Miami is definitely going to face a busy summer, as the Heat will have to make some crucial decisions and answer questions that will define the franchise's long term future.
Will D-Wade stay? Is Pat Riley taking over as head coach - again? What to do with former 2nd overall pick Michael Beasley, keep or trade? Which big time free agent will the Heat land? Bosh? Amar'e? Maybe the King himself, LeBron James?
As I said, a busy summer, with so many choices to make and questions to answer. With players like Bosh, Boozer, Joe Johnson, Stoudemire, Wade and LeBron all considering to test free agency, the incumbent FA bonanza will probably be the most decisive part of the off-season, not only for Miami but for the whole league.
But while free agency officially starts July 1st, there's another important task occurring just a week earlier in New York, precisely on June 24: that is, you guessed it, the 2010 NBA Draft.
The Heat will pick at No.18 in the 1st round, then they have three 2nd round picks (No.41, 42 and 48).
Let's see where they could go from there.
First of all, I'm pretty confident that the Heat will be able to re-sign Dwyane Wade, and land a high profile big man FA as well. I really hope it will be Amar'e, though Carlos Boozer could be a more than decent consolation prize for Miami.
As for LeBron... I may be wrong and actually hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see that happening.
With that said, Miami should look for pretty much any position except SG, and more precisely:
PG The Heat could really use an upgrade here, considering last season odyssey at the point. Chalmers-Alston-Arroyo. Do I need to say more?
SF Quentin Richardson won't be re-signed, and Miami could do much worse than adding a wing player to complement Wade.
C Jermaine O'Neal and his albatross contract are out of here, and now the Heat would love to add a shot blocking, imposing big man to complete the front-court.
Of course, at No.18 you're probably not getting your game-changing, franchise player - but hey, we didn't get that at No.2 either - and obviously those John Wall, Evan Turner and Co. will be gone much earlier.
Nonetheless, it's still a good chance for the Heat to add a valuable piece to their squad, and personally I think this will prove to be a fairly deep draft, which means some nice amount of talent should still be available at No.18.
So, here are my candidates for Miami's 1st round pick.
A freshman from Kentucky is the best point guard - and arguably the best player - in this draft.
A freshman from Kentucky is actually the second best point guard as well.
With projected No.1 overall pick John Wall running the point for the Wildcats, Bledsoe spent most of the season playing off the ball, and while this didn't help his development as a PG, it gave him the chance to consistently test his jumper and improve his catch & shoot. And you know, such things could definitely come in useful when playing alongside a certain Heat guard in a #3 jersey.
The 6'1" Bledsoe is an explosive athlete even for NBA standards, and while not a pure shooter, he has developed a solid jump shot even from 3pt range. With his length, quickness and athleticism, Eric also has what it takes to become an excellent defender at the next level.
There are concerns about his decision making and his ability to run a team's offense, especially half-court, and actually spending the whole year playing off the ball didn't help to clear such worries.
My opinion? The kid is a lottery kind of talent, and has the potential to be a starter for Miami from day one.
NBA comparison: Mookie Blaylock
I will freely admit that I have a man-crush on this player.
A 6'9" forward with a guard skill-set, Gordon Hayward is possibly one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft.
Hayward's versatility is probably his biggest asset: he has size, can shoot the lights out from any range, is a competent ball handler, has nice court vision and is a good rebounder for his position.
Gordon's relative lack of strength and explosiveness could make it difficult to guard NBA small forwards, though I believe his underrated athleticism, combined with size and high basketball IQ, will help him becoming a decent defender at the next level.
Projected somewhere between late lottery and early 20s, Hayward could be a real steal at No.18.
NBA comparison: tough one. I'd say Chris Mullin meets Hedo Turkoglu.
6'8" SF Paul George has the potential to be the perfect role player for a succesful NBA team.
The athletic swingman possesses all the tools to become an effective defensive stopper: quickness, size, explosiveness, length... you name it, he's got it.
Offensively, George is only an average ball-handler, and will have problems creating his own shot, but displays great range and an effective jumpshot - with quite peculiar mechanics, by the way.
Long story short: Paul George is your potential wing stopper / perimeter shooter at NBA level. That's really something you want to have alongside a Kobe, a LeBron or, yes, a D-Wade.
Probably not the most intriguing talent available at No.18, but definitely a solid pick for the Heat.
NBA comparison: Trevor Ariza - Lakers edtion, please - with more range.
If the Heat decide they absolutely want some size and presence in the paint, 7'1" center Solomon Alabi might be their only chance in this draft.
Highly touted center prospects Cole Aldrich and Hassan Whiteside will most likely be gone in the lottery, which leaves Alabi as the only seven-footer left worth a first round pick.
Still a project offensively, the Nigerian shotblocker will need time to develop a respectable set of post moves, but with his size and length, Alabi has the chance to become an intimidating defensive presence from day one.
Maybe a reach at No.18, but you can't teach size, so the Heat will probably give a long look at Alabi, especially if they plan to sign a superstar wing player - who knows, maybe THAT superstar wing player - in the FA market.
NBA comparison: more DeSagana Diop than Dikembe Mutombo.
Here's the plan: trade these 2nd round picks for Ginobili... errr...
Joking, of course. Manu's picture should actually serve as a reminder of the potential value of 2nd round selections: the Spurs drafted him at No. 57 in 1999, landing one of the cornerstones of their dynasty, in what was probably the greatest draft steal of all time.
I'm not expecting any Ginobili-like talent to be regularly available in the mid-late 2nd round, but if Miami could snap this year's Blairs and Budingers (respectively drafted 37th and 44th in 2009), that would be a real boost for a rebuilding team like them.
Now, the Heat currently have not one, not two, but three 2nd round picks (No.41, 42 and 48). Not sure if they will keep all of them or maybe include one or two in some trades before the draft night. It's hard to guess at the moment.
If they do keep all their picks, that could leave room for some "creative" selections. If you take some risks in the 2nd round, it's always a calculated risk. When you have three picks, it's definitely no russian roulette.
So here come the 2nd rounders: it's the Average, the European and the Gamble. How lame does it sound?
Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez is projected all over the 2nd round, and could very well be available for the Heat at No.41 or even No.48.
While it would not be a surprising pick, there's actually not much of average in a Venezuelan, 6'6" point guard who is also the ACC Player of the Year.
The offensive-minded Vasquez could be an impact player off the bench at each back-court position, providing quick points, creative playmaking and some much needed energy.
Lack of athleticism and limited defensive potential won't help his chances at the next level, but the Heat could definitely use an oversized, change-of-pace combo guard in their second unit.
NBA comparison: Marko Jaric without Adriana Lima.
A skinny 6'10" German with unlimited range, who scores most of his points from the perimeter, and doesn't seem to care much about defense. Well I guess Dirk Nowitzki's scouting report didn't sound much different back in 1998.
Make no mistake, Robin Benzing is no Dirk, but is indeed an interesting prospect to pick in the 2nd round.
A lights-out shooter with great size, decent ball handling and ability to create his own shot, 21 year old Benzing is already a polished offensive player even at the NBA level.
Defensively, it's a totally different story. Benzing is simply not athletic enough to guard most NBA small forwards and his lack of strength and toughness will make him a liability against stronger power forwards.
Benzing will absolutely need to add strength and muscles, as well as learning both individual and team defense at the NBA level, but hey, he's The European Prospect, what else were you expecting?
NBA comparison: wannabe Dirk.
In all honesty, I'm afraid Butler is not going to hear his name called during draft night.
After leading West Virginia to the Final Four with a string of clutch performances, raising his draft stock in the process, Da'Sean suffered what is possibly the most feared injury in basketball: a torn ACL.
When fit, the 6'7" swingman has what it takes to become a solid role player in the NBA. While only an average athlete, and not a pure shooter, Butler has a nice mid-range game, and is an adequate defender despite his lack of explosiveness. A true team player, Da'Sean also displays a hard working attitude and good basketball IQ.
I'm not sure if any NBA team is willing to take a chance on this young man, but if there's a team that can afford to take some risks, well, it's Miami with those three 2nd round picks.
NBA comparison: late Grant Hill.