Pat Riley & Miami Heat staff in Barcelona scouting draft prospect Mario Hezonja

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Although the draft picks of the Miami Heat during the Pat Riley era have often resembled poker chips, the former three-time NBA championship coach with a disdain for drafting international players, is in Spain this weekend to scout a pair of highly-regarded European prospects.

Riley took the surprising scouting trip along with Assistant General Manager Adam Simon and Vice President of Player Personnel Chet Kammerer, even though the Heat will not learn until the May 19 draft lottery if they will get to keep their top-10 protected pick. Miami will lose the selection to the Philadelphia 76ers if it falls out of the top 10.

The Heat brass will be getting a firsthand look at 6-foot-8 Croatian shooting guard Mario Hezonja and 7-foot-1 Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis. Hezonja suits up for Spanish League heavyweight FC Barcelona, while Porzingis plays for Baloncesto Sevilla.

While all signs are pointing to the Miami Heat reinforcing its frontcourt at the 2015 NBA draft on June 25, talented FC Barcelona sharpshooter Mario Hezonja might be the best pick to help the three-time champions become title contenders next season.

A 6-foot-8 shooting guard who can also play small forward, Hezonja is a long-range specialist that can stretch the floor. And, unlike most rookies, playing professional hoops in Europe is preparing him to contribute from day one.

The 20-year-old is coming off the bench this season for a strong Barcelona squad that starts Juan Carlos Navarro and Alex Abrines. However, even with limited playing time Hezonja has put together some magical moments.

An impressive display of precision shooting in early February featured eight consecutive three-pointers in one game to set a La Liga ACB record. He also poured in 22 points against European powerhouse Real Madrid, which boasts several former NBA players and prospects.

Spain’s top league is a world-class circuit. The long list of alumni includes Pau Gasol, Rony Seikaly, Marc Gasol, Anderson Varejao and Ricky Rubio.

Stellar three-point shooting played a key role in the recent success of the Heat. Miami finished 11th in the league from behind the arc during its 2012 title run, and shot an astounding 39 percent the following year to rank second. But this past season the Heat ranked a forgettable 24th out of 30 teams.

With the expected return of free agent playmaker Goran Dragic and double-double machine Chris Bosh, the Heat desperately need a perimeter threat to help unclog the paint. Having Hezonja camping out in the corner will make it easier for both Dragic and Dwyane Wade to showcase their penetrating skills.

FC Barcelona is utilizing the Croatian national as a complementary weapon, which could be similar to the sixth man role he might play during his NBA rookie season. A pure shooter with a fluid stroke – who also possesses good athleticism and a fondness for attacking – Hezonja has a high ceiling with the potential to develop into one of the league’s best three-point marksman.

Although Miami does need to address its lack of frontcourt depth this offseason, drafting a defensive-minded big man over a sweet-shooting sniper with fantastic upside is not a prudent move. Numerous free agents will hit the open market this summer that could provide the much-needed depth behind Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.

Written by Joey Sinatra

Joey Sinatra

Joey Sinatra is a co-founder of WickedJumpShot.com Joey is a boxing and basketball journalist who attends USI as a post graduate. Joey grew up in the New Rochelle Area of the greater New York City area, and is a cousin of the famous singer, Frank Sinatra. Joey also writes for the Boxing Globe.