Before tonight’s NBA Draft, we revisit how the Heat have fared in recent drafts.
After months of delay and anticipation, the 2020 NBA Draft will finally be taking place on Wednesday night. With it being the first draft of the new decade, let’s take a look back and rank the Miami Heat’s draft picks over the past 10 years.
During that time period the franchise kind of had a mixed bag of results, like most teams, when it came to their selections. At the beginning of the decade, before and during the Big Three Era, Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg had a couple of misses when it came to the draft. Dexter Pittman and Shabazz Napier were just a couple of the ones that never panned out for the Heat.
Comparatively, the second half of the 2010s proved to be much more fruitful for Miami as they were able to secure team cornerstones in Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro while also drafting players that were big contributors during their time with the organization such as Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow.
Now, with this year’s draft upon us, the Heat will look to build upon their recent success and find another young star who fits in with the team’s culture and who can help contribute to a squad that’s coming off of a Finals appearance.
But while the organization begins to look towards the future on Wednesday night, let’s take a moment to reflect on all the hits, misses and home runs that the Heat have had in the draft over the last 10 years.
*For the sake of brevity, this list will not include undrafted free agents, so unfortunately Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson won’t be included. Also players who where drafted by the Heat but that never played for the team, for any reason, won’t be on the list either (e.g. Bojan Bogdanovic´ and Bol Bol). However, players who were not drafted by the Heat, but whose draft rights were later traded to Miami (Napier, Norris Cole), will be included.
Unranked: KZ Okpala (2019)
Okpala was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 32nd pick in last year’s draft, and his draft rights were later traded to the Heat in a three team trade in which Miami sent their 2022, 2025 and 2025 second round picks to the Indiana Pacers while Phoenix sent T.J. Warren to the Pacers for cash considerations.
Over his two years at Stanford, Okpala averaged 13.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
The reason that Okpala is listed as unranked is because he doesn’t have a large enough sample size at the NBA level to rank him, as he only played in five games for the Heat. However, he did have a lot of playing time in the G League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, and during that time he was pretty impressive. In 20 games with Sioux Falls the 6’8” forward averaged 11.7 points, seven rebounds, two assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.4 steals.
If Okpala continues to expand his game and begins to contribute at the NBA level in a similar capacity as he has in the G League, he’ll add himself to the growing list of successful, recent Heat draft picks.
#7: Dexter Pittman (2010)
The Heat drafted Pittman with the 32nd pick of the 2009 draft. A center out of the University of Texas, Pittman was the first pick made by the Heat during the Big Three Era. Pittman was actually selected one pick ahead of former Heat big man Hassan Whiteside.
During his four years of college Pittman averaged 6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 0.9 blocks per game.
After getting drafted, Pittman was never really able to come into his own on a team that had championship aspirations. Although he did end up winning a ring with the 2011-2012 Heat team, he never played more than 8.6 minutes per game in a single season over his three years in South Beach.
Pittman only played 50 games for the Heat before he was eventually traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013 for a trade exception and the rights to Ricky Sanchez, who never ended up playing in the NBA.
By November of 2014 he was out of the league and has bounced around playing for different leagues overseas. He currently plays for the Al-Ahil Club of the Bahraini Premier League.
Despite an underwhelming career with the Heat, Pittman remains in the minds of some Heat fans (and probably most Pacers fans) for nearly decapitating Lance Stephenson during a blowout win in Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
#6: Shabazz Napier (2014)
When you get praised by one of the greatest players of all time, there is going to be a lot of pressure put on you to be an immediate success. Unfortunately for Shabazz Napier, that’s exactly what happened.
After leading UCONN on an extraordinary and unlikely run to the NCAA championship, which culminated in a win over a loaded Kentucky team that included future lottery picks Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein, Napier was endorsed by LeBron James as the best point guard in the 2014 draft.
No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2014
Ultimately, Napier wasn’t the first point guard taken in the lottery and, as a matter of fact, he wasn’t taken in the lottery at all. He was drafted with the 24th pick by the Charlotte Hornets but was later traded to Miami for the 26th pick and two second rounders.
At the time of the draft, James was on the verge of becoming a free agent after losing the 2014 NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs in five games. Although the Heat say that they did not consult James on the pick, it’s hard for me (or anyone else) to believe that his impending free agency didn’t play a role in the decision.
James eventually opted to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Heat still hoped that they had drafted their potential point guard of the future in Napier. That wasn’t the case.
Napier ended up only playing one season in Miami in which he bounced around between the Heat and Sioux Falls. The highlight of his Heat career came in a win over the New York Knicks in which he had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. His rookie season came to end after he needed surgery to repair a sports hernia, and he would never put on a Heat Jersey again.
On July 27, 2015 Napier was traded to the Orlando Magic , along with cash considerations for a conditional second-round draft pick. He currently plays for the Washington Wizards after stints with the Magic, Blazers and Nets.
He’s since unfollowed LeBron on Twitter.
#5: Norris Cole (2011)
Cole had one of the most roller-coaster draft night experiences of anyone in recent history. He ended up wearing the hat of three different teams, eventually ending up with the Heat.
During his tenure with the Heat from 2011-2014, Cole served as the backup point guard to Mario Chalmers. Despite never averaging more than 7.6 points per game in a single season, he was a key contributor on two championship teams.
Cole displayed an uncanny level of maturity while in Miami, as a first round pick going to a championship caliber team, he played his part to near perfection, spelling Chalmers whenever he needed it and taking advantage of the brief time he had on the court each game. In the two championship seasons, Cole played 19 minutes per game.
The playoffs was always the time of year when Cole would leave his mark. In his first season, Cole had 8 points in about 8 minutes during Game 4 of the 2012 Finals, and he also had two huge threes that sparked the Heat’s comeback victory.
In 2014, Cole had 13 points in the closeout game against the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs. He followed that up with 11 points in a Game 2 win over the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, a series that the Heat went on to win 4-2 to advance to their fourth straight Finals.
All things come to an end eventually though. Cole was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in the first post-LeBron year on February 19, 2015. But he was never able to replicate the success he had with the Heatles and was out of the league by 2017.
He now plays in France for ASVEL Basket.
#4: Justise Winslow (2015)
Another NCAA champion, Winslow was considered a steal when he fell to the Heat at the 10th pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
The least heralded member of the Duke national championship team that year, Winslow was nonetheless highly praised by NBA scouts for his effort, athleticism and above all, his defensive ability.
While playing under Coach K he consistently would take on the opposing teams’ best offensive wing player. This is something that would continue to happen in the NBA as Coach Erik Spoelstra would deploy Winslow against some of the league’s best perimeter scorers such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and James Harden among others. This early experience helped Winslow become one of the best young defenders in the game and earned him NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to build upon the success of his rookie season due to injuries. A wrist injury held Winslow out for 16 games at the beginning of the season. Although he returned for a small stretch of the season, including a game where he had 23 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the Lakers, his season ultimately came to an end after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Despite his defense always being his calling card, Winslow’s offense came on a few years into his career. He really began to flourish on the other end of the floor during the 2018-2019. After Goran sustained a knee injury, Spoelstra called upon Winslow to take the reins of the offense and play point guard until Dragic returned, and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
Winslow played some of the best basketball of his career while playing point guard averaging 15 points, five rebounds and five assists during that time period and keeping the Heat in playoff contention in a season where that always seemed like an unlikely possibility.
Time after time Winslow was able to show his versatility and willingness to do what it takes to win on both ends of the floor, which is what the Heat always search for in their players.
#3: Josh Richardson (2015)
It was really a toss up for me to decide who to put at number three between Winslow and Richardson, because they have so many similarities.
Both are seen primarily as defensive stoppers who are capable of taking on tough defensive assignments due to their frame, strength and versatility. Richardson oftentimes would also take on the responsibility of guarding other team’s best offensive weapons.
What makes Richardson so special defensively is that he thrives in all types of scenarios. He can take guys one-on one, he’s a great team defender, can guard the pick and roll and is exceptional in transition.
On the offensive end of the floor, there are more similarities between the two 2015 draft picks. Much like Winslow, Richardson’s offense developed a little slower than his defense, but there was always an improvement year over year.
During his rookie season, Richardson averaged just over six points per game to go along with 1.4 assists. By his final year in Miami, 2018-2019, those averages shot up to 16.6 points and 4.1 assists. He consistently answered the call whenever he was faced with more responsibility.
Where Richardson separated himself from Winslow is in his availability. Sometimes durability is the best ability and that happens to be the case here. Richardson simply played more games for the Heat than Winslow. That’s with Richardson having a stint in the G League his rookie season as well.
In the end, Richardson’s time in Miami came to an end in a way similar to Winslow.
Prior to the 2019-2020 season, Richardson was sent to Philadelphia as part of the trade that brought Jimmy Butler to Miami. Butler ended up being just who the franchise needed to become a championship caliber team once again.
#2: Tyler Herro (2019)
I have always prided myself on being an aesthete.
For those of you who don’t what that is, google defines an aesthete as someone “who has or affects to have a special appreciation of art and beauty.”
With that definition in mind, I would not be surprised if most Heat fans were converted to aestheticism after one year of watching Tyler Herro in a Miami Heat uniform.
Herro’s rookie campaign was nothing short of phenomenal. Showing a large variety of skills that are rarely seen from someone so young, Herro balled his way to All-Rookie 2nd Team honors, although he probably deserved to make the first team.
It was immediately apparent that Herro was going to fit in with this Heat team. His skill set and work ethic was perfect for what Spoelstra wanted to do this year. His shooting, work rate off the ball, and ability to penetrate and get into the lane with his handle helped him become an essential part of the team’s run to the NBA Finals.
Coming out of Kentucky, I don’t think even Pat Riley could’ve predicted the type of production that Herro had as a rookie when they took him with the 13th pick in the 2019 draft. Although his stat line was modest, 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, Herro’s confidence was anything but, and it showed in his on-court performance.
“Obviously, he’s a rookie. But I tell you, whenever he’s out there on the floor, the swag that he plays with, the moves that he makes, you’d think he’s been in the league for 10-plus [years],” Jimmy Butler told ESPN.
Throughout the regular season and the run to the Finals, Herro never ran away from the biggest moments — he embraced it. He was always willing to take and make the big shot no matter who he was facing.
Herro’s fearlessness was on full display in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. In a game that included stars like Butler, Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo and Kemba Walker, Herro was the best player on the court. He finished with 37 points and led the Heat to a 112-109 win over the Celtics.
For those of us that appreciate beautiful things, Herro’s performance that night in the bubble was on par with anything you would see at the Museum of Modern Art, right next to “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh.
In the years to come, Heat fans are hoping to see many more masterpieces from the artist that they have to know as Baby Goat.
#1: Bam Adebayo (2017)
It was a no-brainer to have Bam Adebayo as the top Heat draft pick of the last decade. Drafting your franchise cornerstone in the top 5 is a hard enough task in and of itself, but to be able to do that with the final pick in the lottery, it’s almost impossible. So when Adebayo finally came into his own this season, the Heat front office knew they hit it out of the park.
There are very few players in the NBA right now that are capable of doing everything that Adebayo is able to do. He’s the key to everything the Heat do offensively. He brings the ball up the floor like a guard, initiates the offense from the elbow to find cutters and give hand-offs and is powerful rolling to the rim.
What’s so amazing about Adebayo is the huge leap that he took from year two to year three. He went from averaging 8.9 points and 7.3 rebounds to averaging a double-double, 16 points and 10 rebounds, and making his first All-Star team.
On the defensive end of the floor, Adebayo’s a monster. A Second-Team All Defense selection, he’s able to guard all five positions with his coaches feeling comfortable to have him in any matchup. He’s quick enough to hang with smaller and quicker guards like Kemba Walker and he also has the strength to take on two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And let’s not forget (as if you could) the block heard around the bubble that he had in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics.
Every call of Bam Adebayo’s block, from ESPN, ESPN Deportes, Russian TV, Heat radio, Heat Spanish radio, & Celtics radio pic.twitter.com/4lkA7FymiS
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 16, 2020
Despite all of the accolades that he’s received this year, what has really set Adebayo apart from the others on this list has been his leadership. He’s been the embodiment of the franchise’s culture and is poised to follow in the footsteps of Heat legends of the past.
“He’s the Zo,” Pat Riley said to ESPN. “He’s the UD. He’s the Dwyane. They were standard-bearers. Bam is that person. He is the real deal.”
Being mentioned in the same rarified air as the best draft pick in franchise history at the ripe age of 23 just speaks volumes about Adebayo’s talent, work ethic and commitment to being one of the best to ever don a Miami Heat jersey.
What’s even crazier, he’s just getting started.