When you lose two championship players, like how the Miami Heat lost face of the franchise Dwyane Wade and 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh, not many people expect you to compete at a high level again for a while.
However, two former head coaches and current ESPN analysts, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, believe the Heat will challenge for a playoff spot this very season, per The Palm Beach Post:
“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.”
Jackson, who coached the Golden State Warriors from 2011 to 2014, understands the importance of having a good culture in place. Although several former Heat star players will be in different places next season, the coaching staff and front office have nearly all remained intact.
Heat president Pat Riley has earned a lot of respect in his time in the league. It’s not just his blockbuster signings that have earned him a reputation but his exceptional experience as a head coach as well.
“Miami has proven they’ve had a couple of down years in the Riley era followed by a quick ascension,” said Van Gundy. “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.”
The former Houston Rockets head coach has a great point. Despite losing some starters, Riley quickly reconstructed with hungry, young players who will be playing hard to earn some big money in the summer. In addition, the move-making wizard set the Heat up with a lot of money to spend in the upcoming offseason, when numerous All-Stars will become free agents.
The “Hall of Fame” coach Van Gundy was talking about, Spoelstra, has also proven himself in this league. Spoelstra inherited the worst team in the league in 2008 and brought them to the playoffs the very next year. Despite losing Bosh midway through the season, twice, the championship coach adjusted and helped the Heat compete for a playoff spot, succeeding last year when the Heat reached the second round.
The story won’t stop this season. With a group of much younger legs, the head coach will allow starting point guard Goran Dragic to run a faster offense. Spoelstra did the same thing last season when Bosh went down and the team did wonders.
With a group of motivated, youthful players as well as a sturdy leadership board, expect the Heat to definitely compete for a playoff spot in 2016-17.