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Getting To The Point

After working out dozens of prospects over the past three weeks, Pat Riley and the Miami Heat summoned Averybradley perhaps its biggest crop of potential first-round picks to AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday.

And the Heat got straight to the point - as in the point guard position.

Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe, Texas' Avery Bradley and Nevada's Armon Johnson highlighted Friday's predraft session that also included UConn's Stanley Robinson, Kansas' Xavier Henry and Fresno State's Paul George.

Just about all are projected to go from the middle of the first round to early in the second, which means in range for the Heat, which owns the No. 18 pick in the first round and picks Nos. 41, 42 and 48 in the second.

The question I continue to ask is this: If the Heat holds onto its first-round pick, would it really use it on a point guard in this draft? Does anyone here have "potential starter" written on them? Can any among them Rondo-run a team that is certain to be anchored by Dwyane Wade and at least one other star player in addition to several veterans?

Most of the crop from Friday's workout answered that question in college. But the NBA is a completely different level.

Bledsoe found a way to shine at Kentucky despite being overshadowed by likely No. 1 pick John Wall and lottery lock DeMarcus Cousins. Bradley was Texas' second-leading scorer behind prolific swingman Damion James. And Johnson was the set-up man for Nevada scoring machine Luke Babbitt, a small forward who worked out for the Heat earlier this week.

So each of the point guards here Friday have experience deferring to other great players on the perimeter, which is a necessity in a city where all things run through Wade at shooting guard.

"I could have gone anywhere, but it's a part of making sacrifices," Bledsoe said after his session in Miami,  Bledsoe-wall referring to having to emerge from Wall's shadow. "I think I'm a pure point guard. I had to play off the ball."

There are a couple of mock drafts that have projected Bledsoe to go to the Heat at the No. 18 spot. But there were a couple of things that stood out about Bledsoe that might be a concern. In a lot of ways, he's Mario Chalmers. Bledsoe wasn't a big assist playmaker in college and he's a lot closer to 5-10 than he is to the 6-1 he is listed. His shooting and scoring ability could make him a special player. But he's been a combo guard - a small one at that.

Bledsoe knows there are plenty of questions about his ability to be an NBA point guard. Based on John Calipari's track record, if he plucked Bledsoe to come to Kentucky, then there's potential to be special.

Bledsoe also said he has spent a lot of time working with Calipari assistant and former NBA point guard Rod Strickland, who molded Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall into lottery picks.

"I worked with Strick a lot," Bledsoe said. "Me and John (Wall) looked up to him, because he showed us a lot at the position. He's been there, and has gone where we're trying to go."

Even though Chalmers started 82 games as a rookie two seasons ago, the Heat has been unstable at point guard since Jason Williams and Gary Payton were at the position during Miami's 2006 title run.

Three different players started there last season, with Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo and Rafer Alston Mario trading the duties. None has a guaranteed contract for next season - and Rafer is not even in consideration. So there's room to address that position through the draft or free agency for the Heat.

What the Heat needs more than anything at the point is someone capable of distributing, defending, deferring and delivering daggers from distance when Dwyane dishes for open looks.

There is plenty of potential among the point guards in this draft - although probably not as much as we saw in last year's crop of Rubio, Tyreke, Curry, Jennings, Lawson and Flynn.

Although Riley might be tempted by one of the prospects he saw Friday, the guess here is that he's still convinced that the best path to address this need is beyond the June 24th draft and in July free agency. Or, perhaps, August free agency - the back end, where bargains could be found to round out the roster after a few major imports.

So this could essentially become a decision for Riley in which he weighs the likes of a draft newcomer such as Eric Bledsoe versus a veteran free agent such as Steve Blake.

(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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