Having succeeded at No. 13 (Herro), No. 14 (Adebayo), Heat seek to continue mid-range draft success while scouting for No. 15

MIAMI — Having maximized NBA draft picks at No. 13 and No. 14, it’s as if Adam Simon at the moment is playing three-card poker, attempting to fill out a straight at No. 15.

Simon, the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations and assistant general manager, sees a potential net gain with the team’s No. 15 selection in the June 26 NBA draft, even with many viewing this as one of the weakest drafts in years.

“This is a good draft, with a lot of young talent through the first and second rounds,” said Simon, who is in Chicago with the Heat front office and scouting staff at the draft combine. “I feel like we’ll exit the draft with a good player.”

Even in a so-called weak draft?

“I think it’s unfair to jump early on a draft class and say it’s not a good class,” Simon said after a day of viewing five-on-five pre-draft scrimmages. “You’ve got a top of the draft that doesn’t necessarily have players at this moment that are franchise players. Other years there’s been that lead up to the draft where anybody can see – you don’t need a draft expert or scout – such and such are future stars in this draft, and they’re going to go one, two, three.

“So you’ve got a draft where there are not necessarily ones that you can say today are going to be franchise players. It’s not to say they won’t become them. They certainly can, but it’s not like you could say that right now. So there’s pretty good talent up there. And the middle of the draft, where we’re picking, there’s a lot of good, really young talent that’s spread out, even past the lottery.”

Indeed, an argument could be made that No. 15 is the Heat’s sweet spot. Already, the team landed Tyler Herro at No. 13 in 2019 and Bam Adebayo at No. 14 in 2017. In fact, success at No. 15 could further fill out the Heat mid-round draft success in light of landing Jaime Jaquez Jr. at No. 18 in last June’s first round.

When the Heat landed Adebayo and Herro, there was ample time for draft deliberation in the wake of lottery seasons. Last year, the Heat went directly from the NBA Finals to the Jaquez selection days later.

But Simon said the process has never wavered, with the same approach during lottery years and in the wake of early playoff exits as the quick turnarounds from deep playoff runs.

“It’s definitely the same,” Simon said of the process that next will have the scouting staff attending agency workouts this week in Chicago and next week in Southern California, before individual player workouts at Kaseya Center.

“We’re doing the exact same, and you’re just looking at different windows,” Simon said of the Heat’s draft slot, which as recently as two years ago came at No. 27 (Nikola Jovic) “We’re at 15. And if we had no picks, we would still study the same draft.”

While drafting positionally largely has given way to taking the best available talent during Simon’s three decades of Heat scouting, the Heat have varied between selecting ready-now prospects amid playoff runs (Jaquez last year) and those in more of a development mode (Jovic two years ago).

So if the Heat retain No. 15, and with Simon higher on this year’s draft class than some others, selecting for in the moment or for the future?

“I’m not drafting for the team we have. I’m going to recommend the players one through 15, one through 58, based on who I think the best players are,” Simon said, with the Heat also picking at No. 43 in the second round, and two picks of the 60 overall picks this year forfeited by other teams due to NBA violations. “Our roster changes. Our roster could change this summer. Our roster will change. It’s just inevitable, free agents, whether some players are with us in two years, three years, five years, 15 years.

“So the last thing I want to do is we pass on a player who was better because we took a player based on need.”

Early forecast

Among players listed at No. 15 to the Heat in recent mock drafts:

ESPN: Zach Edey, C, Purdue.

The Ringer: Jared McCain, G, Duke.

CBS Sports: McCain.

USA Today: McCain.

Tankathon: McCain.

Clutch points: McCain.

NBA Draft Room: McCain.

The Athletic: Devin Carter, G, Providence.

SB Nation: Carter.

Yahoo Sports: Isaiah Collier, G, Southern Cal.

Bleacher Report: Collier.

NetScouts Basketball: Kyle Filipowski, F, Duke.

FanSided: Filipkowski.

NBADraft.net: Tidjane Salaun, F, France.