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NUGGETS ACQUIRE DRAFT'S NO. 3 PICK FROM MIAMI

The Miami Heat traded its No. 3 draft pick in next week's NBA draft to Denver Friday in exchange for the Nuggets' ninth and 15th selections, Heat General Manager Lewis Schaffel announced.

The Nuggets acquired the ninth choice from Dallas Thursday when they traded guard Fat Lever to the Mavericks. The 15th choice was Denver's own selection.The trade is contingent on Lever passing a physical at Dallas by Tuesday night. Lever is in Hawaii attending a players' association meeting.

Friday's trade puts Denver in position to draft behind only the New Jersey Nets and the Seattle SuperSonics. The Nets are projected as picking Syracuse power forward Derrick Coleman and the Sonics may be choosing between guards Gary Payton of Oregon State and Dennis Scott of Georgia Tech.

The Nuggets could then select either Payton or Scott, although this draft is said to be one of the toughest to predict in years.

With the Heat's second-round pick, the third-year franchise now has three picks in the top 30.

Schaffel said the difference between the third and the ninth picks is "not huge. There might not be any."

"What we have tried to do from the beginning is expand the draft. Now we have nine, 15 and 30," Schaffel said. "We always believed this kind of draft had enough length to it for that. We just felt it was better for us in the long term - that two first round choices would better serve us. We're convinced a player we like will be available."

Schaffel said the Detroit Pistons demonstrated the value of depth by winning the NBA championship this year.

"What we want is what they have - depth of talent," Schaffel said.

The Heat's primary interests are in power forward and off guard. Miami had been believed to be interested in Scott, or shooting guards Kendall Gill and Bo Kimble, but they are expected to be gone by the ninth pick.

The Heat is now expected to concentrate on bigger players, including centers. Dwayne Schintzius of Florida, Felton Spencer of Louisville and Duane Causwell of Temple, all seven-footers, could be available. Alec Kessler of Georgia, the Southeastern Conference's leading rebounder, also is a possibility at power forward along with 6-10 Tyrone Hill of Xavier.

Since shooting guard is considered the deepest part of the draft, one the Heat likes could be available when Miami drafts 15th.