Would you rather have:
A: $1,000 right now.
B: $1,000 in 2016.
C: The opportunity to pick one of five unlabeled envelopes in 2017, stuffed with the following: $700, $1,000, $1,500, $2,500, $4,000.
For those of you following the Miami Heat and their Sixers-owned draft pick, that’s the question you should be asking yourself.
Miami’s 1st rounder — acquired from Minnesota in the Thaddeus Young trade — is top 10 protected in 2015 and 2016, and unprotected in 2017. If the season were to end today, the Heat (22-30) would have the 15th overall pick, and would have to give it to the Sixers. But with Miami in danger of missing the playoffs — and dropping below Indiana, Detroit, Boston, Brooklyn, and the two Western Conference bubble teams — that pick has a chance of staying with the Heat.
This wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Actually, it’s what you — fans of Sixers and asset accumulation — should be rooting for. That’s because the Heat, led by Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and apparently, Hassan Whiteside (25), aren’t particularly good. Given their age, they might be on the decline. They’ll go into next season with a similar roster that carries the same injury risks. While a full season of Whiteside and Josh McRoberts will help, they have a realistic shot of missing the playoffs again. If the Heat protect their pick again next season, they’d end up having to surrender their 2017 1st rounder, regardless of where it landed.
This is where it’d get exciting. The Heat are old. Bosh will be 32 in 2016 and Wade (35), whose contract expires after next season – assuming he picks up his player option — might not even be in Miami by then. Now, it’s possible the Heat will position themselves for a free agent splash and that they end up making the postseason – that’d be the $700 envelope. But it’s also possible that at that point, the Heat will be in the early stage of a rebuild, and headed for a third straight lottery season. Given that there’s exponential decay in the expected value of draft picks — the difference between picks 1 and 10 is much larger than the difference between picks 11 and 20 — this is a high floor, high ceiling scenario. Worst case, the Sixers would get a pick in the 20s. Best case, they’d get Anthony Davis. In both cases – and everything in between — the Sixers would get to open a mystery envelope. That prize could be well worth the wait.