Last year, Gregg Popovich won his third NBA Coach of the Year award. However, the best coach is not always the recipient of the honor. Often, it goes to the coach whose team was the biggest overachiever.
Case in point: over the past eight years, Sam Mitchell, Byron Scott, and Mike Brown have all been recognized.
This season, two teams are far surpassing their preseason expectations: the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors. As a result, Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta) and Steve Kerr (Golden State) have distanced themselves from the pack in the Coach of the Year race.
But I can’t very well do a Coach of the Year odds article with only two candidates; so, below, I take a look at the midseason top-five, which necessarily contains three long-shots. (Scroll to the bottom for a concise odds list.)
Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta Hawks): 3/2
Atlanta and Golden State are battling for the best overall record in the NBA. If the Hawks, who have won 50 games just once since 1998-1999, end up with the top mark, Budenholzer will be tough to beat.
The Hawks are 43-11 at the All Star break and 25-3 at home. Before the season began, the over/under on Atlanta wins for the season was 41. The Hawks also have a 6.5-game cushion in the Eastern Conference standings and a ludicrous ten-game lead over the Wizards in the Southeast Division. If you can lead a superstar-less team to top spot in the conference, the Coach of the Year award is yours to lose.
Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors): 7/4
Kerr’s first campaign as an NBA coach has been close to perfect. He inherited one of the best rosters in the league, and has guided the Warriors to a 42-9 start (23-2 at home) – best in the NBA. Before the season began, the Warriors were projected to win 50.5 games. The Warriors lead the league in scoring and are four games clear of Memphis in the Western Conference.
Most voters will recognize that the Warriors have a stronger group of players than Atlanta, so Golden State will likely need to edge the Hawks by a few games in the standings in order for Kerr to take the award.
Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors): 15/1
If Toronto can make up more than six games in half a season and wrestle away the top seed in the East from Atlanta, Dwane Casey would be in serious consideration. Like the Hawks, the Raptors don’t really have a superstar they can go to night-in and night-out (though Kyle Lowry is certainly emerging as one). Perhaps Casey’s biggest feat this year has been keeping the team steady – if not humming – while then-leading scorer DeMar DeRozan missed a significant chunk of time with a groin injury.
David Joerger (Memphis Grizzlies): 15/1
David Joerger is in a similar situation as Casey. If the Grizzlies rally to get by Golden State in the West, Joerger would instantly become a top contender for the award. Memphis’ version of a Big-3 – Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph – are all very good players, but Joerger is certainly getting the most from his under-the-radar crew.
David Blatt (Cleveland Cavaliers): 25/1
Finally, there is Cleveland’s David Blatt. The Cavs were 19-20 on January 14 and Blatt’s job was in serious jeopardy. Now the Cavaliers are 33-22 and their roster of superstars is finally cohesing. LeBron James gets most of the credit; but, if the Cavs go on a crazy run to end the year and are clearly the best team, Blatt would need to get some recognition for righting the ship/preventing an implosion of ego-tastic proportions.
Of course, Cleveland will need a huge second half and a collapse of sorts by the Hawks in order for Blatt to become a serious contender. You don’t win Coach of the Year when you have the best player in the world – flanked by two other perennial All Stars – and finish second in your conference.
Full 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year Odds:
- Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta Hawks): 3-2
- Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors): 7-4
- Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors): 15-1
- David Joerger (Memphis Grizzlies): 15-1
- David Blatt (Cleveland Cavaliers): 25-1
Don’t forget to check out our Rookie of the Year odds, as well.