Erik Spoelstra's respect among NBA players could help Heat land next star

According to a poll conducted by The Athletic, the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra is the coach NBA players most want to play for.
Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Play-In Tournament
Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Play-In Tournament / Rich Storry/GettyImages

An anonymous poll revealed that Erik Spoelstra is the coach most NBA players would want to play for, a fact that should bolster the Miami Heat’s chances of attracting star-level talent this summer.

Among the 133 NBA players who participated in the poll conducted by The Athletic, 20.3% of them (or 27) said that Spoelstra is the current coach, aside from their own, who they would most want to play for.

“Just the Heat culture — they’re always competing,” a player who voted for Spoelstra told The Athletic. “They’re always trying to find a way (to win). I feel like they’re always taking guys that fit their system, and that makes them play very good.”

According to a poll conducted by The Athletic, the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra is the coach NBA players most want to play for.

Spoelstra placed third in a similar poll conducted last year, receiving 9.5% of the vote at that time. But after leading the Heat to the NBA Finals last season, he has vaulted up the rankings. 

San Antonio’s Gregg Popovic finished second, receiving 18.8% of player votes, followed by Golden State’s Steve Kerr (9%), LA’s Ty Lue (6.8%) and Denver’s Michael Malone (6%).

That Spoelstra is respected by a wide swath of NBA players bodes well for the Heat’s pursuit of upgrading the roster going forward. The Heat, currently down 0-1 to the heavily favored Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, will likely need to revamp the roster this summer. 

The Heat have attempted to make a superstar trade in the past but failed to land stars like Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard. But that could change if more stars try to navigate their way to Miami.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that players with one or two years remaining on their contracts are expected to ask their front offices for a trade to Miami.

"Miami is always in a great position," Wojnarowski said. "Especially if it's players with not a lot left on their contract, one year or two years, and they tell their team 'I want a trade to the Heat, and if you don't send me to the Heat, I'm going to become a free agent and go somewhere else.

“Now, teams can still decide to send you where they want to send you. But it's always an advantage for Miami. Players want to be a part of that organization.”

Wojnarowski added that the Heat are seeking to add a player on Bam Adebayo’s timeline. Adebayo, 26, is a three-time All-Star and a finalist for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

[Related Reading: 3 Ideal Heat trade targets who fit Bam Adebayo's timeline]

Spoelstra has made the most of a limited and injured roster of the last couple of years, but the front office surely knows it’s time for an upgrade. This was made especially clear in Miami’s blowout loss in Game 1, even when considering that Jimmy Butler is sidelined with an MCL injury, there is a large gap in talent between the Heat and rival Celtics.

Spoelstra has worked wonders with rosters filled with undrafted players and cast-offs but, as he and the Heat front office knows, stars are needed to win championships. Perhaps the work Spoelstra has done will pay off by getting another star who could help Spoelstra, Adebayo and Butler shoulder the responsibility.