Since their inception in 1988, the Miami Heat have been one of the most successful teams in the NBA, winning three championships and making seven NBA Finals appearances—all in the last 20 years. A big part of the Heat's success has been their ability to scout talent and draft effectively, leading to them landing some of their most influential players in franchise history.
Today, we're going over Miami's 10 best draft picks in franchise history based on a stat known as Value over Replacement Player (VORP), courtesy of Basketball Reference.
10. Eddie House (2000 NBA Draft, No. 37 overall, 6.1 VORP)
Technically speaking, House wouldn't qualify for this list based solely on VORP. However, the two players above him, Marcus Thornton and Bojan Bogdonavic, never played a game for the Heat despite technically being Miami draft picks, so House barely squeaks onto the list.
House spent the first three seasons of his career in Miami, but returned for his final year in 2010-11. In his time with the Heat, House was a solid rotation player with an average of 6.8 points per game while playing 16.8 minutes a night. He did go onto have better seasons elsewhere, but was still quite solid in Miami.
Admittedly, this is probably a flaw with the ranking system as House wasn't at his best with the Heat. From a purely statistical perspective, though, he belongs at the end of this list.
9. Kurt Thomas (1995 NBA Draft, No. 10 overall, 8.6 VORP)
Thomas is another player who showcases the flaws in this ranking system, as he only spent the first two seasons of his career in Miami. He was still fairly solid with the Heat, averaging 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 22 minutes a night.
However, the longest and most productive stretch of his career came with the New York Knicks from 1995 to 2005, plus a return in his final season in 2012-13. Still, credit to Miami's scouting department for drafting a player who would play nearly two decades in the league. Besides, the Heat were able to flip him at the 1997 trade deadline, along with two other players, for Jamal Mashburn, who had four very good seasons in Miami, so it's not like they left empty-handed here.
8. Dorell Wright (2004 NBA Draft, No. 19 overall, 9.1 VORP)
For the first time on this list, we reach a player who spent the majority of his career in Miami. Wright spent the first six years of his career with the Heat, averaging 6.3 points per game as primarily a bench player. The Los Angeles native was notably a member of the 2006 championship team, but barely played in the playoffs that year.
After leaving Miami, Wright went onto be an effective starter for the Golden State Warriors, averaging 13.8 points per game in two seasons. He then spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers, but wasn't quite as productive. Still, Wright winning a ring with the Heat is a lot more than most NBA players can say, and he was a solid contributor for several years.
7. Sherman Douglas (1989 NBA Draft, No. 28 overall, 9.2 VORP)
The 1989 NBA Draft was only the second in Heat history, and they knocked it out of the park in terms of talent. Two of their three picks made it onto this list, and although Douglas wasn't in Miami too long, his success is still a testament to the Heat's scouting department.
Douglas got off to a great start to his career, even being the Heat's most valuable player in 1990-91 after averaging a career-high 18.5 points per game. The following season, though, Douglas held out and was eventually traded to the Boston Celtics after just five games. He was solid across five seasons in Boston, but couldn't quite match the highs he reached in Miami.
The Heat did get Brian Shaw in exchange for Douglas, who had three decent seasons in Miami, so they still netted some good value out of this pick. That said, one has to wonder how differently things would've gone if Douglas had never held out.
6. Grant Long (1988 NBA Draft, No. 33 overall, 10.2 VORP)
Long was the Heat's third pick out of five in their first ever draft, and easily the best of the bunch. He quickly became a standout for the fledgling franchise, averaging double-digit points in five of his seven seasons in Miami. His best stretch came in 1991-92 and 1992-93, when he averaged a combined 14.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Long would bounce around the league in his later years, but his best days were spent with the Heat.
5. Caron Butler (2002 NBA Draft, No. 10 overall, 12.6 VORP)
Butler is largely known for his later years in the NBA, particularly with the Washington Wizards, but he actually got his start in South Florida. He only spent his first two seasons in Miami, but earned First Team All-Rookie honors in 2002-03.
His departure from the Heat was for a good cause, though, as Butler was one of the players they sent the Los Angeles Lakers for superstar center Shaquille O'Neal in 2004—two years before Miami won its first title. Butler is currently on the Heat's staff as an assistant coach, so even though his playing time with the team was brief, he is still a big part of the franchise.
4. Bam Adebayo (2017 NBA Draft, No. 14 overall, 14.5 VORP)
By far the most recent selection on this list, Adebayo is one of the cornerstones of the Heat franchise today. The two-time All-Star has averaged 14.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in his first six NBA seasons, but Adebayo is most known for his defensive prowess. In fact, he has been a Second Team All-Defense selection each of the past four seasons, also finishing top-five in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.
The Heat have already been to two NBA finals with Adebayo, and there will likely be more in the future. When his career is over, Adebayo could very well be higher on this list.
3. Steve Smith (1991 NBA Draft, No. 5 overall, 24.6 VORP)
The Heat had a strong drafting record in their early history, and Smith is a perfect example. He spent the first three seasons of his career in Miami, averaging 14.4 points and starting most games.
Unfortunately, the Heat then traded he and Long to the division-rival Atlanta Hawks in an extremely one-sided trade. So while Smith, an All-Star with Atlanta in 1997-98, is one of the best players the Heat have drafted, they unfortunately didn't get to reap the benefits of that selection.
2. Glen Rice (1989 NBA Draft, No. 4 overall, 24.9 VORP)
Rice joined the Heat in just their second year of existence and spent nearly half of his career in Miami. Over six seasons with the Heat, the Michigan product averaged 19.3 points per game and became one of the young franchise's first true stars.
He averaged more points and earned three All-Star selections with the Charlotte Hornets then helped the Lakers win a ring in 2000 alongside O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, but Rice's longevity with the Heat was simply unmatched during its early years. For just their second draft ever, landing a player of Rice's caliber was a major win for the Heat.
1. Dwyane Wade (2003 NBA Draft, No. 5 overall, 62.8 VORP)
There was never a doubt about who would top this list. Wade is the single most influential player in franchise history, synonymous with Heat basketball. He spent 15 seasons in Miami, earning 13 All-star selections, eight All-NBA selections and helping lead the Heat to all three of their championships. Wade was MVP of the 2006 Finals as a 24-year-old, then teamed with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to help the “Heatles” go back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.
Without Wade, it's entirely possible the Heat would still be searching for their first ring. The Big Three era would've never happened, and who knows what may have occurred before or after that. Wade helped build the franchise into what it is, and he is the Heat's best draft pick by a mile.