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Biggest Mistakes Erik Spoelstra Has Made This Season

John FrielAnalyst IApril 5, 2012

Biggest Mistakes Erik Spoelstra Has Made This Season

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    Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a NBA coach.

    Not even an ABA coach. I'm just as much a coach as you, the reader, are.

    However, I will speak like a coach by discussing the five biggest mistakes Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has made this season.

    First things first, Spoelstra isn't getting fired anytime soon. Even if the Heat fail to win the championship this year, it would still be hard to believe that he gets fired. Pat Riley and the rest of the Heat organization have put a lot of time, patience and trust into this team and they're not ready to admit defeat by taking away a large part of the current team.

    It's not as if Spoelstra is a bad coach, either. He's only thinking about the best for this team, creates excellent plays out of timeouts and is actually one of the better defensive minds in the league. It may not look like it with the way the defense has played in instances this season, but Spoelstra is one of the better defensive coaches in the league.

    He's only in his fourth year coaching, as well. You have to give him some credit for being able to survive his first year of coaching this team and earning the trust of his players.

    However, there are several issues with Spoelstra that need to be brought up so let's get into the five mistakes the fourth-year coach has made this year.

Failing to Utilize Chris Bosh Correctly

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    You have three of the league's top scorers at the shooting guard, small forward and power forward position. Obviously, it's going to take some time for adjustments to be made so that these three players can score as effectively as they did in their former locations.

    LeBron James hasn't had much trouble averaging 27 points per. Dwyane Wade has seen his output drop to a pedestrian 23 points per game, but is doing so on a career-high 50 percent shooting from the field. These two are the focal points of the Miami Heat offense and they've been the main reason why this team has seen so much success in the past two years.

    Of course, the Heat wouldn't have gone anywhere last season if not for Chris Bosh. The power forward overcame a sluggish start to the season to average 19 points and eight boards per and then went on to become a huge factor in the Heat's Eastern Conference Finals victory over the Chicago Bulls. Bosh had two 30-point outings in five games.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Chris Bosh is the most important player on this team. Without Bosh, the Heat are nothing. They lose out on their best midrange shooter, someone who can shoot and put the ball on the floor and a player who can make some sort of impact on the boards.

    If the Heat were to play without Bosh, they'd find themselves running a game that lacks versatility with nothing but attempts at driving and three-pointers.

    Therefore you'd expect Bosh to begin getting his this season, right? Wrong. Bosh is averaging only 18 points per game on 49 percent shooting. Yes, he's actually averaging less points than he was in his first season with the team. Those types of kinks were supposed to be worked out, so there's obviously a problem here when it comes to integrating Bosh into the offense.

    Bosh is getting paid more than Dwyane Wade and just as much as LeBron James. I know he's set up to be the third scoring option on the team, but there's no reason to treat him as if he was a true third option. Bosh is a primary scoring option who is getting paid primary scoring option money, so why not attempt to play him as if he was a primary scorer?

    Throughout the course of the game, Bosh isn't getting enough looks. Finding shots can be hard to come by on this team, but it shouldn't be for someone like Bosh, who should be getting the ball on every single possession. He's one of the most versatile and quick power forwards in the NBA and the Heat need to abuse that advantage they possess.

    There's no excuse for Bosh to be scoring 10 to 15 points in multiple games. He can go off for 20 points just as easily as Wade and James can. Instead of working it inside to Bosh and establishing some sort of presence in the midrange, the Heat would elect to start off outside of the perimeter where Wade, James or another point guard sticks the ball at the perimeter.

    Let your $16 million get a crack at taking a shot and running the offense. It's inexcusable that the Heat can go lengthy stretches without finding a shot for Bosh. He needs to be fed early in order to establish a rhythm and get some confidence and then you can feed him for the rest of the game. He's not just a microwave you turn on in the third quarter. Bosh needs it in the first to get his game going.

    You can get a lot for $16 million these days. I prefer my $16 million to be spent on someone who's going to be doing more than averaging 18 points per game and doesn't get the ball in the second half.

Flawed Defensive System

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    The Miami Heat's defense is strange. Really, really strange.

    It involves a lot of rotating. I don't mean simply rotating off of pick-and-roll's, either. I mean rotating is the main part of the defense and its effectiveness. The five players on the floor all work together on a string with each player helping out one another. There's a lot of rotating and a lot of helping out, which is mainly utilized to cause turnovers.

    When you help out, you run the risk of leaving players wide open. Basically, if the Heat don't cause a turnover on the initial double-team, they're left frantically defending multiple open players who are set up along the perimeter. They have to exert an unnecessary amount of energy because they're left defending multiple players who are being left open due to the initial double-team.

    This team is constantly double-teaming. Every single defensive possession there is going to be a double-team by the Miami Heat. As I stated before, it's used to apply pressure on ball-handlers and hopefully force a bad pass. However, when the Heat do this against teams that know how to pass well, the defensive system tends to get beaten over and over again.

    It's frustrating and annoying to watch the Heat struggle so mightily on defense. They're only giving up 94 points per game, but they're getting absolutely lit up from beyond the arc. The Heat are allowing their opponents to shoot 37 percent from deep, second worst in the league, as well as nearly eight three-pointers per which is also second worst in the league.

    It's numbers like those that make me wary of this team playing Kyle Korver or Ray Allen.

    Why not put some trust in your individual defenders? Instead of forcing your team to waste energy on defense because they're basically chasing the ball, why not play defense the traditional way with the occasional rotations and relying heavily on your individual defenders. It just seems pointless that guys like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Shane Battier are playing defense where they help each other.

    Those three have earned so many accolades for their work on defense because of how stellar they are in one-on-one settings. Wade and James are tremendous at reading passes, analyzing the tendencies of their opponent and utilizing their athleticism to help them out on defense. Battier has excellent lateral quickness and a great mind to play the game.

    Those are three of the league's top individual defenders being wasted in a defensive system that constantly relies on double-teams. Allow them to get beat one-on-one, instead of allowing opponents to get into a shooting rhythm because you keep leaving them open from beyond the arc. NBA players are too good to be constantly left wide open because they'll eventually figure it out and start making shots.

    Understand that the Heat are basically telling their opponents to beat them with jump shots. It just seems that talent is being wasted on account of the defensive system the Heat are playing in.

Ineffective Lineups

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    When Pat Riley and the Miami Heat organization brought LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play with Dwyane Wade in South Beach, they had a vision.

    They had this beautiful image of seeing a superstar leave only to see two superstars left on the court. Then they had the image of two superstars sitting on the bench while one was still in the game. The Heat's biggest advantage would be having a superstar on the court at all times. Even if they were surrounded by a less-than-stellar supporting cast, they'd still be able to thrive in an element they were used to.

    After all, these three guys all came from teams where they were by far the No. 1 option. The Heat didn't exactly have Mo Williams, Michael Beasley or Antawn Jamison coming off the bench in support, but they did have Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem and that should have been enough. Unfortunately, Miller has been hurt since he started playing with this team. Still, the roster should have been sufficient.

    The Heat have a suitable roster. They have three terrific players and a few solid role players. However, Coach Spoelstra will throw in some strange lineups that don't particularly make sense. Perfectly understood that this team does need rest and they have a tremendous deficiency at the center and point guard spot, at times, but it comes down to getting the most out of your players, again.

    Take for example the Heat's win against the Phoenix Suns. For the first 11 minutes of the second quarter, we failed to get one glimpse of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the court together. It was either one or two of them. It wasn't until there were 45 seconds left, and the Heat already lost their lead, that Spoelstra implemented all three together.

    Substitutions can be questionable, as will the amount of time that he leaves a specific player on the court. I recognize how valuable Joel Anthony can be on offense, but when your team isn't scoring as well as it could be, then there's a need to make a substitution in order to get some offense on the court.

    Instead of having just one star finish off the first quarter, why not have two? Allow Wade and James to finish off the first, then bring back Bosh in the second so he can have some time leading the offense and then gradually bring back Wade and James.

    All I'm trying to do here is maximize the potential this team has, instead of throwing out lineups where the frontcourt is composed of Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and James Jones.

Lack of Motivation

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    Can we all agree that when the Heat are playing their best basketball with maximized effort that they're the best team in the NBA?

    When the Heat give an outstanding, all-around effort on the defensive side of the ball, they easily become the toughest team to beat in the NBA. They can cover an unbelievable amount of ground thanks to their athleticism and speed, work well as a team when they're not double-teaming and have multiple defenders who utilize their hands and get in between passing lanes.

    A team with individual defenders as good as Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and LeBron James, an excellent system defender in Joel Anthony, a defender with excellent hands in Mario Chalmers and high-energy guys in Udonis Haslem and Ronny Turiaf has no excuse to ever struggle. There are too many great defenders on this team for them to struggle.

    So when you see the Heat giving up over 100 points, while they score less than 100, you have to imagine that it's an issue dealing with effort and not the defenders. With all those excellent individual and team defenders in the starting lineup and coming off the bench, what other way is there to explain an opponent doing as they please on offense?

    The same goes for offense. It's difficult for this team to consistently score without a set system and good defenses will exploit that by packing the paint. The Heat tend to get lazy on offense by not working the ball around the floor, not showcasing any movement amongst the players and, most importantly, not attempting to drive.

    Even if the paint is packed, there still needs to be an effort to drive just for the purpose of exploiting a hole or getting the opposition into foul trouble.

    It seems that there is an issue dealing with motivation. On both ends of the floor, the Heat will go through lulls where they're not closing out and not putting in the required effort that is needed to win an NBA game. You'll see this especially when the team has a large lead. It's natural for big leads to get cut down, but the Heat will bring that to another level in nearly every game they hold a large lead.

    It just happened recently when the Heat saw a 29-point lead against Philadelphia turn into four in the span of 10 minutes. It's an issue of effort and the team not putting in the consistent work that led them to build that lead in the first place. They attempt to skate by when they build up a large lead and it's bit them a few times in the past.

    Motivation falls on the coach. He's supposed to be sideline leader getting the team hyped up and excited to play. Understood that the schedule is a pain and you don't want to overexert yourself, but it shouldn't cut into making the plays that require effort to be made. In order to have an advantage over your opponent, you need to put in the effort that's going to put you over the top.

Inconsistent Offensive System

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    This was the part of the game we didn't expect to be talking about nearly two years after the coup to bring these three players together was made.

    The Heat on offense? What could go wrong? They just signed three players who all averaged 24 points per game or better the previous season on teams where they got little to no help from their supporting cast. Surely they'd just be able to thrive off of each other for easy scores as well as getting the role players open for easy shots. Where does a problem possibly arise?

    In many places actually. The Heat's offense has been at the top of the league for the past two seasons and they're only one of four teams currently averaging over 100 points per game, yet it seems that there is so much more to be desired.

    On a team where there are two players who can do whatever they want and another who can score on jump shots as well as he can drive, you have to imagine that this team can do better than just 101 points per game.

    The biggest problem the Heat fanbase has with coach Erik Spoelstra is the idea that he has this team playing without a set offensive system. There's not really much of a rhyme or reason to the offense. Outside of plays coming out of timeouts, the Heat are running an offense where five players pass each other to the ball and hope that someone gets open enough for a shot.

    It seems so simple when you bring a team like this together. You have the three guys who can score a lot of points and the rest of the team will stand around and wait to receive the ball to take their open shots. It turns out that it's a lot more difficult than that. There actually needs to be chemistry, cohesion and a rhythm to this whole offense thing.

    The Heat got plenty of chemistry and cohesion. The problem is that they can't find ways to consistently score in the half court because they don't have a set system to rely on. They freelance until they find a shot. Luckily for them, they have two of the league's top playmakers in the starting lineup so they don't run into the problem too much.

    When you get to the playoffs, that's where excelling in the half court is a must. Defenses become far too stingy to constantly allow fast breaks and a high tempo to every contest in a seven-game series. The Heat were excellent last year when they ran through the Eastern Conference playoffs, but were exposed against Dallas when they couldn't beat a simple zone.

    This is a brand new team, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if they do struggle at times. However, not having a set offense only prolongs the inconsistency and forces the Heat players to work it out on their own.

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