Part of the reason why the NBA is so great is because of the players who make the game so much fun to watch. Every year, each team plays in such a competitive manner. It’s not all the players, however.
The coaches around the NBA help make the game what it is. And this season, like all others, there a few that stand out above the rest. Here are 5 Coach of The Year Candidates for 2017:
5. Gregg Popovich
Surprised? Probably not. If you were to read a list like this before the end of every year, you’d probably get tired of seeing Pop’s name show up. His Spurs teams haven’t been under the 50-win mark since the 20th century, and this year they even racked up 60 behind an MVP-caliber season from Kawhi Leonard.
Popovich seems to have a knack for developing D-League players like Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons while fitting them into his system of beautiful ball movement and stout defense. Look for the Spurs to be the top candidate to dethrone the Warriors out west this postseason, and just maybe take home another Larry O’Brien trophy.
4. Scott Brooks
Ever since the Wizards acquired their core duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal, they haven’t been able to make much noise in a weak Eastern Conference. But the hiring of Scott Brooks during the offseason seems to have flipped a switch. Wall has sustained the excellence we’ve seen throughout his professional career.
But this year Washington’s gotten healthy and consistent Beal, while Otto Porter Jr. has enjoyed a breakout season. Brooks’ talent as a coach may have gone under the radar with a loaded roster in OKC, but now that he’s transformed the Wizards into a bona fide threat to LeBron James in the East, there’s no denying that he deserves consideration for Coach of the Year.
3. Brad Stevens
Steven’s coaching brilliance really dates back further than just this season. When hired by the Celtics in 2013, he was dealt a hand of overlooked role players in a franchise that was clearly in rebuild mode after the late departure of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.
This year, he’s turned Isaiah Thomas into a top-3 scorer in the league, and the Celtics managed to beat out the Cavaliers for the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with 53 wins. With Stevens being only 40 years of age, the Celtics can expect decades of success as long as they keep this guy around.
2. Eric Spoelstra
After being stood up by Dwyane Wade last summer, Eric Spoelstra was left scratching his head in South Beach with a team of outcasts and D-Leaguers for the 2016-2017 season. With an abysmal 11-30 record through the first 41 games, it seemed as though the Miami Heat were headed for the lottery, and possibly even a top-5 pick. In a drastic change of events, the Heat stormed back to a 41-41 record to finish the season.
They missed the playoffs because of a tiebreaker to (ironically) the Chicago Bulls, but made history, being the only team that was once 19 games below .500 to reach an even record. Nonetheless, Spoelstra’s development of players like James Johnson and Dion Waiters has Miami’s future looking bright.
1. Mike D’Antoni
The 2015-2016 Houston Rockets coached by J.B. Bickerstaff finished at 41-41, losing to a (mostly) Curry-less Warriors team in the first round. Dwight Howard the recent trend of going home, joining the Atlanta Hawks during the offseason. Preseason expectations for the Rockets were tempered, but the implementation of Mike D’Antoni and his pace and space style has transformed Houston into the most potent offense in the association.
The decision to move James Harden to point guard has put him in the thick of a historic MVP race. Meanwhile, the heavy utilization of the drive and kick game has resulted in the Rockets setting the all-time record for made 3’s in a season. Now, this team heads into the playoffs as the #3 seed in the Western Conference, and their shocking improvement makes D’Antoni the frontrunner for Coach of the Year.