It’s almost that time of the year when everyone begins making their picks for the end of the year NBA awards. Sometimes that choice is a simple one but not this time. The Coach of the Year award is up for grabs. There are four coaches who hands down deserve to be considered for this award. Two of those coaches turned a rough start into a successful finish. The other coach came in and changed the entire style of his team for the better while the last coach has been doing what he’s always done for years.
For a team that lost 8 of their first 10 games, with a record of 16-16 before the New Year, many people were writing the Washington Wizards off early on. But boy has Scott Brooks and company turned this thing around. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say no one envisioned the Wizards rising to the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. This team has dealt with unfortunate injuries constantly and although that was the case early on this season, they didn’t let it stop them.
“Every coach, including myself, you look at your team closely, whether you win or you lose, and that tells a lot about the character and makeup of your team,” Brooks told The Vertical. “When we were 2-8, we still came in, we still did our job, we didn’t point fingers. We didn’t blame each other. We didn’t blame the system. We just did our jobs.” – Scott Brooks on the recovering from their rough start (via The Vertical)
John Wall has been balling per usual, Bradley Beal is having the best season of his career, and Otto Porter Jr is arguably the most improved player of the year. Also, the pick up of Bojan Bogdanovic was one of the best moves that occurred before the trade deadline. The outside shooting that he provides for this team is an essential piece to go along with the second unit. With all of that being said, Scott Brooks has been the leader of this team during this dynamic season. He’s honed in on teaching his guys to focus on working hard, trusting each other, and playing the game the right way and it has worked out great for his team.
With the Miami Heat on the outside looking in of the playoff race, Eric Spoelstra probably doesn’t sound like the most deserving candidate. However, when you look at where they started and where they are now combined with the current roster that he’s leading, it will make sense why he’s in this race. After losing to the Milwaukee Bucks on January 13th, the Heat had a record of 11-30. Following that game, they went on to win 13 straight games and ended up with a record of 21-5 since that day.
In this span, they lead the league in +/- with the 3rd best defensive rating behind the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. It’s truly great what Eric Spoelstra has been able to do with the group of guys that he has. He’s gotten these guys to buy in and play hard-nosed basketball. The Miami Heat are only a half-game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Whether they will be able to make the playoffs is yet to be determined but given where they started, to make this type of turnaround is quite the accomplishment.
Mike D’Antoni came in early and left his imprint on this Houston Rockets team. He moved James Harden to point guard and implemented his style of play to a team who was more than the perfect fit for what he wanted to do. That resulted in Harden being one of the top candidates in the MVP race and his Houston Rockets team clinching their playoff berth early as they sit in the 3rd spot in the Western Conference. D’Antoni’s scheme has worked wonders for Harden and his teammates. He’s the league leader in assists orchestrating the top three-point shooting team in the league. Eric Gordon is my pick for the Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA, and lets not forget, they also picked up another candidate for that award in Lou Williams to help them out with more bench scoring. They took a big jump from the 8th seed last year to now being a legitimate problem in the Western Conference and a lot of that is credited to Mike D’Antoni.
I feel like Gregg Popovich is always a given when it comes to the Coach of the Year award. He’s won this award three times and has been in the discussion for what feels like every year. Coach Pop has become the ‘LeBron James‘ of the Coach of the Year race. His candidacy is set in stone but since he’s won numerous times, we often tend to judge him against himself instead of the other candidates.
The San Antonio Spurs are the 2nd best team in the NBA, making the Warriors sweat for that number one spot. They’ve always made a living on their roster buying into their roles and playing fundamental basketball and this season is no different. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have both gotten older and Tim Duncan has retired but this team hasn’t missed a beat. Kawhi Leonard has grown into something special on both sides of the court and everyone else has fallen in line. Greg Popovich has proven why he’s the best coach in the NBA because his team has been at the top year after year. He’s doing it yet again as he works on trying to win another championship.