Posts Tagged ‘Coach of the Year’

Award races head into stretch run

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

Four weeks from today the regular season is over. All eyes will be on the playoffs. And that means the final push is on for the 2013-14 awards.

The duel for MVP honors has been a match race all season between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Michael Carter-Williams jumped out of the pack early as the one to beat for Rookie of the Year. But the other races have been wide open.

Here’s one man’s view as we head into the home stretch:

Most Improved Player

Anthony Davis, Pelicans — This is why the Pelicans were so happy to make him the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. This is what coach Monty Williams says Davis probably could have shown last season if the coach hadn’t kept a tight rein on his prized rookie, limiting his minutes and his exposure to getting overpowered while he built up his slender body. When Davis erupted for 40 points, 21 rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Celtics, it was the culmination of a spectacular sophomore year. He’s been steady and breathtaking at both ends of the court all season, enough to beat out the likes of worthy candidates Goran Dragic and Lance Stephenson in a crowded field of contenders. Also getting votes: DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza.


VIDEO: Anthony Davis was nominated for Kia Player of the Month for March

Sixth Man of the Year

Manu Ginobili, Spurs – Following an injury-plagued 2012-13 season that saw him enter the playoffs last spring looking bedraggled, the player who puts the jolt into the Spurs attack is back playing like a live wire in his 12th season. His field-goal percentage is up and his he’s back to doing all the things at both ends of the floor that make him a disruptive force and a difference maker. Jamal Crawford is the closest contender and has done many of the same things for the Clippers. The deciding factor has to be overall team performance. L.A. is in the top half of the Western Conference standings, but that’s once again the Spurs at the top. The return of Manu to his old form is a prime reason. Also getting votes: Reggie Jackson, Markieff Morris.


VIDEO: Manu Ginobili talks about the Spurs’ season and his play

Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams, Sixers — He was the sixth guard selected (11th overall) in 2013 and wasted no time showing he never should have lasted that long. He’s put up big numbers even as the Sixers have suffered through what is a historically inept season. If all of general manager Sam Hinkie’s decisions turn out so well, the pain will be worth the price. The fun could just be starting when MCW gets to team up with a healthy Nerlens Noel next season. It’s a long way back to the No. 2 man in the voting for this category, but we’re jumping the more likely pick and going with Tim Hardaway Jr. His hard-charging style has been one of the few reasons to watch the Knicks all year. Also getting votes: Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke. Kia Rookie Ladder


VIDEO: At the All-Star break, Michael Carter-Williams talks about his season

Defensive Player of the Year

Joakim Noah, Bulls — The Pacers spent the early part of the year polishing their reputation as the league’s top defensive team, with center Roy Hibbert starting to clear room on his mantle as the pre-eminent rim protector in the game. But it is no coincidence that the Pacers’ struggles fit with a slippage in Hibbert’s game. The truth is, when you get him just a little bit away from the basket, he’s not so dominant. Meanwhile the Bulls have shrugged off the loss of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng because Noah simply won’t let them stop working and scrapping and competing. He’s the heart and soul of the team, especially that ferocious defense as Chicago charges late and the Pacers try to regain their equilibrium. Also getting votes: Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard.


VIDEO: Rachel Nichols talks with Joakim Noah about his surge in play of late

Coach of the Year

Gregg Popovich, Spurs — The first instinct is to say that Jeff Hornacek has taken a Suns team that everyone assumed was diving for the lottery — and the Las Vegas wise guys had pegged for 21.5 wins — and turned them into an uplifting story and playoff contender, and that’s worthy of consideration. The next instinct is to say that Tom Thibodeau is like the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, virtually getting limbs chopped off and yet ignoring the wounds and keeping right on with the fight. But when you get right down to the meat of things, it’s all about winning games and some how, some way, Popovich keeps doing that better than anybody else. Never mind that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are practically senior citizens. Never mind that an assortment of injuries has forced the Spurs to use two dozen different lineups. Never mind all of those lingering mental scars from The Finals last June. Popovich expects the best and his team keeps producing it. Excellence should be recognized and rewarded. Also getting votes: Frank Vogel, Dwane Casey, Steve Clifford.


VIDEO: GameTime delves into how deeply Gregg Popovich’s influence is felt around the NBA

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, Thunder — It’s been a two-horse race between Durant and LeBron James almost from the opening tip. You can almost never go wrong picking James, who still reigns as the league’s best player with his ability. It looked like James might be making a late charge for an MVP three-peat with his 61 point game a couple of weeks ago. But an ensuing slump by both LeBron and the Heat took the steam out of that charge. Durant responded and has raised his game even higher over the past 1 1/2 weeks. We also have to go back to Durant’s body of work without Russell Westbrook for 30 games — and counting — as he keeps the Thunder in the hunt for best overall record and heads toward what should be the first of multiple MVP wins. Also getting votes: Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin. Kia Race to the MVP Ladder


VIDEO: Chris Webber and Greg Anthony debate and discuss the MVP race

StatsCube: The Case for Karl


There are several great candidates for the Coach of the Year award this season. Doug Collins, Phil Jackson, George Karl, Nate McMillan, Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau all deserve recognition for the job they’ve done with their teams.

Jackson and Karl have made their strongest case with how well L.A. and Denver have played since the All-Star break. And for Karl, we have to look back at how he well he kept the Nuggets together in the midst of the ‘Melo-drama that ran from September to February.

Dealing with the knowledge that his best player wanted to play for someone else and somehow putting together a 32-25 record in the midst of a media circus is the intangible aspect of Karl’s candidacy. But there is a very tangible aspect to it to, and the numbers may make the best case for Karl.

With the Nuggets original roster, Karl coached the No. 1 offense in the league. With a completely different kind of roster since the trade, Karl is coaching the No. 1 defense in the league.

Nuggets efficiency

Timeframe Record Off. Eff. Rank Def. Eff. Rank Diff. Rank
Pre-break 32-25 109.7 1 107.2 23 +2.5 10
Post-break 15-4 108.8 7 96.6 1 +12.2 1
Overall 47-29 109.5 1 104.5 17 +4.9 7

Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The numbers obviously say something about Anthony and the other players involved in the trade. And maybe just as impressive as the Nuggets’ No. 1 ranking defensively since the trade is that they’ve been almost as efficient offensively as they were with the guy that was averaging 25 points per game.

There aren’t many teams in this league that can play at an elite level on both ends of the floor. The Miami Heat are the only team that ranks in the top five both offensively (109.3, second) and defensively (100.9, fifth) for the season.

Along with the Heat and Nuggets, the Lakers have ranked in the top five on one end of the floor before the All-Star break and on the other end of the floor since. L.A. was the fourth-best offensive team (108.6) before the break and has been the third-best defensive team (97.8) since.

But those numbers don’t match the Nuggets’ impressive transition from elite offensive team to elite defensive team. And that may be why George Karl deserves to be named Coach of the Year.

***

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Vote for Jerry Sloan!

ATLANTA – He is the best coach never to win an NBA championship. But I suspect I speak for many in basketball when I say: I hope someday Jerry Sloan loses that tag.

Because of his longevity and the respect earned from his players and peers, Sloan deserves a title. I just fear he’ll never get one.

The Jazz just completed a remarkable road trip, one of the best in recent memory by any team, and appear to have shaken free of their early-season funk. They embarrassed the Heat in Miami, and just when you thought they’d rest on that, they won in Orlando and Atlanta, beating two playoff teams from a year ago. Once again, a blue-collar team is playing with grit and pride, the two trademarks of their coach. And yet, even if they win 50 games and pull a surprise or two in the postseason, you know where this is headed. Sloan will come up short. Again.

This time, it will be no thanks to Kobe. Just like before, when it was no thanks to Jordan. You see, Sloan never had a Kobe, never had a Jordan. Doesn’t have anyone on the roster right now who qualifies, either (apologies, D-Will). Sure, Karl Malone and John Stockton were certainly good enough to keep Utah on championship radar for over a decade, just not good enough to pull one out.

I’ve always liked and respected Sloan. Love everything he stands for. He fiercely defends his players but doesn’t accept anything less than their best. He’s old school, but not totally lost on the culture of the modern-day athlete. He’s humble and always gives credit to those in the locker room and his assistants, including long-time ally Phil Johnson. That’s what’s really refreshing: Sloan doesn’t self-promote. He’s not running up and down the bench, pointing and gesturing. He’s not one of those coaches who MUST COACH EVERY SINGLE POSSESSION. He gets it.

He might finally win Coach of the Year, an award too often given to the flash-in-the-pan, rather than someone who’s consistent. Sad thing is, he probably won’t win something greater. That won’t make Sloan any less of a coach. It’ll just give him, and us, an empty feeling if he leaves the game without a title. A lousy feeling, actually. We may ache more than Jerry.

I hope he coaches until he gets his Kobe.