NBA Draft Combine Prospects Miami Heat Must Watch Most Closely

Wes Goldberg@@wcgoldbergContributor IIMay 16, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies calls a play against the Kentucky Wildcats during the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship at AT&T Stadium on April 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With a roster of mostly expiring contracts, opt-out clauses and possible retirees, the Miami Heat will have a different look next season. Miami holds both of its picks in this draft and, after advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, will be looking to add a contributor toward the end of the order.

In March, Pat Riley attended the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament in Atlanta, where he was "looking for someone to help LeBron [James]," according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Even though Riley has shown little interest in building his team through the draft recently (with the exception of Norris Cole), the Heat will pick someone in what is considered a deep draft.

The Heat cannot trade the pick because their 2015 top-10 protected pick is already owed to the Cleveland Cavaliers via the sign-and-trade for James (although they could pick the player and trade him, as they did with Arnett Moultrie in 2013).

And there is this, as pointed out by the Sentinel's Ira Winderman:

Yet with the Heat on the verge of entering the NBA's draconian "repeater tax," where every dollar spent could cost two-, three- or even more -times per dollar paid in salary, the draft, and its rookie wage scale, might have to start to matter again.

This could be an important draft for the Heat. The team already has former draft picks James Ennis and Justin Hamilton and could add another youngster.

Obviously, there are a lot of possibilities for Miami. Here are a few prospects who could help fill position and skill needs that the Heat should pay special attention to.

Mitch McGary, C, Michigan

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 03:  Mitch McGary #4 of the Michigan Wolverines pulls down a rebound against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 3, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 79-69.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

After testing positive for marijuana and facing a year suspension by the NCAA, McGary decided to enter the NBA draft. Coupled with a back surgery that cut his sophomore season short and McGary could slide in the draft.

As a freshman, McGary played alongside college stars Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. He knows how to play with ball-dominant wings and is good in transition. He runs the floor well and plays with effort, setting solid picks and taking advantage of offensive rebounds. has him rated as the No. 29 overall prospect.

While McGary doesn't possess great length for a center with his 6-11 ½ or 7-0 wingspan (depending on which measurement you believe), his quickness and agility will help him on both ends of the floor. He will be able to get down the floor in transition for easy baskets, as fast-break opportunities made up 10.5% and 11.5% of his possessions as a freshman and sophomore, as he was often the first big man down the court. His effort level is terrific, which NBA coaches will certainly love.

The Heat will likely need to add depth at center. Hamilton is a good shooter but is an unknown. The Greg Oden Experiment looks like a failure, and Chris Andersen will likely get a raise after a season and a half of solid play at a discount.

The Heat got lucky by getting Andersen at a bargain, but an NBA center is an expensive commodity. That's why you see contenders—the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers—do their homework and find a big man in the draft that are system fits.

Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut

Miami lacks instant offense.

Guys like Jamal Crawford, Patty Mills, Gary Neal and Nate Robinson have made livings in the NBA by supplying instant offense off the bench when their teams needed it. The Heat don't have that guy.

One of the most exciting players in the NCAA tournament, Napier is a dynamic scorer and a solid defender.

The problem with Napier is that he measures in at 5'11" without shoes and is about 170 pounds wet. But hey, that's one of the reasons he could fall to the end of the first round.

Mario Chalmers will be a free agent and could be too expensive for the Heat to re-sign, and Miami could be looking to add competition at point guard. If the Heat want a guy who has proven he can shoulder the scoring load on a big stage, Napier could be the pick.

Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana Lafayette

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 21:  Elfrid Payton #2 of the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns celebrates after a play in the second half against the Creighton Bluejays during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at AT&T Center on March 21
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Another point guard that could be on the board is this Louisiana Lafayette prospect. He isn't the big name that Napier is, nor does he come from a big school, but the Heat drafted Cole from Cleveland State so that's not a turn-off. 

At the NBA Draft Combine, Payton measured in at nearly 6'4" with a 6'8" wingspan. I didn't watch a single minute of Louisiana Lafayette basketball this season (SUE ME!), but the scouting report by Draft Express intrigued me. 

Payton is a very good ball-handler, which makes him an excellent transition threat and allows him to get into the paint very effectively. He can create his own shot and break down defenders in pick and roll and one situations, showing good potential in this area as he continues to mature and polishes up his skill-level.

His three-point shot isn't great, hitting just 25.9 percent beyond the arc last season. But the Heat made Cole a decent three-point shooter when he didn't show a knack for it in college. 

His defense, passing ability and physical tools could make him too tough to forgo should he be on the board.

DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 22: DeAndre Daniels #2 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates a three point shot against the Villanova Wildcats during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 22, 2014 in Buffalo
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

If the Heat are looking to draft a good shooter who can play multiple positions, Daniels fits the bill. Standing at 6'7" with a wingspan of 7'1", Daniels has experience playing small forward, power forward and even center in Kevin Ollie's super small lineups. 

He improved on his three-point shooting every season, finally converting on 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts as a junior.

Daniels has all the physical tools but was inconsistent in college and isn't the plus defender Miami wants on the wings. If the Heat think they can unlock Daniels' potential, he could be a steal.

P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (D-League)

After playing in the NBA Developmental League following a dismissal from North Carolina in December, P.J. Hairston is the most NBA ready prospect on this list.

Measuring in at 6'4", 229 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine, Hairston has the size and aggressive style needed to play right away in the Association. But what sticks out the most is his jump shot. Hairston has good form and a quick release, which translated to nearly 22 points per game and 35.8 percent shooting from three-point range.

He's a good defender with a 6'9" wingspan who guards both shooting guards and small forwards regularly.

Hairston could be an immediate 3-and-D guy for the Heat, who are already losing Shane Battier to retirement (and Sunday brunch at Denny's).

There are plenty of other prospects who could make sense for Miami. Duke's Rodney Hood is a good three-point shooting small forward, Wichita State's Cleanthony Early is a tweener 3 or 4 who could find a home in Miami's positionless approach and UCLA's physical scorer, Jordan Adams, are just a few.

Ultimately, the Heat will build through free agency and draft a complementary piece. Riley isn't looking to draft the next member of the Big Three, rather he's looking to find someone to take on some responsibility and make the jobs of the key players easier.

As already noted, it will be an important pick. Miami is aware of the luxury-tax threshold and finding a contributor on a rookie deal could help solidify the Heat's supporting cast.

NBA Draft Combine data and college stats via


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