The Miami Heat hold a checkered history when it comes to the NBA Draft. Whittling down the list to the five best Heat draft picks of all-time can be difficult, though there are some obvious choices.
With first round picks often flipped for veteran players, the number of years draft night held any intrigue in Miami remains small. In 33 seasons, the Heat held a spot in the draft lottery 14 times (not including 1988). Two of those lottery selections were shipped to other clubs prior to the draft. Five times, draft night came and went without a pick from the Heat (’96, ’06, ’13, ’16 and ’18). On seven other occasions, Miami made only second round selections (’93, ’98, ’00, ’01, ’09, ’10 and ’11).
Miami has made 58 draft selections over the years. But only two players drafted by the franchise have become NBA All-Stars in a Heat uniform. More often than not, draft picks provide momentary hope, before becoming assets sent to other teams for other stars.
So here’s a look at the five best Heat draft picks of All-Time.
Best Heat Draft Picks: Josh Richardson (2015, 40th overall)
The Miami Heat have a long track record of developing talent. The list of undrafted free agent success stories is a long one. But the team’s success rate on second round picks remains less favorable. Of the Heat’s 58 draft picks all-time, 34 have come in the second round. The best of those picks came in 2015, when the Heat selected Josh Richardson with the 40th overall selection.
A 6-5 combo guard out of Tennessee, Richardson went on to play four years in Miami. Richardson’s metrics improved with each season as he became a staple in the Heat’s rotation. His 419 career three-pointers made rank 10th all-time in franchise history. Sometimes miscast as a playmaker, Richardson remained a reliable defender throughout his time with the Heat. Richardson headlined the trade package that landed Miami Jimmy Butler in 2019.
Even though he was the 40th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Richardson stands among the most productive players from that draft class. He’s top-10 from that class in Win Shares (20.3). And his 4.1 VORP (Value over Replacement Player) ranks 12th among the 60 selections, 20 slots ahead of Miami’s other selection that season, Justise Winslow.
Best Heat Draft Picks: Rony Seikaly (1988, 9th overall)
Rony Seikaly’s name remains forever etched in Heat history. The first ever draft selection by the franchise, Seikaly proved to be a valuable cornerstone player in Miami’s early years.
The ninth overall selection of the 1988 NBA Draft, Seikaly played six seasons with the Heat. He averaged 15.4 points-per-game and 10.4 rebounds-per-game, and won NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 1990. Seikaly anchored Miami’s first playoff teams and his name still dots the top-10 in 22 statistical categories.
But a falling out with then-managing partners Lewis Schaffel and Billy Cunningham ultimately paved the way for a franchise-altering rebuild. Seikaly was shipped off to Golden State for Sasha Danilović and Billy Owens on November 2, 1994. That deal was quickly followed with another that saw Steve Smith and Grant Long sent to Atlanta. Suddenly, the initial promising young core in Heat history was no more.
Seikaly finished his career as the second-best rebounder and eighth-best scorer from the 1988 class. Ironically, the Heat rostered the top three rebounders from this class, including the overall leader Anthony Mason and Long. In a redraft of that class, Seikaly could arguably go as high as fifth.
Best Heat Draft Picks: Bam Adebayo (2017, 14th overall)
The Heat landed in the 2017 NBA lottery despite the 30-11 second-half. Miami found itself eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, missing out thanks to a tie-breaker. And although that 30-11 run mucked up the Heat’s salary cap for years to come after some (highly) questionable free agent decisions, the Heat landed one of the franchise’s best and most impactful draft picks of all-time.
Bam Adebayo came to Miami via the 14th overall selection in 2017 NBA Draft. And although the move was panned by many at the time, Adebayo has grown into a franchise cornerstone in the intervening years. Only he and Dwyane Wade boast All-Star bids as draftees of the Heat. He’s also a two-time All-Defensive player and one of five in Heat history to make the Team USA’s Olympics roster. If he remains with the club long-term, there’s no doubt Adebayo’s name will rewrite the franchise record book.
As it stands right now, Adebayo ranks first from the 2017 class in Win Shares, ahead of Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and all the others. He’s second in VORP. There’s no doubt Adebayo, the 14th pick overall, would be in the top-3 in a 2017 redraft.
Best Heat Draft Picks: Glen Rice (1989, 4th overall)
Coming off an inaugural campaign that saw the Heat win just 15 games, Miami landed its first true star in the 1989 NBA Draft. The Heat labored through that first season, playing in the Western Conference as part of the Midwest division with Dallas, Denver, Houston, San Antonio and Utah. And despite having the worst record in the league by five games, the Heat slipped to fourth the draft lottery. The Kings, Clippers and Spurs all jumped Miami in the draft order.
But what resulted is arguably the second best Heat draft pick of all-time: Glen Rice. The face of the franchise for six seasons, Rice lead Miami’s young franchise to its first playoff berths and winning season. He became the Heat’s first-ever 20-point-per-game scorer and would have been the NBA Rookie of the Year had 1987 draft pick David Robinson not missed his first two seasons for military service.
A three-time All-Star and one-time NBA Champ (albeit not with the Heat), Rice won the NBA Three-Point Shootout in 1995, the first of four Heat players to do so. Rice remains among the franchise top-10 in 26 different statistical categories, including top-3 in scoring (9,248). Rice became the centerpiece in Pat Riley’s trade for Alonzo Mourning on November 3, 1995.
Rice ranks fourth among the 1989 draftees in Win Shares (88.7) and fifth in VORP (24.9). But in a redraft of that class, Rice arguably goes first overall. That class also featured a great second round pick by Miami in Sherman Douglas. Heat legend Tim Hardaway also entered the NBA that year, going 14th to Golden State.
Best Heat Draft Picks: Dwyane Wade (2003, 5th overall)
This one goes without saying. The Heat landed Wade with the fifth overall selection in the loaded 2003 NBA Draft, arguably the league’s best draft class of all-time.
The lottery sported all the intrigue that year, considering the hype surrounding then-high school phenom LeBron James. Miami finished the 2002 season with the fourth-worst record in the league, but saw themselves pushed down in the draft order when Memphis jumped to the No. 2 overall pick.
Unfortunately for Memphis, their pick was only lottery-protected if it landed No. 1. So, thanks to an ill-fated 1997 trade as the then-Vancouver Grizzlies for Otis Thorpe, it went to Detroit. The Pistons, meanwhile, used the second overall selection to surprisingly take Darko Miličić. Carmelo Anthony went to Denver, Chris Bosh to Toronto. Wade landed right in the Heat’s lap.
This fortuitous turn of events altered the trajectory of the Heat franchise and really NBA history. Had Miami not been jumped in the draft order, Riley might have taken Bosh over Wade. There was even talk of Chris Kaman being the selection at five. Thankfully, Wade was the pick.
Among that class, Wade ranks second in Win Shares (120.7) and VORP (62.8). There’s no doubt he’d be the second overall selection in a 2003 redraft. Wade ranks first among Heat career leaders in 19 statistical categories and among the top-10 in 17 others.
Three championships and countless memories later, Wade remains the only player ever drafted by Miami to have his number retired. He stands atop the list of the Heat’s best draft picks of all-time.