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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Mark Jackson: Cavaliers’ Big 3 ‘has much more to accomplish’ before being compared to Heat’s Big 3

Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade teamed up in Miami to play in four Finals, win two titles. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

LeBron James is headed to his third consecutive NBA Finals since returning to Cleveland to form the second ‘Big 3’ in his career.

 James spent the previous four years in Miami after joining the Heat in 2010 along with Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade. The team played in four NBA Finals, winning two titles.

Then, following the 2013-14 season, James decided he was going home to play once again for the Cavaliers and join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (who was in the process of being acquired from Minnesota), shifting the power in the Eastern Conference from Miami to Cleveland. Like the Heat, the Cavaliers lost in the Finals in their first year of the Big 3 and won the title in Year 2.

On Thursday, Cleveland and Golden State will play Game 1 of the Finals, the third consecutive season the two teams have met in the championship round.

I asked NBA analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy to compare LeBron’s Miami and Cleveland teams.

“In fairness to the Big 3 in Cleveland we’re talking about three future Hall of Famers right away in Miami,” Jackson said. “Chris Bosh. … 11 time All-Star. Dwyane Wade, in my opinion the third best shooting guard who ever played the game. And then LeBron James in his prime.

“So in fairness this group in Cleveland has much more to accomplish and that’s not to sell them short because all three guys in my opinion will be in the Hall of Fame but they have much more to prove. Those guys were in their prime and accomplished from Day 1.”

As for Van Gundy, he answered it with eight words.

“I have nothing more to add. Well said.”

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ESPN analysts believe Miami Heat can compete for playoff spot

 

Center Hassan Whiteside will anchor the Miami Heat defense. (AP Photo)
Center Hassan Whiteside will anchor the Miami Heat defense. (AP Photo)

Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, the lead NBA analysts for ESPN, both believe the Miami Heat will challenge for a playoff spot despite losing Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

“When you start off with Pat Riley, that Heat organization and Erik Spoelstra the culture is already there. … They compete at a high level,” Jackson said. “I expect them to still shockingly be fighting for a playoff spot in the East and have a legitimate chance because of the way they get after it and a culture that has been instilled there over a long time.”

Van Gundy believes Miami, which opens the season Wednesday in Orlando, will remain competitive because of their defense.

“The defense and effort level they’ll expend on a nightly basis. … You have (Hassan) Whiteside as an elite shot blocker and you have Erik Spoelstra who’s an elite coach and you surround them with a bunch of hard playing younger players and they’re going to get after you and it’s not going to be easy.”

Both believe the challenge will be on offense and who Miami trusts when the game is on the line. And even with a likely step back from last season’s 48-win team, Van Gundy sees a quick recovery.

“Miami has proven they’ve had a couple of down years in the Riley era followed by a quick ascension,” said Van Gundy, who coached under Riley in New York before succeeding him as head coach in 1996.

“It’s a place players want to play. They have a Hall of Fame coach in Erik Spoelstra and they have demonstrated time and again they can make moves and put themselves in a position to get players.”

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