Pat Riley needed a point guard to ignite a sluggish lineup in 2003. He could have drafted T.J. Ford of Texas or Kirk Hinrich of Kansas to fill that hole. Aren’t you glad he didn’t?
Drafting No. 5 overall, Miami took Marquette shooting guard Dwyane Wade instead. Three NBA titles later, that decision to take the best available player clearly made all the difference for the franchise. Wade hopefully isn’t finished yet, either, if the Heat can keep him happy with a new contract this summer.
Not that Hinrich would have been a total disaster. He’s still in the league and working on a career average of five assists per game. Ford didn’t last quite as long because of injuries but he did start on playoff teams in Milwaukee and Toronto.
Compare almost anyone to Wade, however, and you come up short.
Well, there is LeBron James, of course, who went No. 1 overall in the 2003 draft, but Riley didn’t have a shot at him back then. What he got was an astoundingly athletic alternative in Wade, who never backed down to LeBron or anyone else from his first days in the league.
There’s a longer version of this Wade draft item coming on Thursday. You’ll find it in our print edition that morning and on the web, too, at mypalmbeachpost.com.
A little appetizer. There’s something in there about Wade beating LeBron on a last-second summer league shot when both were new to the league.