FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — As most NBA observers were heralding the rebirth of the take-charge point guard this past season, Heat President Pat Riley was noting something else.

Yes, Chris Paul and Deron Williams deftly were guiding the Hornets and Jazz with their playmaking.

But they also were scoring. Scoring a lot.

Paul led New Orleans in scoring both during the regular season and playoffs.

Williams led Utah in scoring in the playoffs and was second on his team during the regular season.

"These guys are to the rim all night," Riley said.

Point guards making their own points.

It is why while many see Memphis freshman Derrick Rose as the only legitimate point guard at the top of Thursday's NBA Draft, Riley sees the possibilities of others.

It is why confidants say Riley is so intrigued by Southern Cal's O.J. Mayo, even though the Heat already has Dwyane Wade at shooting guard.

It is why Riley thinks Jerryd Bayless, after a high-scoring season at Arizona, can step in next season as a pro point guard.

"Pure point guards? That's not the way the game is being played today," Riley said as he continued deliberations over the Heat's No. 2 selection. "You take a look at Steve Nash; his head's under the rim more than anybody in the league."

For those who prefer their point guards in point-guard packages, this draft offers Texas' D.J. Augustin, the prototypical diminutive, push-the-pace playmaker.

Rose, in many respects, plays that style as well, more than content to pass up what remains a somewhat suspect jump shot. But Riley has never leaned toward pint-size points, which is why the taller Rose remains the most intriguing.

Still, the NBA has shied from even players of Rose's 6-2 1/2 stature at the top of the draft, with every No. 1 pick at least 6 feet 8 since 6-foot Allen Iverson went at the top of the 1996 draft.

This year, the draft is loaded with small-ball potential. Six players at 6-4 or shorter could be among the first 12 picks, when including Rose, Mayo, Bayless, Augustin, Indiana's Eric Gordon and UCLA's Russell Westbrook.

From that group, Mayo, Bayless, Gordon and Westbrook might, because of their stature, have to play more as playmaker than they did in college.

But Riley said the difference is it does not mean those four necessarily will have to curb their offensive inclinations, not after what Paul and Williams accomplished this past season.

Using that reasoning, it could be argued that Wade might be the Heat's answer at point guard, even though he has stated disdain for such a full-time role. As it is, Wade handles the ball as much as any Heat player in the decisive stages.

What Riley doesn't appear to be looking for at point guard is a player solely viewed as a playmaker.

"I think one of the concerns about Augustin is that he's too pure point guard and you know he's going to have to deal with length and things like finishing at the rim," Riley said.

Because of the Heat's desperation at point guard, Riley has taken a deeper look at the position, acknowledging that beyond Rose, few of this draft's candidates have been cast in the role of elite point guard.

"Other than Rose, I don't know who is," Riley said. "Bayless was playing off the ball. Eric Gordon, to me, I don't know if he's a natural point guard. Mayo, to me, he would probably be the best combo, because I think he has the maturity."

And he can score, which seemingly is what the best point guards do these days.

"If a player can play and handle the ball and has great skills and great decision-making skills," Riley said, "to me it's really irrelevant if he's viewed as a scorer."


Ratring the guards

Writer Ira Winderman looks at the top guard prospects in Thursday's NBA Draft:

Player . . . School . . . Ht. . . . Comment

Derrick Rose . . . Memphis . . . 6-2 1/2 . . . Premier playmaker from this year's class

O.J. Mayo . . . Southern Cal . . . 6-4 . . . Can shoot and score, but is he a playmaker?

Jerryd Bayless . . . .Arizona . . . 6-3 . . . Prototypical NBA scoring point guard

Russell Westbrook . . . UCLA . . . 6-3 1/2 . . .Offers quality mix of size, handle, defense

Eric Gordon . . . Indiana . . . 6-3 1/4 . . . Undersized shooter who is not a point guard

D.J. Augustin . . . Texas . . . .5-11 1/2 . . . The annual debate over how small is too small

Brandon Rush . . . Kansas . . ..6-6 . . ..Can step in and play, but is there upside?

Courtney Lee . . . Western Kentucky . . .6-5 . . ..A shooter whose work ethic is unquestioned

Mario Chalmers . .. Kansas . . . 6-1 . . . Perhaps not a starter, but can run the offense

C. Douglas-Roberts . . . Memphis . . . 6-7 . . . A quality slasher who should find a way to score

Of note

Despite his NBA-quality outside shooting, Tennessee's Chris Lofton could find himself undrafted. Just for sheer perseverance he deserves a shot in some team's summer league, considering the way he persevered this past season while battling testicular cancer.

As a group

This draft is particularly strong on point guards, but many will have to make the transition from primary scorer. As Ben Gordon has shown with the Bulls, an undersized shooter has difficulty creating a defined NBA role.