Entering their 34th season of existence, the Miami Heat find themselves without a selection in the 2021 NBA Draft. In five previous drafts (’96, ’06, ’13, ’16 and ’18), the Heat did not make a selection of any kind. But in the years they have made selections, their hit-rate has been spotty. Miami has found itself in the draft lottery 14 times, and some of those selections represent the worst Heat draft picks of all-time.
While it remains to be seen how the 2021 NBA Draft will play out, here’s a look at the five worst Heat draft picks of all-time.
First, a Quick Look at a few Regrettable Trades
Without a pick entering the evening’s festivities, there is precedent for Miami trading into the first round. In 1996, Pat Riley reshaped the Heat roster following a playoff sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Chicago Bulls. Sound familiar?
That year, Riley sent a future first round selection to Utah for the draft rights to Martin Müürsepp. The 6-9 Estonian proved to be something of a reach and developed very little in a Heat uniform. All told, Müürsepp played 10 games for Miami before being packaged with Sasha Danilović and Kurt Thomas to the Mavericks for Jamal Mashburn.
Picking Müürsepp at 25 helped yield an impactful player for Miami, yes. But there were other, better players on the board during the 1996 NBA Draft. Namely, Jerome Williams (26), Malik Rose (44) and Shandon Anderson (54), among others.
What compounds this regrettable move is the inclusion of the 2000 1st rounder, a selection that eventually became DeShawn Stevenson.
The other bad trade came in 1992. The Heat sent their ’93 first and rookie Isaiah Morris (a ’92 second round pick) to Detroit for veteran center John Salley. Although Salley proved useful for three seasons, Miami left him unprotected in the 1995 expansion draft and Toronto plucked him.
That ’93 first Miami surrendered? It became Lindsey Hunter at No. 10. Some of the other players on the board at that time were Allan Houston (yes, that Allan Houston) and Sam Cassell.
Worst Heat Draft Picks: Willie Burton (No. 9, 1990)
Lady Luck didn’t smile on Miami in 1990. In the first year of the weighted lottery system, the Heat held the second-best odds for the No. 1 overall selection. That season, Derrick Coleman was expected to go first. Future Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton stood as the likely No. 2 pick. But instead of landing the Glove 15 years before he’d make it to Miami, the Heat slipped to No. 3.
Prior to the draft, Lewis Schaffel, first GM in Heat history, dealt that selection to Denver for the ninth and fifteenth picks that year. Schaffel said at the time the difference between third and the ninth was “not huge. There might not be any.”
Third overall turned out to be Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (nee Chris Jackson). The Heat chose Willie Burton from Minnesota at nine. Over eight NBA seasons, Burton posted a minus-0.9 VORP (Value-Over-Replacement-Player), 39th in the class, and 9.1 Win Shares, 23rd in the class.
Burton played well as a rookie, averaging 12 PPG and earning a spot the NBA’s All-Rookie second team. But his production cratered from there. After four seasons, Miami waived him. Burton got revenge in 1994 when, as a 76er, he scored a career-high 53 points against the Heat.
Going into ’90-’91, the Heat had need at power forward and shooting guard. By swapping No. 3 and No. 9, the team missed out on Dennis Scott (4) and Kendall Gill (5). Miami could’ve used Tyrone Hill (11), too.
Miami used No. 15 overall to take guard Dave Jamerson, who they traded to Houston with their No. 30 pick Carl Herrera for power forward Alec Kessler. Other players Miami missed out on in 1990 included Elden Campbell (27), Toni Kukoč (29), Antonio Davis (45) and Cedric Ceballos (48).
Worst Heat Draft Picks: Khalid Reeves (No. 12, 1994)
Heading into the 1994 NBA Draft, the Heat were coming of the first winning season in franchise history. As the 8-seed in the playoffs, Miami nearly upset the top-seeded Hawks, losing in the deciding Game 5 of the series. A year after not having a first-round pick, Miami held the No. 12 selection overall, the first outside the lottery.
Miami lost Brian Shaw to free agency and waived Burton, so the team needed guard depth. The promising young core of Glen Rice, Steve Smith and Rony Seikaly seemed ready to vault up the Eastern Conference and drafting Jalen Rose could have provided just the playmaker Miami needed.
But that’s not what Schaffel did. Instead of taking Rose, Miami selected Khalid Reeves at No. 12. A 6-3 scorer from Arizona, Reeves was miscast as a point guard in Miami. He provided very little production as a rookie and stood by as Schaffel and Billy Cunningham retooled the roster. Miami missed the playoffs and Micky Arison assumed controlling interest in the franchise. Arison brought in Pat Riley who included Reeves in his franchise-altering trade for Alonzo Mourning.
Reeves played six seasons in the NBA, but just one for Miami, making him arguably one of the worst Heat draft picks of all-time. He posted a 1.0 VORP (19th in class) and 8.4 Win Shares (22nd in the class).
On the board at the time of his selection: Rose (13), Aaron McKie (17), Wesley Person (23) and Charlie Ward (26).
Heat legend Voshon Lenard was drafted No. 46 overall by Milwaukee. Miami passed him over in the second round, opting instead for Oklahoma forward Jeff Webster. Riley would sign Lenard as a free agent on December 29, 1995.
Worst Heat Draft Picks: Michael Beasley (No. 2, 2008)
To include Michael Beasley’s name on this list is to court the ire of #HeatTwitter. Beasley remains oddly beloved in Miami, despite limited production and questionable behavior.
The ‘07-‘08 Heat season couldn’t have gone any worse. Their 15-67 mark tied the expansion club for the worst record in franchise history. It was Riley’s last season as head coach and Zo’s last as a player. Dwyane Wademissed time with injuries and Shaquille O’Neal was shipped off. The second half of the season saw Miami trot out lineups that included Blake Ahearn, Stéphane Lasme, Smush Parker and Kasib Powell. The only hope was the 2008 NBA Draft.
Miami held the best odds for No. 1, which would’ve landed Derrick Rose. But at the lottery, Chicago jumped eight places to steal the first pick, pushing the Heat to No. 2. Prior to the draft, it was said that Miami preferred O.J. Mayo. The Heat were trying to trade down and get some cap relief, but when there were no takers, Miami selected Beasley.
Taking Mayo would’ve also been one of the worst Heat draft picks of all-time, considering the names following. Russell Westbrook (4), Kevin Love (5) and Brook Lopez (10) have all been far superior NBA players than both Beas and Mayo.
Beasley’s posted a 0.9 VORP (25th in the class) and 15.6 Win Shares (28th in the class) during his career. Miami moved Beasley to the Timberwolves in 2010 to clear cap space, ultimately allowing them to assemble the Big-3: Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Beasley’s winding career has made two stops in Miami since.
And who knows? Maybe fourth time’s a charm.
Worst Heat Draft Picks: Justise Winslow (No. 10, 2015)
Although #JustiseBetter was a thing for a considerable amount of time, there’s no escaping the fact that Justise Winslow remains a disappointment to Heat faithful. At the time of his selection, however, people lauded Miami’s choice.
The do-it-all forward entered the 2015 NBA Draft coming off a National Championship and even drew comparisons to (gasp) Grant Hill. But in the end, inconsistency and injuries ultimately landed Winslow among the worst Heat draft picks of all-time.
Two things color the Winslow selection beyond his underwhelming play and limited availability.
First, reports floated around immediately after the draft and in the intervening years that Boston Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge coveted Winslow so much that he offered a package of six draft picks to trade up. This offer was reportedly made to Detroit, which held the No. 8 pick, Charlotte (No. 9) and Miami (No. 10). All three teams rebuffed Boston, opting instead to draft Stanley Johnson, Frank Kaminsky and Winslow in succession. In retrospect, Miami might have done well with six additional picks, including four firsts.
Second, Miami missed out on a potentially franchise-altering player in Devin Booker, who went No. 13 to Phoenix. Some of the others on the board between Winslow and Miami’s second round pick (No. 40, Josh Richardson) included Myles Turner (11), Kelly Oubre Jr (15), Terry Rozier (16), Delon Wright (20), Bobby Portis (22) and Montrezl Harrell (32).
Miami traded Winslow on February 6, 2020 in a three-team deal that saw the Heat land Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill and Andre Iguodala. Those three helped propel Miami to the 2020 NBA Finals.
Winslow, meanwhile, has posted a minus-0.2 VORP (32nd in the class) and 7.0 Win Shares (25th in the class) over six spotty seasons.
Worst Heat Draft Picks: Harold Miner (No. 12, 1992)
The 1992 NBA Draft stands as a turning point in league history. Orlando won the lottery and the right to select Shaq, while Charlotte moved up six spots to land Zo. Minnesota slipped to No. 3 overall, settling for Christian Laettner.
The Heat held No. 12 after making the franchise’s first playoff appearance. The Bulls swept Miami out of the first round that year, so it’s fitting that the Heat wound up with “Baby Jordan.”
Harold Miner earned Sports Illustrated’s player of the year over Laettner, Mourning and O’Neal in 1992, averaging 26.3 points- and seven rebounds-per-game for USC. Most mocks had Miner as a top-10 pick, some going as high as No. 3. So it was a surprise for him to be there when Miami picked at 12.
At the time, Miami needed another rebounder and frontcourt enforcer to compliment the young core of Rice, Seikaly and Smith. The quintessential Heat enforcer was on the board, too. P.J. Brown went 29th to New Jersey. Instead, Miami opted for Miner, who never really fit.
Miner played three unremarkable seasons with the Heat (save for his two Slam Dunk Contest victories). He posted a minus-0.9 VORP (42nd in the class) and 4.2 Win Shares (29th in the class). Miami traded him to Cleveland in 1995 as part of a second-round pick swap.
Among the other players on the board at No. 12 besides Brown: Anthony Peeler (15), Doug Christie (17), Hubert Davis (20) and four-time All-Star Latrell Sprewell (24).
What makes Miner arguably the worst of the Heat draft picks of all-time is that Sprewell probably changes the trajectory of the franchise at that point. He was immediately an elite defender and quickly became a go-to scorer. He might’ve been the missing piece for the franchise’s initial young core.
Heat’s Strange Connection to the 1992 Draft
Ironically, the Heat rostered eight of the first 10 players selected in the 1992 draft: O’Neal, Mourning, Laettner, Jim Jackson, LaPhonso Ellis, Walt Williams, Todd Day and Clarence Weatherspoon.
Beyond those eight, there was also Miner, Brown, Don MacLean (19), Matt Geiger (42), Sasha Danilović (43) and Matt Fish (50). Miami drafted Isaiah Morris in the second round (37) but traded him to Detroit as part of the package to acquire Salley in ‘92. That makes 15 of 48 players (31 percent) who actually played in the NBA from this draft were one-time members of the Miami Heat.
Also of note, the Heat’s selection of Geiger with the No. 42 overall selection came thanks to a trade made with the Los Angeles Lakers. In a pre-expansion draft deal on June 23, 1988, LA sent a future 1992 2nd round pick to Miami ensuring the Heat would not select Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the expansion draft.