You think you know what will happen with the Miami Heat in Thursday’s NBA draft and the free-agency period beyond?
Nobody knows. Nobody could.
There are too many moving parts in this process, especially with Pat Riley in charge of it.
Look back to 2003, the year that Miami made its most successful first-round pick ever – Dwyane Wade. The followed happened that offseason, one seismic step after another, and the most astonishing news of all broke just days before the start of the regular season. Remember?
Well, here it all is, with the blockbuster headline buried near the bottom of the list, startling enough to make Wade wonder if he was even starting his career with a stable franchise.
- Junior Dwyane Wade leads Marquette to the Final Four but the Golden Eagles get blown out by Kansas 94-61 by Kansas. Wade, who was married with a 1-year-old son at the time, said “I’m known for having a great season but I didn’t go out a winner, so it will be a tough decision.” Luckily for the Heat, he decides to leave college one year early and enter the draft.
- Wade works out in June for at least nine teams, including Miami, which is coming off a 25-57 season and has the No. 5 overall pick.
- Certain stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh come off the draft board before the Heat can act but Riley takes Wade and says “we feel like we have, contrary to what people might think and other than LeBron, one of the best players, if not the best player in the draft.”
- The agent for Heat point guard Anthony Carter blows it by failing to inform the team that his player wants to exercise his option for the coming season. When the deadline passes without notification, Riley no longer is obligated to pay Carter his salary and the option on keeping him becomes the team’s instead. The Heat let Carter go and gain an additional $4 million to spend on free agents.
- Riley speaks generally with reporters about the possibility of saving his money for the next offseason, when Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett might be available as free agents.
- Riley makes a one-year offer to Alonzo Mourning, who missed the previous season with a kidney ailment, but is satisfied to let the greatest player in Heat history go. The New Jersey Nets sign Zo to a four-year deal and he says he is going because he is trying to get a ring and can’t wait for the Heat to get better.
- Riley signs Elton Brand to a six-year offer sheet but the Los Angeles Clippers match the offer and keep the free agent.
- Riley goes after the Clippers again, signing Lamar Odom to an offer sheet for six years and $65 million. This time the Clippers can’t match and Odom joins Miami.
- Wade plays his first exhibition game in Puerto Rico against the Philadelphia 76ers and shows immediate promise with 18 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four blocked shots.
- Wade signs his rookie contract for three years at $8.5 million with a team option for a fourth year.
- Riley quits as Heat coach four days before the regular-season opener and names assistant Stan Van Gundy to replace him. Riley says he will remain as team president for the final two years of his 10-year Heat contract, adding “I feel the time is right because this team is headed in another direction. It’s turned around. It’s fresh. It needs another voice.” Riley is 58.
- Miami goes 42-40 and makes the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Hornets in the first round, the season ends in the conference semifinals against Indiana.
- Riley tears it all up and rebuilds the following summer, trading Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal.
It couldn’t possibly be as dramatic as all that this offseason, right?
Well, I’m not predicting anything. Riley won’t let me or anybody else do that, and he likes it that way.