5 Bold Predictions for the Miami Heat's Final Stretch

5 Bold Predictions for the Miami Heat’s Final Stretch

2. Erik Spoelstra will win Coach of the Year.

Dwyane Wade and Erik Spoelstra

With Chris Bosh’s future up in the air, the season-ending surgeries of Beno Udrih and Tyler JohnsonGoran Dragic playing uncomfortably and Hassan Whiteside’s suspension, the Heat looked destined to fall out of the playoff picture right after the All-Star break. That was to everyone except Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. The eighth-year coach wouldn’t allow the team to go through the same thing as last year.

Instead, Spoelstra allowed Dragic to run a much faster offense and boldly kept Whiteside on the bench to start games. In addition, Luol Deng was moved to the power forward slot and Amar’e Stoudamire continued starting at center.

The moves helped revive Dragic and Deng’s career as the two have seen boosts in individual production and team success. Convincing Whiteside to come off the bench, which some consider a demotion, is a tedious task to do when talking to a player that’s a free agent in the summer. The 7-footer and Spo happily talked things out and the demotion has proven to be a great shift for both the Heat and Whiteside, who is now averaging more points (17.6), rebounds (14.8), and blocks (3.92) off the bench since the break.

For Spoelstra, 45, the NBA Coach of the Year Award has been long overdue. The two-time NBA champion has continued to make the most of what he’s had and has not complained about it. After losing his highest-paid player for the second-straight year, the coach has motivated his team to play for something meaningful and not give up.

While newer coaches – the Boston Celtics’ Brad Stevens, Portland Trail Blazers’ Terry Stotts, Toronto Raptors’ Dwane Casey, Memphis Grizzlies’ Dave Joerger – all have strong cases, the Heat’s ability to rise to the East’s elite amidst grueling circumstances is a testimony to Spoelstra’s relentless coaching ability. If the Heat finish with a better record than the teams listed above, Spoelstra is more than deserving to acquire his first Coach of the Year award.

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