playoffs. If they missed the playoffs in all three seasons, the pick would turn into two second round picks — one in 2015 and another in 2016.

The Heat negotiated what appeared at the time to be a nice deal. At the time of the trade, the Sixers had just made the playoffs with a lowly No. 8 seed. The teams below the Sixers in the conference were moving backwards, or at the very least sideways. The Heat had the cushion of knowing that one team above the Sixers, the Orlando Magic, was about to be dismantled. A return trip to the playoffs for Philly with a low-level seed was all but assured – a terrible outcome for a Sixers team looking to improve, but a wonderful outcome for the Heat. Miami appeared to have traded its No. 27 pick in exchange for a No. 45 pick and a No. 15 or so pick one year later. A great outcome.

But things didn’t work out as planned. Philly traded its best player, Andre Iguodala, for Andrew Bynum. Bynum never played. As a result, the Sixers slipped just one spot in the standings, from eighth to nine, but it was enough to eliminate them from the playoffs. Miami’s return on its trade went from the best it could possibly be to possibly the worst it can be.  Read more…

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Heat Get 50th Pick James Ennis For Future 2nd Rounder

June 28th, 2013 2 comments

They didn’t trade into the first round. But they did trade into the second.

For most of the night, Shane Battier was the Miami Heat’s only presence at the NBA Draft.

Then they made a late move by trading a future second-round pick (top-40 protected in 2017; unprotected in 2018) for the rights to Battier’s potential apprentice – 6-foot-7, 206-pound Long Beach State swingman James Ennis, who turns 23 on Monday – just before the draft ended. He was originally selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 50th pick.

It was not an impulse decision.

The Heat became aware of the Southern California product when he was still playing at Ventura College more than two years ago, and scouted him in person before he ever took the floor for Long Beach State as a junior.

“I heard about (Ennis) when he was (still) at Ventura College,” Heat vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer said.

“His first year at Long Beach State, I went to practice there with coach (Dan) Monson, and watched the first weekend of practice. They had this real good team with Casper Ware, (Larry) Anderson and (TJ) Robinson. I went to watch those guys. But when I got there to watch the practice, I noticed this young, long wing. By the end of the practice, I was really impressed with him. I said, ‘There’s the best pro prospect on the roster.’ ”

The Heat were particularly attracted to Ennis’ versatility.

He fits the mold of a Heat player these days – he can play multiple positions and shows a varied set of skills. In his college career, he proved he could shoot, rebound, pass and defend – and do all those things with explosiveness.

Using Inspector Gadget-like arms and springy legs, Ennis has become a highlight-reel waiting to happen with his explosive dunks. He started dunking before his sophomore year of high school. He increased his leaping ability at college by high jumping for his track and field team. His personal best was 6 feet, 11 inches.

But perhaps most important is his potential as a floor spacing shooter. He’s not quite there yet – he shot 36% from 3-point range as a senior – but, given his shooting stroke, he projects as someone who can develop nicely in that role.  Read more…

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Miami Heat A Slight Loser on Draft Night

June 27th, 2013 No comments

Well, one of the Miami Heat’s bigger future assets is now not so big.

Pending league approval, which for salary cap reasons won’t come until July, the New Orleans Pelicans will reportedly trade center Nerlens Noel and a 2014 top-five protected first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for point guard Jrue Holiday. The Sixers will also send its 42nd overall draft pick, point guard Pierre Jackson of Baylor, with Holiday.

Who won?

Not the Heat.

Holiday was an All-Star point guard. He was the team’s best player. He was young. A cornerstone. Now he’s gone.

By trading for Noel, the former Kentucky standout, the 76ers will also have no interest in bringing back center Andrew Bynum either.

And so, the Sixers have now lost former All-Stars at both the point guard and center positions, and replaced them with very little. With their No. 11 pick today’s draft, the Sixers selected point guard Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse to replace Holiday. Noel, coming off a March 12 operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, will replace Bynum, though he is not expected to be ready for play until at least the end of December.

The Sixers will also have a projected $18 million in salary cap room heading into the offseason, but nobody to spend it on. They aren’t likely to spend big, or long-term, dollars to attract top free agents, nor are such free agents likely to be eager to play for this roster.

This is a complete rebuild for Philadelphia.

They will be giving significant minutes to a rookie point guard in Carter-Williams, a vastly inexperienced fourth year shooting guard in James Andersen, a low-yield fourth year small forward in Evan Turner, a sophomore power forward in Arnett Moultrie, and a rookie center in Noel, amongst several other youngsters. That’s very likely a lottery team for the foreseeable future.

Not a good outcome if you’re the Miami Heat.

Prior to the trade, the Sixers had a strong shot at being an average but irrelevant team next season, perhaps a low-level playoff team in a not very deep Eastern Conference – horrible for them, but wonderful for the Heat.

The Heat hold the Sixers’ 2014 first round pick from its trade of Moultrie last season, conditioned upon the Sixers making the playoffs in either of the next two seasons. The lower the seeding for Philly within the playoffs, the better the pick would become for the Heat.

Philly was ninth in the conference last season, just one spot outside of the playoffs, with Atlanta, Boston and Milwaukee, all playoff teams last year, all rebuilding this year and figuring to get weaker. An eighth place finish for the Sixers in 2013-14 would translate into a possible No. 15 pick for the Heat in the strong 2014 NBA draft.

Now it would appear that Philly has chosen to sacrifice the present to concentrate on the future.

If Philly misses the playoffs next season, its first round pick will not get conferred to the Heat until 2015. If the Sixers then miss the playoffs the following season as well, the Heat would no longer be entitled to a first round pick. Instead, Philly’s obligation to the Heat would convert into consecutive second round picks in 2015 and 2016.

At this point, that appears all but certain.

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Should the Heat Trade into the First Round of the 2013 NBA Draft?

June 25th, 2013 4 comments

The Miami Heat have no first or second round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, which is to be held on June 27 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The Heat’s first round pick was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the LeBron James sign-and-trade on July 9, 2010. It was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and is now the property of the Phoenix Suns. It has become the No. 30 and final pick in the round.

The Heat also acquired a first round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Arnett Moultrie draft-and-trade on June 28, 2012. However, the pick is lottery protected through 2015; if not conveyed by 2015, it will become consecutive second round picks in 2015 and 2016. Since the Sixers missed the playoffs this past season, the pick will be conditionally transferred to the Heat next year.

The Heat’s second round pick, which has become the No. 60 pick in the draft, is property of the Memphis Grizzlies. It was included in the Dexter Pittman trade on February 21, 2013.

Currently a bystander to Thursday evening’s activities, should the Heat attempt to trade into the first round of the draft?  Read more…

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Heat Draft Moultrie, Trade Him to 76ers

June 28th, 2012 No comments

Well, apparently Pat Riley will wait until the start of free agency to upgrade to his championship roster.

The Heat selected Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie with its No. 27 pick in today’s NBA draft, but then promptly dealt the SEC’s leading rebounder to the Philadelphia 76ers.

In exchange, the Heat received a future first round pick from the 76ers and the No. 45 pick in the second round of the draft, which Miami used to select LSU center Justin Hamilton, who is expected to be sent overseas for development next season. The first-round pick the Heat acquired is lottery protected for the next three seasons, meaning the Heat will get the pick as soon as Philadelphia makes the playoffs. If they miss the playoffs in all three seasons, the pick will turn into two second round picks — one in 2015 and another in 2016.

On the face of it, the move was something of a steal for the Heat. The pick they gave up was No. 27 overall. The one they obtained is likely to be in the high teens a year later, and in the meantime Miami still got to use Philly’s second-rounder.

But the trade comes in direct contrast to the plan laid out by the Heat’s vice president of player personnel, Chet Kammerer, during his pre-draft media session with reporters the day prior. Kammerer had suggested that the Heat were planning to draft a player with the pick, one who could contribute immediately and complement the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

As it turned out, a wild draft left such a possibility still on the board at No. 27.

The 6-foot-11-inch, 235-pound Moultrie seemed to be just the kind of player Miami could use to add depth to a thin front line that features just Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony. Moultrie is long and athletic, with great quickness, explosive leaping ability, and a knack for grabbing and finishing off offensive rebounds. But he is also a skilled perimeter player with range that many expect will extend all the way out to the three-point line in time, a vital component for a Heat team that had postseason success by playing three-point shooting specialist Shane Battier out of position at power forward. Moultrie, therefore, seemed to be a perfect fit. With Battier overmatched at power forward and Haslem’s stills in a rapid state of decline, it’s not inconceivable that Moultrie could have become a starting caliber addition in the years ahead.

The Heat had other intriguing options available as well, including Baylor’s Perry Jones III at combo forward — a super-athletic big with the skills of a guard and the height of a center, and seemingly an even better fit for the Heat with an even higher potential upside.

So why the trade?

Many have speculated that the rationale for the trade was the financial flexibility it provides. By trading out of the first round of the draft, the Heat won’t have to add a multi-year guaranteed contract to a payroll that already exceeds the league’s $70.3 million luxury-tax limit. Such a rationale, however, seems unlikely. The salary scale of a player selected at No. 27 in the draft, $868,600, is roughly identical to the minimum salary contract to which the roster spot is now likely to be allocated. There’s no savings there. And, as far as next year is concerned, the Heat will likely find itself in this very same situation – required to offer a multi-year guarantee to the player selected with its newly acquired pick, only this pick will very likely be much higher up than No. 27, and thus significantly more expensive. There’s no savings there either.

Riley’s explanation, that “the players that we had on our board were not there at the time, and we felt we had a great option with Philly to get a future first next year” is also not very likely. The depth in the 2013 draft is widely considered to be comparatively weak.

A more likely rationale for trading into a future first round pick is in its potential value as a trade asset.

Teams are restricted by league rule from trading away all of its future first round draft picks in consecutive years. The Heat has already traded away its 2013 first rounder and its 2015 first rounder to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the LeBron James sign-and-trade. Therefore, without the Philly pick, the Heat couldn’t have utilized a first round pick in trade until the 2017 draft at the earliest. So it opens up a world of potential trade possibilities.

The Heat has several undesirable long-term contracts allocated to players who figure to have a diminishing role in the years to come – among them Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony. That doesn’t bode well for a team which will have a payroll well in excess of the luxury tax threshold for 2013-14 and beyond, when the league’s more punitive tax penalties kick in. Riley will presumably look to trade away at least one at some point in the future, and it won’t be easy. The toxic nature of these contracts would suggest that the Heat might need to include additional assets as an enticement to complete such a trade, let alone expect anything of value back in return. As it stands, the Philly pick now represents the Heat’s best trade asset.

And so what otherwise might have been a promising young rookie in Moultrie may well become nothing more than a means in which to undue a bad mistake. That’s the cost of doing business. Mistakes are inevitable. And costly to unwind.

And so passes by another uninspired NBA draft… unless, of course, it turns into something great next year.

Miami Heat selects Norris Cole

June 25th, 2011 4 comments

Well… the Miami Heat traded up three spots in the 2011 NBA Draft, into the first round at No. 28, to select what it believes was the most promising point guard available in Norris Cole. It was a welcome aggression for a typically draft-passive organization.

Riley wanted a “pure” point guard; he got his man.

He got a talented one at that. When a player scores 41 points, grabs 20 rebounds, and dishes out 9 assists in a single game (even if it was versus an admittedly forgettable Youngstown State team), you know he’s a serious offensive threat. When that player also nabs his conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season (even if it was in the admittedly forgettable Horizon League), you have Norris Cole.

Cole rated out as the fourth and fifth best point guard in the draft, respectively, by Riley and ESPN draft guru Chad Ford. Riley had him ranked No. 18 on his draft board; Ford had him going as high as No. 21. The Heat were enamored with Cole’s speed and defensive ability at the point guard position. But as a slender guard with short arms and questionable range, showcasing his talents in an inferior conference, he’s far from a sure thing. Time will tell.

We can debate whether trading up was necessary and justified.

Detractors will point to the enhanced financial obligations to a first round pick in what figures to be an uncertain salary cap environment. They will point out that the increased financial burden was the result of moving up just three spots, from No. 31 to No. 28. They may even suggest that it was truly just one spot. Two of the three were owned by the Bulls, the team which facilitated the trade of  Cole to the Heat. The Bulls then formally made the selection of Cole, dealt him to the Timberwolves, who then moved him to the Heat. Had the Bulls been targeting Cole, they clearly wouldn’t have do so.

But the Heat wanted Cole. “There was a consensus that this was the player that we wanted to take,” Riley said. “We didn’t want to get left at the altar.”

He was cognizant that the Spurs, who had agreed to trade their backup point guard George Hill to the Indiana Pacers earlier in the day, could jump in front of the Heat and select a point guard at No. 29, and in fact they did. The trade was therefore necessary, and so skillfully executed.

But the price was steep. More steep than necessary?

The Heat surrendered to the Wolves the Wolves’ own 2014 second round pick and cash considerations to move up just three spots. The Bulls, as part of the same trade, surrendered to the Wolves a less attractive second round pick (No. 43) and cash considerations to move up five more valuable spots. The Bulls gave up less and got more.

In the 2010 draft, pick Nos. 25 and 31 were each sold for cash.

It would appear that adding in cash alone, or perhaps instead a future second round pick of their own, would have made for an eminently more reasonable swap for the Heat. It would appear that trading away the Wolves’ own 2014 second round pick and cash considerations would be enough to simply buy the No. 28 pick outright, without the need for a swap. Imagine the Heat with Norris Cole and a second youthful player selected with the No. 31 pick. Of course, we will never know whether such alternatives were bargained for.

And so now the Heat has just two low-level first round and five low-level second round draft picks over the next five years.

The Heat has, in effect, traded away Michael Beasley in return for the draft rights to Norris Cole. If, as a result, the team has identified a key contributor, then all is well. If, by chance, the team has identified a future starter, then all is wonderful and this will go down as a spectacular draft for Riley and crew.

Is Norris Cole the Heat’s answer at point guard? It certainly seems as if he has that potential. But the pressure is on.

And so it goes for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat.

Here’s to wishing Mr. Cole all the success in the world.

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Living in a dream world… if only for a moment

June 22nd, 2011 2 comments

Pat Riley had a plan. He executed upon it with deadly precision. He got the big things so right that it almost didn’t matter how he handled the little things.

But not all of those little things went perfectly.

What if he did better with those little things? With the 2011 NBA draft now bearing down on us, would it have made any difference?

Navigating the uncertain waters of the draft has always been a special kind of hell for Riley. Riley’s draft record with the Heat reads more like a comedy of errors than it does a serious attempt at identifying talent.

In 2003, Riley nearly drafted Chris Kaman with the fifth overall pick before being talked into selecting Dwyane Wade by his staff. Whew!

Since that time, only three players he’s selected have ever played more than eleven big-league minutes for the Heat – Dorell Wright, Wayne Simien, and Michael Beasley. The very next players taken in those drafts were Jameer Nelson, David Lee, and, two picks down, Russell Westbrook.

Perhaps it is something of a blessing that he now has just eight picks, just two first rounders, to deal with over the next five years.

Was it a combination of strong basketball decisions or his strong aversion to the type of scrutiny that comes with the draft that led Riley and the Miami Heat to this position?

Riley again yesterday openly described his aversion.

“I don’t think you win championships with young, athletic players that don’t have experience. I think we’ve learned over the years that building with young players is very frustrating.”

But what if things were different?

What if the Heat had made some different decisions along the way?

There was Dorell Wright.

In a season to that point mired in frustration, and seemingly defined by the anticipation of things to come, keeping Wright at the trade deadline was perhaps the single most popular decision the Heat brass made. Riley and crew decided that Wright’s presence was more of a priority than the estimated $7.7 million addition to owner Micky Arison’s already fat wallet.

Wright responded in kind, offering some of the best work of his career.

But not all of us were so thrilled. A select few among us realized that if the Heat were to be successful in its bid for three max contract free agents, the team would need to soak up every possible opportunity to create depth around them.

The Grizzlies were offering a lottery-protected first round pick in return for his services. This select few realized that, despite Wright’s overwhelming popularity and still very much untapped potential, 26 final games from a free-agent-to-be in a season going nowhere was simply not worth $7.7 million and a future first round draft pick. That pick ended up being No. 20 overall in tomorrow’s draft.

There was Daequan Cook.

We all understood the rationale behind surrendering the No. 18 overall pick in last year’s draft in order to be free of all obligations to Cook. With such high stakes, Miami could hardly afford to gamble on the $2.2 million devoted to Cook.

But not all of us agreed on the approach. Some of us felt that the $2.2 million could rather easily be shed simply by offering a potential suitor up to the $3.0 million cash limit the CBA allows as well as a selection of second round picks, if necessary. How many unprofitable smaller-market teams could realistically pass up the opportunity to add backcourt depth in the form of a young and developing Three-Point Shootout champion not only free of charge, but at an $830k profit?

These same people felt that treating the No. 18 overall pick with such apathy was imprudent, that it could be better utilized to draft a potential future starter, if available, and in a trade for a similar such pick in a future draft if notThey realized that while drafting a player would eat into the team’s valuable cap space, the very situation the Heat were trying to rid themselves of with Cook, in this case we’d only be talking about an incremental $760K, or roughly equivalent to the cap space the Heat was willing to eat up to retain the Bird rights of Joel Anthony. They realized that sacrificing one for the other was a good gamble.

There was the Big Three.

When Chris Bosh and LeBron James made their decisions, there was elation. When they were signed, there was controversy.

Surrendering four first round picks and two second round picks, in addition to two large trade exceptions, seemed a bit excessive to some of us for a couple of players who were otherwise already committed to the Miami Heat. It seemed a bit excessive in return for nothing more than a sixth season tacked on to an already huge five-year contract – a sixth year that both are likely to opt out of anyway.

The question has been asked. What if things were different?

Let’s try to answer it.

Mario Chalmers and Eric Bledsoe would be battling it out for starters minutes at the point.

Dwyane Wade would still be playing under a six year contract, earning $6 million more than he is today. Eddie House would be battling it out with Danny Green for reserve two-guard minutes.

LeBron James would be playing under a near maximum contract, sacrificing that sixth year guarantee in exchange for an added $3 million over the first five. Mike Miller would be battling it out with James Jones for reserve small forward minutes.

Chris Bosh would be playing under a near maximum contract, sacrificing his sixth year guarantee in exchange for an added $3 million over the first five. Udonis Haslem would, unfortunately, be playing under a five-year contract elsewhere, earning $13 million more under a full mid-level exception contract than he is today.

The disastrous contingent of Heat centers would remain unaltered. But, at least, Anthony would be playing under a much more palatable minimum salary contract.

And the Miami Heat would have five – yes, five! – more first round draft picks and two more second round draft picks over the next five years, including a potential unprotected first round pick from the Raptors in 2015 that could very easily turn into the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in the season immediately after the contracts of James and Bosh would expire.

In short, the Heat would have produced the very same roster, save for adding Eric Bledsoe and Danny Green and subtracting Udonis Haslem, and would have stockpiled a whopping seven first round picks and eight second round picks over the next five years.

That’s 15 picks in just five years! No other team in the league has anywhere near that total.

(For those who are counting, the first round picks would have been: Miami’s own 2011-15, Memphis’ 2011, and Toronto’s potentially unprotected 2015. The second round picks would have been: Miami’s own 2013-2015, Oklahoma City’s 2011, Minnesota’s 2011 and 2014, New Orleans’ 2012, and Memphis’ top-55 protected 2012.)

One has to wonder.

What would two first round picks (Nos. 20, 28) and a high second round pick (No. 31) get you? A top ten pick in this year’s draft?

What would two first round picks (Nos. 20, 28), a second round pick (No. 31), and what figures to be a fully unprotected Raptors first round pick in 2015 get you? The No. 2 overall pick from a Minnesota Timberwolves team actively looking to trade it?

The possibilities with that grouping of picks would have, in this fictional reality, been endless.

If Riley’s aversion to the draft was ever present, think of the potential trade possibilities. By way of example, rumor would have you believe that the Phoenix Suns were shopping Marcin Gortat and their No. 13 pick for the No. 2 pick. Imagine if the Heat had acquired that No. 2 pick, and then pulled the trigger on this trade (involving, perhaps, Haslem, the unguaranteed contract of Pittman, and any one of the minimum contractors who picks up his second year option to make the math work).

How would Gortat look in a Heat uniform? He’s huge, he’s athletic, he’s among the best pick-and-roll operators around, he’s got a soft touch around the rim, he’s got good range, he’s a solid post defender, and he’s a beast on the boards. Is there a more perfect fit for this Miami Heat team, outside of Dwight Howard, in the whole of the NBA? Can you imagine how dominant such a Big Four would be?

With the Heat second team backcourt flush with youthful talent, how would frontcourt options such as SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Markieff Morris, or C Nikola Vucevic look with that No. 13 pick?

How would it feel to have secured both Gortat and one of the above selections, and still have four first round and seven second round picks to play with over the next five years?

It’s not as if an entirely unrealistic scenario is being painted here. Many of us were questioning each one of these little decisions made by Riley and his crew as they were happening. Of course, they are now important only for those among us who choose to live in the past.

The lesson, however, remains the same: Ignore the NBA draft at your own peril.