Ira Winderman: Heat more than disinterested spectators at the NBA Draft Lottery | Sports
The Miami Heat have spent the season having nothing to do with the NBA Draft Lottery, with their 2021 unprotected first-round pick held by the Oklahoma City Thunder. This selection is now at # 18.
But that doesn’t mean the Heat still won’t have their eyes on the lottery balls when the NBA conducts its annual draw at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Chicago.
After finishing No. 6 in the East, the Heat find themselves in a somewhat precarious position, having to keep their eyes on those who follow as well as those before.
On the one hand, it’s settling down as one of the deepest and most talented drafts in years. On the other hand, it’s not as if any of the contenders for this season’s Eastern Conference are positioned for instant greater wealth based on the outcome of the lottery.
For the first time in years, it’s not about what the Atlanta Hawks will add, having arrived as playoff contenders this season.
Still, the bouncing balls could make the difference when it comes to the Heat’s size in the East over the next season.
The order entering the random but weighted draw, in terms of lottery odds, is with the Houston Rockets’ top six, followed by the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Western Conference Rockets, Thunder and Timberwolves don’t worry the Heat much. And among the Eastern teams with the best chances of a top-four selection (the only picks determined by the lottery), the Pistons were stuck at neutral this season even with All-Rookie selections Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. , the Magic continue to take the long-term view after trading Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, and the Cavaliers are more than a piece of everything tangible.
But then it gets interesting, the thermal impact is interesting.
The Toronto Raptors rank seventh in lottery odds, with a 7.5% chance of being chosen No.1 and a 31.9% chance of being in the top four. A fluke just might change the Raptors’ outlook on the free agency of potential Heat target Kyle Lowry. A top-four pick could become an instant trade chip to increase the core of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and, perhaps, a return from Lowry. It is a core (minus Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka) which is only two seasons away from a championship.
Then there are the Chicago Bulls, the eighth seed in the lottery, whose choice is up to the Magic, to complete the trade of Vucevic, if he is not in the top four. The Bulls have a 20.3% chance of being in the top four. Adding a player of this pedigree to Vucevic, Zach LaVine, Coby White, Patrick Williams and, perhaps, Lauri Markkanen, and Billy Donovan’s team could still make the climb that was expected this season.
The two Eastern teams remaining among the 14 in the lottery are the Charlotte Hornets and the Indiana Pacers, who have both offered enough to advance to this season’s prelims.
The Hornets are seeded No.11, with an 8.5% chance of coming out with one of the top four caps, a stroke of luck that could apparently make Charlotte a playoff contender again, when she is added to LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges, Terry Rozier and PJ Washington.
As for the Pacers, lottery seed No.13, there is a 4.8% chance of being in the top four, which would apparently be more than enough to elevate the mix of Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert and TJ Warren (or his replacements) return to the heart of the playoffs.
So, no, Pat Riley and his front office won’t see the Heat logo at any time during Tuesday’s lottery.
But they’ll see a lot about how next season’s challenge might take shape and whether the Raptors, Bulls, Hornets or Pacers bounce back in the Eastern playoff race.
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