The Boston Celtics are set to add another small forward to a roster that already includes starter Jae Crowder and emerging Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 overall pick a year ago.
Whether that player is Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum or even Jimmy Butler, who could be Danny Ainge’s end game, stockpiling more picks to throw at the Bulls for the All-Star forward, Boston will be deep at the position.
Riley can also say the position is wide open. Justise Winslow is the only true small forward on the Heat roster and he would make for a nice sixth man. But this is more about the Celtics, who are creating quite a logjam at the spot and now may be better served spending their free agent dollars on another position.
Boston still will make the case that with Crowder, Brown and either Jackson or Tatum, Hayward will be the unquestioned top dog at the position and the top offensive threat. Still, four small forwards is excessive. And if the Celtics are angling for Butler, why would they want to eventually be paying max money to two players who play the same position? Butler could move to shooting guard but Avery Bradley has emerged at that position.
Boston may then decide to refocus its free agency plan and target a power forward – a position of much greater need – like Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap.
That means the vote comes down to how the Pacers did against the Hawks or how the Bulls did against the Nets on the final night of the regular season?
How does that make any sense?
If either of those two teams lose, Spoelstra is deemed the league’s best coach because the Heat make the playoffs with the exact same 41-41 record and exact same 30-11 run the second half of the season?
A run that gave the Heat the second-best record in the league over the final three months, behind the Warriors.
We all know that did not happen, the Heat lost out on the postseason on a tie-breaker and Erik Spoelstra is not going to win Coach of the Year. …
But he should.
That award, which will be announced at the first-ever NBA Awards banquet June 26, likely will go to Mike D’Antoni, who improved Houston’s win total by 14 to 55-47 and put James Harden in position to become a legitimate MVP candidate.
But the case for Spoelstra is strong, and not just as some mercy vote to atone for finishing second in 2013 when he led the Heat to a 66-20 record.
Even with that run in which the Heat played in four consecutive Finals, this was Spoelstra’s best coaching job. And while the burden on a coach should not be dismissed when a team has three (or, as he did during two of those Finals runs, four) future Hall of Famers, Spoelstra’s job was so much more difficult, on and off the court, this season.
Spoelstra is my choice not only for taking a team that did not have one All-Star, current or past, from an 11-30 first half to a stunning reversal in the second half of the season, but for the job he did while not blowing a whistle or scheming on a dry-erase board. He kept this players’ spirits buoyed and kept them from turning into the Nets when they were 19 games under .500 entering of Jan. 17.
The award should be narrowed to five candidates: Spoelstra, D’Antoni, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, Boston’s Brad Stevens and Utah’s Quin Snyder.
Spoelstra undeniably had the least to work with among the candidates. And it wasn’t close.
Just look at the number of All-Star Games represented on each roster: Spurs 23, Jazz 8, Celtics 6, Rockets 5. …
And if you want to expand the pool to Washington’s Scott Brooks and the Warriors Steve Kerr (whose team had the league’s best record at 76-12), the Wizards have four All-Star appearances on their roster and the Warriors have 20.
Speaking of the best record: That 2012-13 season when Miami won 66 games, Denver’s George Karl won the award with a 57-25 record. Spoelstra was runner-up, 214 votes behind.
But here’s the most inexplicable number surrounding Spoelstra when it comes to Coach of the Year voting: In the other three years of the Big Three, three seasons in which the Heat went to three Finals, won a title and averaged nearly 53 wins a season, Spoelstra received one vote. … combined.
That was a first place vote in 2010-11. The next year 15 coaches received at least one vote, none named Erik Spoelstra. That same thing happened in 2013-14.
Just three times has the league’s coach of the year not had a winning record, and once he had a losing record, Johnny Kerr whose 1966-67 Chicago Bulls were 33-48.
Hubie Brown won the award in 1977-78 when his Atlanta Hawks were 41-41 and the last coach to win the award without a winning record is Doc Rivers, whose 1999-00 Magic team also finished 41-41 and also missed the playoffs by one game. Orlando finished one game behind the No. 8. This season Heat were tied with the Bulls for the eighth-best record in the conference but lost out on a tie-breaker.
The teams were similar in that the Magic became known for their “heart and hustle” that season – a label that certainly could be attached to this season’s Heat – and, though not as dramatic as Miami’s poor start and late-season run, Orlando was once eight games under .500 and rallied late by winning 10-of-15 games.
The dagger for Orlando was on the second-last game of the season when it lost a heartbreaking two-point game to the Bucks. A win that would have put the Magic in the playoffs and even given them a chance at the No. 7 seed.
Spoelstra also received love from Hall of Famers Kevin McHale and Isiah Thomas on Monday.
McHale said he didn’t think the Heat would win 25 games and then “they started believing in each other. A lot of that goes to Erik Spoelstra.”
Thomas said the Heat “probably are the most physically fit team in the East.”
The Heat (37-38) have won 26-of-34 games after having the second worst record in the league at 11-30. Miami is No. 7 in the East by virtue of owning the tiebreaker over Indiana, 1.5 games ahead of No. 9 Chicago.
With Atlanta and Milwaukee tied for the fifth and sixth best records in the league (39-36), the Heat are two games out of the fifth spot.
“In my opinion, he should win Coach of the Year,” Dragic said. “Everybody knows how we started the season and how we’ve bounced back, and a lot of credit goes to Erik.
“He’s an unbelievable coach, and a lot of players, we love to play for him. He’s putting the guys in the right spots and that’s how the players can thrive under his system. And he’s such a great communicator with all the players.”
FanRag picks Spoelstra over Washington’s Scott Brooks and D’Antoni and the praise has come from all corners, including his peers and his boss, Heat president Pat Riley.
Spoelstra, who was named the Eastern Conference’s coach of the month for February, likely has to get the Heat to .500 and into the playoffs to be a serious contender. If he does – and that could happen Friday when Miami returns home to face the Knicks – the Heat would become the first team in NBA history to reach .500 after being 19 games under.
Just three coaches in history have won the award coaching a team that was .500 or below, the most recent being Doc Rivers when his 1999-00 Orlando team finished 41-41 and missed the playoffs by one game.
One coach who won’t be voting for Spoelstra is Golden State’s Steve Kerr, who said Tuesday he believes D’Antoni has earned the honor.
“I think the fit with the roster and Mike’s philosophy has been perfect,” Kerr said Tuesday. “What he’s so good at is really giving his players confidence and belief. They’re obviously having an amazing year. My guess is that he’ll get the trophy. He’s earned it.”
The Coach of the Year award most is voted upon by the media. The National Basketball Coaches Association also recognizes a COY. That award, which will be named after Michael H. Goldberg, the longtime executive director of the NBCA who died in January, is voted upon by the coaches.