While there is still 25 percent of the NBA season left, most coaches would probably agree that no one has done more with less than Miami Heat maestro Erik Spoelstra. If winning two titles with LeBron James clouded the public’s view, Spoelstra has gone above and beyond in clearing up the narrative.
Not only has Spoelstra watched James and franchise stalwart Dwyane Wade walk out the door, he’s lost Chris Bosh to blood clots. The Heat’s “Big Three” is entirely gone, yet a ragtag bunch of journeymen have won 19 of their last 23 games. Spoelstra deserves a ton of credit for this turnaround.
Miami is beating more than the teams that they should beat–like Brooklyn three times. The Heat has dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers twice in the last week, as well as the Golden State Warriors during the team’s run.
“It’s not like we’re winning a lot of games against bad teams,” point guard Goran Dragic said after a recent win over the Cavs. “We’ve shown we can play against the best.”
How are Spoelstra and Pat Riley accomplishing this? They replaced the Big Three with Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, Wayne Ellington, and Luke Babbitt. Spoelstra also lost prized rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson for significant portions of time, with Winslow slated to miss the entire season.
“We believe in ourselves and if other people don’t, we have done a good job of opening eyes,” said Waiters, who has actually outplayed Wade this season.
Outside of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, there are no household names on this team. The names Miami does have buy in to the system, though. The Heat currently rank fifth in the league for points allowed and seventh in turnovers committed. The motto: Protect the ball, move the ball, and prevent the other team from scoring the ball.
Once 11-30, the playoffs are now a very realistic possibility for Miami. The Heat is just 1.5 games back of the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, and no team has played better lately than Miami. Even if the Heat miss the playoffs, Spoelstra should get his due for what he’s done with a severely undermanned roster.