How The Miami Heat Avoided Draft Day Disaster

By Richard Nurse
Dwyane Wade
Steve Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports

Since the Miami Heat aren’t holding a pick in tonight’s draft, I think we should take a look at how Pat Riley’s love for big men almost ruined the team’s future and rendered their 10-year plan shot.

The night was June 26, 2003 and the entire basketball world’s eyes were fixed on the world’s greatest arena, waiting to witness one of the league’s deepest draft classes prepare to take over the scene.

LeBron James was the star of stars, but that night will be remembered as the night the Detroit Pistons made the brave mistake of drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony. The Pistons won the championship that year and Milicic ended up with more rings than Melo, but the crazy thing about that night is the other oops that nearly happened.

“The day of the draft, Pat Riley called me,” said famed NBA personal trainer Tim Grover (via “He said, ‘All right, Tim. [Dwyane] Wade or [Chris] Kaman: Who would you take?’ …  I was thinking about it, and the 1984 draft flashed in my mind when the Portland Trailblazers took Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan. I told them to take Dwyane.”

Now just imagine if Riley didn’t listen to Grover. The team would be down a scoring title, three championship rings and three Finals Most Valuable Players awards — all for the love of centers.

Riley’s philosophy has always been: you work from the inside out, rebound and defend. That’s the way you win. And up until that point it worked for him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but not so much with Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning.

However, thanks to Wade, he was able to make it work again.

If Riley would have picked Kaman, he probably wouldn’t have had the urge or desire to go after Shaquille O’Neal in that 2004 Los Angeles Lakers deal. Even if he did, he would’ve had no one to pair with Shaq for their 2006 title run. And if Riley would had picked Kaman, he would have never had Wade’s mouthpiece to convince James and Chris Bosh to team up in South Beach.

So no matter how you look at it, Wade might not have been the best player in the 2003 NBA Draft, but he sure was the most valuable. Just ask the rings.

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Richard Nurse is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @blackirishpr.

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