(With the Miami Heat to resume their schedule Thursday with a 26-30 record and 26-game sprint to the end of the regular season, we offer a two-part look at the potential direction going forward. Yesterday, we looked at the playoffs chances. Today, we look at the lottery odds.)
Pat Riley‘s rules have not, with the playoffs continuing to be prioritized by the Heat over a potential infusion of a prime lottery pick.
As part of Commissioner Adam Silver’s lottery overhaul that will be implemented May 14 in Chicago, the first four selections, up from the previous three, will be drawn in the random-but-weighted process.
At 26-30, the Heat currently stand as the No. 11 lottery seed, with a 2-percent chance of the No. 1 overall pick (aka, Zion Williamson) and a 9.4-percent chance of a Top 4 selection (aka, the Duke Three and Ja Morant).
But just as the Heat are teetering on the edge of the Eastern Conference playoff race, on the outside looking in as the No. 9 seed (because of the tiebreaker held by the 26-30 Detroit Pistons), there remains ample opportunity in the lottery race.
The Washington Wizards, for example, are three games behind the Heat, but as the No. 7 lottery seed stand with a 7.5-percent chance of the No. 1 pick and 32-percent chance of the Top 4 selection.
Because of the relative strength of the Western Conference, the team with the best record of the East teams not to make the playoffs will have at least the Heat’s current lottery odds, so Riley can somewhat have it both ways, with no worse than a 9.4-percent chance of a Top 4 selection.
So what’s at stake?
Here’s one perspective:
Presumptive first four
Zion Williamson, Duke: What Williamson offers as an athlete is borderline unprecedented in the NBA Draft, at 6 feet 7 and 285 pounds with a 40-inch vertical and offering 75 percent shooting inside the arc and averages of two-plus steals and blocks per game.
R.J. Barrett, Duke: Barrett is as complete of a basketball player as there is available in the 2019 NBA Draft. He can lead an offense at point guard or shoot his way into success at shooting guard.
Cam Reddish, Duke: Reddish is the most talented 3-and-D prospect, shooting nearly 35 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 14 points on the most talented team in college basketball.
Ja Morant, Murray St.: Ranked first in the NCAA in assists per game and 10th in points, his play mirrors Russell Westbrook with a distinct, aggressive, thrashing style on offense and defense.
Possible next tier
Keldon Johnson, Kentucky: A talented two-guard for the future, can knock down shots off the catch or off the dribble and drives well to the rim through contact.
Nassir Little, North Carolina: At 6-6, 220 pounds with a 7-1 wingspan, can defend one through four and knock down open shots, explosive on both sides of the floor.
Romeo Langford, Indiana: A scorer off the bounce who finds ways to get open at all three levels of the floor. Has a wide frame but needs weight to become a more complete defender.
Current Heat range
DeAndre Hunter, Virginia: At 6-7, 225, has the skills to complement his physical build, shooting just above 45 percent on 3-pointers and possibly the best defender in the best defensive system in college basketball.
Darius Garland, Vanderbilt: A season-ending knee injury in November impacted stock, but an athletically elite point guard with an above-average 3-point shot and a knack for steals. Will the athleticism still be there?
Kevin Porter Jr., Southern Cal: A streaky shooter, but when hot, can be one of the better scorers in all of college basketball. Has upside as a shot-blocker and defender.
Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech: A defense-first shooting guard who forces steals, gets in passing lanes and is an all-around pest as well as a talented rebounder for a 6-5 guard.
Bol Bol, Oregon: Like Zion Williamson, a physical prospect different than any other player available. The son of former NBA center Manute Bol stands 7-3 with a 7-8 wingspan, an elite shot blocker on defense who can knock down 3-pointers and score off the dribble. A knee injury has forced him to miss most of his only college season.
Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga: A 6-8, 225-pound power forward who scores in transition, knocks down 3-pointers and snuffs out offensive rebounds.
Daniel Gafford, Arkansas: Has similarities to Bam Adebayo, a proficient rim-runner, who can catch lobs, block shots.
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