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Heat's Draft Focus: Length, Maturity

Pat Riley is on the South Side of Chicago putting in plenty of work. Pondexter

No, the Heat president of basketball operations is not up there to intensify his recruiting efforts to retain Chicago native and Miami point guard Dwyane Wade.

That trip, we presume, will come a bit later.

And no, Riley hasn't spent the better part of this week in Chi-Town in to convince LeBron James to hold off on his search for real estate.

Instead, Riley and his staff of top front-office administrators have spent the past few days in Chicago taking a close look at prospects in the June 24 NBA Draft. The fact that Riley is putting in plenty of face time at the pre-draft combine is a signal of at least two things.

One, it could very well be a face-to-face feeling-out process with other club execs on sign-and-trades that could play out this summer.

And two, it shows that Pat is taking this year's draft pretty seriously. The Heat holds four picks - the No. 18 overall pick in the first round and three second rounders. That's potentially four trade chips. Or, better yet, four slots the Heat plans to fill on the 2010-11 roster through the draft.

Riles is typically reluctant to operate this way. The Heat hasn't had much success building through the draft when it hasn't been positioned in the lottery.

Jerome Jordan But this year looks like it will be different. We'll take a closer look at the Heat's draft philosophy in a story that will run in Sunday's Miami Herald. But for now, from all indications, it appears that Pat and the Heat have been aggressively scouting, interviewing and working out prospects that could be keepers.

One name that has already come out of the Chicago combine as a rumored target of Heat interest is University of Washington forward Quincy Pondexter, pictured above right. He's the prototypical scoring small forward who also is long enough to defend in the Heat's system.

Another name who has surfaced on Miami's potential draft radar is Tulsa's Jerome Jordan (pictured left), a 7-footer who has developed nicely in college and is among a number of big-man projects who could fall in the Heat's draft range. In this draft process, the Heat has placed a premium on two things: experience and length.

And with most of the team's available salary-cap space earmarked for free agency, the Heat likely will need to round out several roster spots with draft picks or minimum-salary veterans.

Unlike seasons past, this might finally be the year when circumstances dictate that Pat plant a draft pick or three on the end of his bench next season instead of somewhere across the Atlantic.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)




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