A look at the Coach of the Year Race

The race for Coach of the Year is pretty loaded right now, but most of the favorites were not necessarily pre-season favorites. We’ve seen surprising teams like the Miami Heat, teams making a leap like the Utah Jazz and teams that completely changed their culture like the Houston Rockets. This is a good race and the winner is not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination.

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The pre-season odds had Steve Kerr and Tyronn Lue as the favorites, but it’s hard to see either of those men winning the award. While Kerr has done a great job, especially dealing with a Kevin Durant injury, it’s still hard to see him winning the award. The Warriors are too good and his contributions will likely be ignored. The same can be said about Lue who has dealt with tons of injuries, but his team has dropped on defense in a big way and people probably don’t like the amount of minutes LeBron James has played.

In my opinion there are only five legitimate candidates for this award this season. Mike D’Antoni of the Rockets, Quin Synder of the Jazz, Erik Spoelstra of the Heat, Scott Brooks of the Wizards and Mike Malone of the Nuggets. Let’s take a quick look at the odds that we posted way back on October 18th, 2016 for these five coaches.

  • Quin Snyder +1200
  • Erik Spoelstra +3300
  • Mike D’Antoni +3300
  • Scott Brooks +4000
  • Michael Malone +10000

That is pretty crazy and if you somehow would’ve picked these five guys, you could’ve made money by betting all of them. We’ll go in reverse order of what I think their odds of winning are.

5. Michael Malone

Malone has done a fantastic job with the Denver Nuggets this year as he has completely rebuilt the team around Nikola Jokic. He’s helped develop Gary Harris and Will Barton while getting great leadership from Jameer NelsonDanilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler have also played well. The lack of development of Emmanuel Mudiay (although he is very young, a fact people often forget) could be a mark again him, but the under .500 record will probably be his undoing.

4. Erik Spoelstra

Don’t get me wrong, I think Spoelstra has done the best coaching job in the league this year hands down, but I just don’t see him winning this award. The Heat aren’t flashy and they are a non-threat in the playoffs. What he has done to Hassan Whiteside over the past two years alone should win him this award. Not to mention the massive improvements from Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Dion Waiters. This team has no business being this good, but they are and I think a big part of that is Spoelstra.

3. Scott Brooks

If I had a vote, I’d probably vote for this man. The Wizards were a disaster last year and now they have a pretty good chance of winning 50 games for the first time in forever. A healthy Bradley Beal and John Wall go a long way towards helping him, but the development of Otto Porter and the five man starting unit shouldn’t be discounted. He’s probably offered the biggest year-to-year upgrade over a previous coach than anyone else on this list. Well, almost anyone…

2. Mike D’Antoni

I wonder if voters will punish D’Antoni for being a “system” coach in the perfect environment. Back in the Suns days he was considered a genius, but the stops in LA and New York made him feel like less of one. I don’t think that is fair though as D’Antoni is a great coach at a very specific type of basketball and he’s doing it right now at a higher level than ever before. (Sorry, Steve Nash.) Getting complete buy-in from his players and getting them to a top-3 team in the NBA is no joke. Turning James Harden from one of the best, but no fun to watch players to a must-see superstar is a masterstroke. Getting the most out of Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Patrick Beverley and Clint Capela has been huge. Getting complete buy-in from everyone could win him this award.

1. Quin Snyder

The Jazz aren’t flashy, but they just went from a non-playoff team to a likely #4 seed in the Western Conference. This would be more of a “career achievement” award for Snyder than anything as he has taken Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and others and shaped them from prospects to a top playoff team. The continuity of coaching has been big and getting them all to develop at the same time has been really great work. The Jazz should win 50 games this year and that is a huge accomplishment considering where they were just a few years ago. Give this man an award.

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