Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra disappointed Rodney McGruder, Hassan Whiteside snubbed in post-season

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes Hassan Whiteside deserved better in the balloting for the league’s top defensive players. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

We take a short break from free agency news to update you on Erik Spoelstra’s feelings about the league awards. …

The Heat coach defended his team this week against the snubs in the voting for the All-League rookie and defensive teams by 100 media members.

Spoelsta was especially disappointed that Rodney McGruder did not make an All-Rookie team. McGruder, who started 65 games and played in 78 this season, received 61 votes, the most among the players who did not make the first or second team. He was two points behind Dallas’ Yogi Ferrell, who played in 36 games.

“I was extremely disappointed about the lack of recognition for Rodney McGruder and what he did for us this year,” Spoelstra said. “He was one of the toughest, most competitive, detailed, defenders in the league. He took on the challenge every single night as one of the best wing defenders. Forget about being just a rookie. … an impactful pro.

“What we did during the second half of the season was as much about the mentality and toughness Rodney McGruder gave for us as it was anybody else. I was so disappointed he didn’t get recognized for that.”

Spoelstra added he thought McGruder was “a lock” for at least one rookie team, adding there was discussion about him possibly being rookie of the year.

“He had that kind of impact. I think he led all rookies in minutes, quality minutes for a team competing for the playoffs. And the challenge he took every single night guarding those wing prolific scorers was tremendous. He showed great growth. This won’t stop him. This just adds more fuel to his fire.”

Spoelstra then moved on to players like Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson receiving little credit for their defense.

The Heat finished fifth in the NBA in defensive rating, fifth in opponents’ points per game (102.1) and seventh in opponents’ field goal percentage (.450). Yet, only Whiteside’s name appeared on the list when it came to the All-Defensive team and Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Whiteside had 25 votes for the All-Defensive team, which placed him sixth among ‘other players receiving votes,’ and he was sixth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting with three third place votes.

“It was disappointing not to see Hassan recognized,” Spoelstra said. “We all felt he was a much better team defender this year than in the year he was recognized. And he’ll continue to keep on getting better as his understanding the game gets better, how to impact winning more, how to impact team defense more and not just with statistics. I think hopefully if we can build a winning team and he continues to progress then he’ll not only get recognized for not only one of the All-Defensive teams awards but hopefully something better.”

Whiteside was second team All-Defense in 2015-16.

Additionally, Johnson, who was among the best players in the league statistically when it came to holding players he guarded below their normal field goal percentage, was not among the 49 players who received votes for the All-Defensive teams.

Spoelstra said he believes the Heat “flew too much under the radar” the first half of the season because of their record.

“Only the last eight weeks of the season did anybody acknowledge or recognize what we were doing and it probably was a little bit too late, which was unfortunate,” he said.

One person in the organization was recognized and that was Spoelstra. He finished second to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni in the Coach of the Year balloting by the media and shared the award with D’Antoni in the voting by the coaches.

But that was one award Spoelstra did not want to talk about.

“Somebody asked me how I felt about the coach of the year,” he said. “None of us felt disappointed about that. We weren’t even thinking along those lines.”

Later, this was as close as he came to acknowledging the achievement.

“You’re in a group with the studs of this profession,” he said. “That alone is enough.

“One, to be able to work for a first class organization which I do and then to be recognized with a guy like (Gregg Popovich) who is the gold standard and Mike who anybody would have voted for him to be coach of the year.”

And now. … back to free agency.

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