ESPN analysts agree: Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra one day headed to Hall of Fame

ESPN analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy believe the Miami Heat are headed to the playoffs and could be a difficult team to beat.

One reason both like the Heat is because of coach Erik Spoelstra, who both believe is one day headed for the Hall of Fame.

“Erik Spoelstra in my opinion is one of the best in the business,” Jackson said. “He is an outstanding coach and a future Hall of Famer.”

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra disputes a call during a timeout in the second half of an NBA preseason game at Orlando on Saturday.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Spoelstra, entering his 10th season, spearheaded a turnaround in 2016-17 from 10-31 the first half of the season to 31-10 the second half. The Heat lost out on the final playoff spot playoffs because of a tiebreaker.

As a result, Spoelstra shared the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award, which was voted upon by the coaches, with Houston’s Mike D’Antoni. Spoelstra then finished second to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni in the voting  by 100 media members.

“I’ll second the fact that Erik Spoelstra is a Hall of Fame coach,” Van Gundy said. “He’s done a terrific job in so many roles there but in this leadership role as a head coach he’s had the best team and the best talent and then he’s had young teams he’s had to develop and he’s done a great job with both situations. One thing about Miami they’re going to guard especially hard and they’re going to be tough to play against.”

Spoelstra is 440-282 and 70-43 in the playoffs since replacing Pat Riley in 2008. He has passed Riley for the best regular season winning percentage (.609) in franchise history, the most post season wins and best post season winning percentage (.619).

The Heat brought back every significant player from last year’s team plus added big men Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo. Miami received bad news Thursday when it announced forward Rodney McGruder has a stress fracture in his left leg. McGruder will miss a significant amount of time.

“(Spoelstra’s) done a great job and they’ve done a great job of making sure they got the pieces back and also adding pieces,” Jackson said. “Because of the way they play, the way they compete the way they defend. … the way they get after it, they are certainly a playoff team in the Eastern Conference and if they’re healthy and whole they will be a tough out.”

Van Gundy said it’s difficult to compare this team to the one that dug itself out of a deep hole to finish .500 last season because “every year things change, team dynamics change, people get paid and you don’t know how that impacts performance.”

But he added he believes the Heat need solid years out of point guard Goran Dragic and center Hassan Whiteside if they are going to be playing into late April.

“A lot comes down to Dragic’s offensive explosion like he had in EuroBasket this year,” Van Gundy said. “What he did there was terrific (and) his last half of the year last year was great.”

Dragic led Slovenia to the EuroBasket championship in September.

“If they get a great year out of him and Whiteside they’ll definitely be in the playoffs.”

The Heat open the regular season Wednesday in Orlando.

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