Note: Two of the three best coaches in the East never wore a NBA jersey: Erik Spoelstra and Brad Stevens.
Erik Spoelstra, Miami. He lost face of the franchise Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh is out of the Heat plans, probably for good. Justise Winslow went down with an injury.
The Heat just ran off 21 wins and four losses without one All-Star on the squad to do the heavy lifting. Dion Waiters has been rejuvenated and looks like a lottery pick. Goran Dragic is dribble driving everyone to death. The Heat wings are draining threes. That is the magic to their turnaround. They started taking and making threes. It is the equalizer for a team without an All-Star.
In the Heat’s case, they have an advantage. Because of the dominance of Hassan Whiteside, teams aren’t going to leave him to double or to give up rebounding. Passing the ball means finding a mismatch. Can they make them? Yes. They take 27 threes a game, which ranks 12th. They make 10 threes a game, also 12th in the league. They are seventh in three point defense which isn’t a surprise. Spolestra’s team are always defensively tough. The Heat rank 5th in scoring defense, 7th in shooting defense, 7th in rebounding, 5th in blocks. The Heat are a half a game out of the 8th spot and are only one and a half games from the 6th spot. No one expected this. Bravo Spoelstra.
Scott Brooks, Washington D.C. The Wizards looked out of it early in the season and Scott Brooks, a NBA Finals coach and a NBA Finals player, didn’t panic. He kept preaching patience and execution. The Wizards turnaround is not as remarkable as the Heat because they have an All-Star and former number one pick in John Wall. Bradley Beal signed a max extension in the summer. Otto Porter is leading the league in three point shooting.
The Wiz won the mid-season pickup sweepstakes when they acquired Bojan Bogdanovic who is a pure shooter to add even more offense. Brandon Jennings is a good John Wall backup with lightening speed. All of it has vaulted the Wizards into the 2nd seed and a possible Cavs matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It all starts with John Wall who is having a career year and has established himself as one of the top point guards in the league. He is truly leading his team, as evidenced by the comeback win last night in Portland and the 5th Wiz win in a row. It is not much of a surprise that former Rockets guard Scott Brooks is getting the most out of John Wall, that he understands him and his game because he played the position.
The Wizards have the best record in the league since January 1st. The Wizards are 6th in fast break points, not a surprise with the speed on the wing. They are 5th in scoring, 4th in three point percentage, 2nd in steals, 6th in assists.
Brad Stevens, Boston. Sometimes it is just as important to meet expectations. To have success when everyone slots you into the Eastern Conference Finals before the season begins. The Stevens crew are the third seed 16 games before the season is to end. It is an achievement.
Stevens had to juggle lineups because of Avery Bradley’s injury. Early in the season he had to work around Al Horford’s concussion issues. He had to manage Horford himself. He is a different max player. You can’t dump the ball into Horford late and say back your man down and win this. He isn’t that type of player.
Stevens is the kind of coach that enables players to be the best at what they do. He doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Even when star Isaiah Thomas criticized his lineup decisions against the Clippers, Stevens just kept the ball moving and won in Oakland against the reeling Warriors. The C’s still have a shot at the #2 seed. They play the Wizards in a week. The C’s are 9th in scoring, 3rd in assists, 2nd in 3-point defense.