Just when you think Erik Spoelstra can't possibly improve upon the incredible coaching career he's had with the Miami Heat over the past decade, this year's Heat squad punches all the predictions from the prognosticators in the face, even as they've dealt with more adversity than almost any other team in the NBA.
It's just another ho-hum season of the Heat not only playing up to
If the playoffs began today, even after a disappointing loss last night to the Kings, the 27-21 Heat would be the fourth-seed in the Eastern Conference with home advantage in the first round. They've accomplished this, of course, with a roster nearly identical to the one that began last season 11-30. You'd think this would be the team's ceiling, but all signs point to that not being the case. The Heat actually had an impressive first half of the season while hurdling obstacles that would have knocked most teams down, especially one lacking even a single player who has ever made an All-Star team.
Okaro White out since early November? OK.
Rodney McGruder out before the season even starts? We'll deal.
Goran Dragic is exhausted from playing basketball in Europe all summer and it shows? It's fine.
Dion Waiters comes into the season with one leg and is done for the year before Christmas? Next man up.
The toughest part of the schedule packed into the first 40 games? The Heat comes out of it near the top of the East.
Through all of this, Spoelstra has found a way to glue the Heat back together each time it falls apart. Whether it be starting a G-league player on any given night, throwing rookie Bam Adebayo onto the court before he was ready, or mixing and matching different lineups to best neutralize the opponents' strengths, Spo has banged the right buttons on his desk all season long.
And once again, he's proven he's the best coach in the NBA.
Not Greg Popovich, blessed with a generational center and future Hall of Fame guards his entire coaching career.
Not Steve Kerr, who has the Golden State Warriors to work with. Nothing else needs to be said.
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And definitely not Brad Stevens, who has proven little in his short NBA coaching career outside an ability to draw up some nice plays coming out of a timeout in an October game.
Coach Spo kept together the Big 3 era teams when most would have failed to prevent a team mutiny. Check out Cleveland this season. He's coached undertalented teams to late-playoff appearances that needed to balance making aging veterans (hey, Dwyane) happy with grooming younger players for the future.
Judging coaches by wins and losses is great if you're a knuckle-dragging boxscore watcher who isn't interested in the circumstances each team competes with. If you're interested in the facts, the entire picture matters. This season, Spoelstra has done an incredible job, and it's only his most recent masterpiece.
If you take everything into account, there isn't a better coach in the NBA than Erik Spoelstra. The Miami Heat is lucky to have him.