Hindsight is 20/20. The grass is always greener. Don’t look back, you can never look back. Choose whichever regretful cliche you want to describe the Miami Heat passing on Devin Booker in the 2015 NBA draft. They decided Justise Winslow was the better fit and that decision continues to haunt them.
Booker is two wins away from sending the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals. He’s averaging 28.3 points per game in the playoffs while proving to be capable of going off for 40 points on any given night. The 24-year-old shooting guard is one of the brightest young stars in the league. Meanwhile, Winslow is a role player for a Memphis Grizzlies team that lost in the first round. Miami selected Winslow with the 10th overall pick in 2015, three picks ahead of Booker. He was traded last year in the deadline deal to acquire Andre Iguodala.
Heat Twitter never forgets a thing. The trolls have been out in force to remind everyone what the franchise could have had in Booker. Never mind that 12 other teams passed on the Kentucky product before he went to Phoenix at No. 13. The Heat should have pounced. He should be part of a new Miami “Big Three” featuring Booker, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler. Forget Tyler Herro.
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Pat Riley’s ‘Great Meeting’ with Booker
What burns more is that Booker was actually on Pat Riley’s radar in 2015. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported at the time that the Heat president had a “great, great meeting” with Booker during the pre-draft process. Riley saw him as a bridge from Dwyane Wade to the future.
Booker was willing to come in and mentor under “one of the best two-guards to ever play the game.” The question was posed earlier this month to Winderman on whether drafting Winslow over Booker was the “biggest miss” of Riley’s career. Here is the answer:
Every draft has what-ifs, including Michael Beasley by the Heat in 2008 over Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. But, based on the Suns’ success, Booker being passed over until he went No. 13 to Phoenix in 2015 is not just on the Heat, but just about most teams, if not every team, that picked before.
Some other forgettable names taken before Winslow included Frank Kaminsky (9), Emanuel Mudiay (7), Mario Hezonja (5), Jahlil Okafor (3). Go figure.
Erik Spoelstra Expressed Regret, Too
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra confirmed the report of an enjoyable face-to-face meeting with Booker prior to the draft. He called the Suns a “damn good team” following a 110-100 loss earlier this year and piggy-backed off comments that he had been a fan of Booker since his college days.
Booker has been a perfect fit in Monty Williams’ scheme, but maybe that wouldn’t have been the case in South Beach. Well, no one will ever know for sure how that would have gone. Winslow is in Memphis. Booker is in Phoenix. And Miami continues to chase Riley’s “giant whale.”