Erik Spoelstra

And-Ones: Title Threats, Ennis, Storylines, Top Coaches

Which team is the Nuggets’ biggest impediment to a second straight title? ESPN’s panel of experts believes the Bucks, Warriors, Suns and Celtics are all potential threats to a Denver repeat. As for just making the playoffs, the Mavericks, Bulls, Timberwolves and Pelicans are among a group of teams that can’t afford to fall short of postseason participation or else risk major rebuilds or superstar demands for trades.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Tyler Ennis has signed with Italy’s Gevi Napoli Basket, according to a team press release. A first-round pick in 2014, Ennis has not played in the NBA since the 2017/18 season, when he appeared in 54 Lakers games. In recent years, Ennis has played mainly in Turkey. He also had a stint with the Raptors’ G League team.
  • The trade demands of James Harden and Damian Lillard, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future with the Bucks, are some of the storylines that will be closely followed this NBA season, The Athletic’s Sam Amick writes.
  • Who are the top five coaches in the NBA? Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times tackles that subject, ranking the Heat‘s Erik Spoelstra and the Spurs Gregg Popovich first and second. The third choice may surprise some people. Cowley rates the Knicks Tom Thibodeau at that spot due to his ability to take downtrodden franchises and make them playoff teams.

Southeast Notes: Hornets Roster, Spoelstra, Jovic, Avdija, Gafford

The Hornets are unlikely to add more players on guaranteed contracts before the season begins, according to general manager Mitch Kupchak, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets.

After coming to terms with restricted free agent P.J. Washington, the Hornets have 13 players on fully guaranteed deals, plus another (Frank Ntilikina) on a partial guarantee. JT Thor has a non-guaranteed contract for the upcoming season.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • It’s possible that Erik Spoelstra, an assistant to Steve Kerr for Team USA, will be game-planning against Nikola Jovic and Serbia in the World Cup championship game. Heat assistant GM Adam Simon is rooting for that outcome, according to  Spoeltra already got a chance to talk to the Heat forward during the tournament. “It’s great that the two of them had a chat for a while in Manila. I hope they will meet again in the final,” Simon told Meridian Sport.
  • Scouts that spoke to The Athletic’s Josh Robbins regarding Wizards forward Deni Avdija believe the Israeli can carve out a lengthy NBA career. However, the consensus opinion is that Avdija hasn’t shown enough offensively to live up to his draft status and become a difference-maker for a contender. Avdija was selected ninth overall in 2020. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer if Washington’s front office extends him a qualifying offer.
  • With Kristaps Porzingis in Boston, Daniel Gafford is the only proven shot-blocker on the Wizards’ roster. That’s one reason why he could see more playing time, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Gafford is also comfortable playing at a faster pace, which the Wizards’ staff wants to implement, and ranks as their best screen-setter.

Heat Notes: Richardson, Bryant, Swider, Bouyea, Lillard

After briefly discussing the Heat‘s offseason moves during an ESPN interview last week, head coach Erik Spoelstra went into more detail while taking part in a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday. As Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes, Spoelstra is looking forward to having former Heat wing Josh Richardson back on the roster in 2023/24.

“To be able to get somebody like J-Rich, who we are all really comfortable with, who we spent so many hours and years spending time developing him and where he feels also comfortable in our system and how we operate, we just feel very fortunate that we were able to get him when we were able to get him,” Spoelstra said.

“He’s already been in the gym working and it’s almost like, I mentioned to him the last time I saw him in the gym, it’s like the time away never happened. The relationship just started off right where we left it. That’s when you know you have strong relationships back and forth from our standpoint and his standpoint. Also, his versatility is going to be super important. His ability to play multiple positions.”

Here are a few more notes on the Heat, including Spoelstra’s thoughts on some of the team’s other recent additions:

  • According to Spoelstra, newly added center Thomas Bryant is a player the Heat have had their eye on for several years. They worked him out prior to the 2017 draft and were fans of the big man at the time. “His time with (the Lakers last season), I thought was really important,” Spoelstra said of Bryant. “You could see how he could be effective in our system and how he can play with multiple guys. He’s big, he’s physical, he plays with a motor and he can also stretch the floor. So he can have a presence at the rim and in the paint, but he also can space the floor and be efficient behind the three-point line. We’re excited to be able to add him to our roster and add some depth to our frontcourt and some versatile depth.”
  • Spoelstra expressed enthusiasm about forward Cole Swider, who signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the team earlier this month.“He has positional size, he has exceptional three-point shooting and range and versatility with his three-point shooting,” the head coach said. “He can shoot on the move, he can also space the floor and he has the size to be able to get his shot off with great accuracy. So we’re excited to be able to add him to our mix late into the summer. We’re looking forward to developing him and working with him.” Our Tristan Tucker recently identified Swider as a candidate to eventually earn a two-way or standard deal.
  • Spoelstra also believes the Heat will see “bigger jumps” from Jamaree Bouyea, who remained with the club on another two-way deal. “He improved being able to run a team, get guys organized,” Spoelstra said, referring to Bouyea’s play in the G League. “And defensively and the things that he can do with his speed are just super unique. So we wanted to have an opportunity to continue his development and have a second year at it.”
  • Following Damian Lillard‘s public confirmation of his trade request in an interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald breaks down that interview from a Heat perspective, noting that trade talks with the Trail Blazers have been “largely dormant” for several weeks.

And-Ones: Offseason Moves, Coach Contracts, Kerr, Hawaii

In a three-part series for The Athletic, David Aldridge ranks the teams that he believes improved the most and least this offseason. Aldridge’s most improved team is unsurprisingly the Spurs, who won the draft lottery and selected French phenom Victor Wembanyama. The Cavaliers and Suns rank Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.

In the middle section, Aldridge has the Jazz at No. 11, the Pistons at No. 15, and the Warriors at No. 20. He gives the Trail Blazers an incomplete, since there’s no way to fairly evaluate their offseason until the Damian Lillard situation is resolved.

At the bottom end, the defending-champion Nuggets are No. 29 on Aldridge’s list after losing Bruce Brown and Jeff Green in free agency; the No. 28 team is the Raptors, who lost Fred VanVleet to Houston.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The contracts signed by Monty Williams and Gregg Popovich will be used as benchmarks by top NBA coaches going forward. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes, a trio of accomplished head coaches — Steve Kerr (Warriors), Erik Spoelstra (Heat) and Tyronn Lue (Clippers), all of whom are members of Team USA — could be the primary beneficiaries of those deals. Kerr and Spoelstra are entering the final year of their respective contracts, while Lue has two years left on his deal, Windhorst notes.
  • Kerr has purchased a minority stake in European football (soccer) club Real Mallorca, according to Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez of ESPN. Kerr said he was offered the opportunity by longtime friend Andy Kohlberg, who is the team’s president and recently became majority owner, per ESPN. “Andy Kohlberg and I have been friends for many years,” Kerr said. “We were together this summer. He told me there was a shift in the ownership group and he offered me the chance to be part of the new investment group. I was so excited, having been in Mallorca last summer watching a game, following the team and becoming a fan. It was a really exciting opportunity and I jumped at it.” Mallorca competes in La Liga, Spain’s top league.
  • The Jazz and Clippers will be playing their first preseason game in Hawaii on October 8, with all proceeds going to the wildfire relief effort, Ryan Kostecka writes for Utah’s team website.

World Cup Notes: Green, Brazil, Naturalized Players, U.S. Coaches

Mavericks guard Josh Green, who sat out Australia’s final World Cup tune-up game on Tuesday due to a minor ankle injury, is considered healthy and available for the Boomers’ World Cup opener on Friday, per Basketball Australia (Twitter link via Olgun Uluc of ESPN).

Green, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension with Dallas this offseason, is expected to play a key role for an Australian squad looking to improve upon its fourth-place finish at the 2019 World Cup.

Here are a few more notes on the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which tips off this Friday:

  • The Brazilian national team has officially announced its 12-man roster for the World Cup (Twitter link). While no current NBA players are on the roster, former NBAers like Raul Neto, Bruno Caboclo, and Cristiano Felicio will be representing the Brazilians.
  • FIBA is permitting each national team to have one “naturalized” player on its roster for the 2023 World Cup, prompting Meliksah Bayrav of Eurohoops to highlight some of the notable players who fall into this group, including Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (Philippines) and Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson (China).
  • As Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes, it’s not just the players who are asked to accept lesser roles than they’re accustomed to when they join Team USA. Vardon takes an in-depth look at a talented U.S. coaching staff under Steve Kerr, noting that accomplished title-winning head coaches like Erik Spoelstra and Tyronn Lue have happily performed the “grunt work” expected of assistants during the lead-up to the World Cup.

Erik Spoelstra Discusses Heat’s Roster, Offseason Moves

There’s a sense that the Heat‘s offseason remains unfinished, with the Damian Lillard saga unresolved and Miami still looking like the overwhelming favorite to trade for the Trail Blazers star sooner or later.

However, speaking to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on NBA Today on Thursday (YouTube link), head coach Erik Spoelstra suggested that he’d be happy to head into the 2023/24 season with his current roster, noting that the team “had most of our work done” by the time he reported to Team USA for the summer.

“We’re bringing back the majority of our players and that’s a luxury in this league,” Spoelstra said, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “Things are so transient, things are moving fast. It seems like it’s moving faster now than even four, five, six years ago.

“We feel great about our group. We made some nice additions, we feel. Josh Richardson, getting another family member back into our program. Thomas Bryant, who we’ve been a big fan of. And [Jaime] Jaquez as our draft pick. We’re excited. He’s a guy you can plug and play right now. He’s a little bit older and he has a great deal of experience. So we’re adding those guys to our mix and bringing everybody back. Tyler [Herro] is healthy, Jimmy [Butler] and Bam [Adebayo], that’s a great core. So we’re excited about it.”

Spoelstra obviously can’t publicly discuss the possibility of adding Lillard and is unlikely to be directly involved in trade negotiations for the star guard, which will be handled by the front office. So the fact that he’s speaking positively about his current group is no surprise.

Still, Spoelstra is putting a positive spin on what has been an up-and-down offseason so far for the Heat. While Miami did well to get Richardson and Bryant on minimum-salary deals, the team lost two key rotation players – Gabe Vincent and Max Strus – in free agency. The Heat should be competitive again with no additional roster changes, but acquiring Lillard would almost certainly increase the club’s ceiling.

Heat Notes: Herro, Martin, Spoelstra, Butler

Tyler Herro has been listed as out for Game 3 of the Finals on Wednesday, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald relays. Herro, who is recovering from a broken hand, said over the weekend he’s still experiencing soreness when he shoots. The Heat guard hasn’t received full medical clearance to play, though he’s practicing with the team.

“He has not been cleared [by doctors to return to game action] yet, so that’s where we are,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But we’re encouraged by the work that he has been doing.”

We have more on the Heat:

  • Eastern Conference Finals standout Caleb Martin said he’s feeling much better after battling an illness in the first two games of the series, Jackson reports in the same story. The forward said his condition affected his play. “Cold chills, body aches, heavy, heavy migraine,” Martin said of his symptoms. “I was just laying down pretty much in the dark.” He only scored three points in each game.
  • After guiding the underdog Heat to the Finals, Spoelstra has positioned himself to receive a lucrative extension, according to the Herald duo of Jackson and Anthony Chiang. Spoelstra reportedly has one year remaining on his contract and now has six Finals appearances on his resume in 15 seasons. The Pistons gave Monty Williams a contract averaging $13MM per season, driving up the market for proven head coaches. Spoelstra’s current salary is believed to be in the $8MM range.
  • Jimmy Butler is averaging 17 points in the series after posting 24.7 points per game in the conference finals. Butler says he’s “done great” in the series, contributing in other ways, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes. “I’m not a scorer. Just because I score a lot of points one game, that doesn’t make you a scorer. I’m not a volume shooter. I don’t do any of that,” he said. “I don’t press to score. I only press to win. If I pass the ball every possession, if we win, I don’t care. If I shoot the ball every possession and we win, I don’t care.”

And-Ones: Coach Contracts, Options, Star Trades, Glickman

Monty Williams‘ record-setting six-year, $78.5MM contract with the Pistons will have a major impact on some of the league’s top coaches, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on NBA Countdown (YouTube link).

It’s going to significantly impact the head coaching landscape for high-level coaches, including (the Heat‘s) Erik Spoelstra and (the Warriors‘) Steve Kerr,” said Wojnarowski (hat tip to RealGM). “Both of those coaches have one year left, next season, on their deals. Both, I’m told, in the $8 million annual range right now. Both coaches, when you talk to owners and executives around the league, if they were on the open market might be able to get what (Denver Broncos coach) Sean Payton got: in the neighborhood of $20 million per year.

It’s hard to imagine Erik Spoelstra leaving a Miami organization where he started 28 years ago as a video intern, where he’s spent 15 years as a head coach with two championships.

Steve Kerr is going to be a different situation. His president/GM Bob Myers announced last week that he’s leaving. This is an aging roster. The worldview for Steve Kerr may look different. Watch his negotiations this summer on an extension.

One other coach who is going to benefit from Monty Williams changing the pay structure of NBA head coach is Clippers coach Tyronn Lue.”

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Which players are likely to exercise their player options? Which teams will exercise their options on players’ contracts? Which players on partially guaranteed and non-guaranteed contracts will be waived before free agency? John Hollinger of The Athletic predicts all of those decisions. The former Grizzlies executive believes Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker ($11MM) will decline his option and test free agency, writing that his age (22) could help him get a new contract for the full mid-level exception or better. According to Hollinger, the Lakers will likely decline their $16.6MM team option on guard Malik Beasley, while the Magic will retain Gary Harris‘ $13MM deal, which is currently non-guaranteed (it will become guaranteed if he’s still on the roster July 1).
  • Mike Vorkunov, Fred Katz and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic draft the NBA teams they think have the top assets to offer in hypothetical trades for star players this offseason, with two caveats: The team’s best player cannot be included for the star, and the outgoing pieces will be both players and draft picks. The Thunder are selected No. 1 by Vorkunov, followed by the Magic at No. 2 (Katz), and surprisingly the Trail Blazers at No. 3 (Edwards).
  • Marshall Glickman, the acting CEO of the EuroLeague, announced he will step down from his post when his contract expires at the end of July, tweets Donatas Urbonas of As BasketNews relays, a previous report indicated that Glickman’s work relationship with EuroLeague president Dejan Bodiroga was strained, which made have contributed to the decision. Glickman has been acting CEO since last September.

Heat Notes: Love, Herro, Butler, Adebayo

Erik Spoelstra made an important lineup change that helped the Heat draw even in the NBA Finals, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Kevin Love, who sat out the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals and the first game against the Nuggets, was back in the starting lineup Sunday to counteract Denver’s size advantage.

Love put up modest numbers with six points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes, but the Heat outscored the Nuggets by 18 points while he was on the court. After the game, Spoelstra regretted that he didn’t try the veteran forward in the series opener.

“I didn’t have the foresight; that’s on me,” Spoelstra said. “We just went through what finished the previous series. Clearly we needed that size and physicality that Kevin brings.”

“That’s a great coaching adjustment, putting Kevin Love in the starting lineup,” Kyle Lowry added. “… Kevin is the ultimate pro. He changed our locker room with his energy and effort.” 

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Tyler Herro still hasn’t received medical clearance, but there are reports that he might be ready when the series resumes Wednesday night in Miami, Jackson adds. Herro was able to practice with the team on Saturday. “We’re really encouraged by the progress,” Spoelstra said. “He started doing contact work as soon as we got to Denver. We have to maintain perspective. We want to be responsible about this. We’re all excited and encouraged by his progress, but we’ll get back to Miami. All we’re doing is sticking to the process, trying to stack positive days, also understanding this is not trying to return to a game in December. This is the Finals. So there is a little bit of context to this.”
  • Jimmy Butler spent Saturday night working on his shot with personal trainer Chris Brickley, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. He concentrated on taking the ball inside in Game 2, Shelburne notes, with 14 of his 19 shots coming from within 18 feet of the basket. He also got to the line five times after not shooting any free throws in the opener. “He just likes figuring things out,” Brickley said. “When he’s making those short shots, everything is different. So we worked on it.”
  • Bam Adebayo has been Miami’s best player through the first two games of the series, states Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Adebayo delivered 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks on Sunday after a 26-point performance in Game 1 while matching up with Nikola Jokic. “Bam, we just can’t say enough of how difficult his responsibilities are in this series,” Spoelstra said. “To take arguably the toughest cover in the league for all the myriad of reasons that I don’t need to get into, and then he has to shoulder a big offensive role for us as well.”

Heat Notes: Robinson, Vincent, Strus, Love, Haslem

The Heat‘s unexpectedly deep playoff run has improved the league-wide perception of several of the team’s key contributors, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

According to a scout who spoke to Jackson, Duncan Robinson‘s contract – which has three years and $57MM left after this season – now looks more tradable as opposed to being a “complete albatross.” Meanwhile, players like Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, who are headed for unrestricted free agency, are poised to cash in nicely this summer.

“I’ve gone from thinking (Vincent) is a good $3MM backup to a $10MM, $11MM player; he’s worth that in today’s NBA,” the scout said. “The guy has produced when it counts, and that’s what teams are looking for. He has risen to the occasion. … He’s never afraid of the moment. You get high effort defensively. Decent play-maker, has toughness. To me, his value correlates a lot to his scoring, but he does do other things that teams value.”

Ira Winderman explores the same subject in a story for The Sun Sentinel, noting that ESPN’s Bobby Marks believes both Vincent and Strus could get starting salaries around the full mid-level exception ($12.2MM) when they hit the market in a few weeks.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Five undrafted Heat players – Vincent, Strus, Robinson, Caleb Martin, and Haywood Highsmith – played at least 20 minutes in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. While those players appreciated Erik Spoelstra‘s recent assertion that the fixation on their undrafted status is “disrespectful,” they also don’t want to dismiss the obstacles they had to overcome to become rotation players on a Finals team, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “You want to be labeled as an NBA player, but you don’t forget the road you took to get here, you don’t forget where you started and where you came from,” Martin said. “That’s what makes it also very special. I think that’s why our connection is so great, because near half our team went through the same stuff. I think the fact that’s the case has also helped us get to this point. So just as much as it can get old, it’s also very special.”
  • Kevin Love‘s numbers since he joined the Heat have been modest and his minutes have fluctuated, but teammate Duncan Robinson believes the veteran forward has been a difference-maker off the court for the club. “I think he totally changed the whole dynamic of our locker room,” Robinson said of Love on The Old Man and the Three podcast (hat tip to Jackson at The Miami Herald). “Just his character, his levity, what he brought in terms of just connecting people, having a sense of humor. When you have a guy who’s played in four NBA Finals, won a championship, gets pulled from a rotation in the middle of a series and his immediate reaction is uplifting the guy that’s replacing him — that alone sets the tone down the line for everybody else.”
  • While Udonis Haslem admits it would be an “amazing” ending to his own career if the Heat win a championship this spring before he retires, he said this week that he wants a title more for his teammates than for himself. “I want it for the guys that haven’t won any,” Haslem said, according to Chiang. “I want it for Jimmy Butler. I want it for those guys more so than anything.”