There are probably about five great choices for the NBA Coach of the Year for 2017. Erik Spoelstra (41-41, 9th in East) is among them. Although the award has already been voted on, we will soon find out who is the winner.
Here are the other quality candidates:
Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics: 53-29 (1st in East)
Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets: 55-27 (3rd in West)
Scott Brooks, Washington Wizards: 49-33 (4th in East)
Greg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs: 61-21 (2nd in West)
As you can see, He has some pretty steep competition. Brad Stevens led the Celtics to the top seed in the East while only having one All-Star. Brooks led Washington from a non-playoff team to nearly 50 wins in his first year there. Popovich won 61 games with only 1 (current) All-Star. And D’Antoni moved Houston up the ranks with basically just James Harden, which may say more about Harden than the coach.
But Spoelstra has his own claim to fame too. After starting the season 11-30, second worst in the league at that time, the Heat climbed back to 41-41 to finish the season, although missing the playoffs due to a tie-breaker with the Bulls.
In that span of the second half of the season, only the Spurs and Warriors had a better record than the Heat.
Now, it remains to be seen whether the voters will hold the 11-30 against Spo as part of their voting. But Spoelstra did all of this with no All-Stars on the roster, a plethora of injuries, and $23 million that never even entered the arena this season. It’s remarkable where they ended up.
He won a coach of the month and was nominated for another as well. Everyone has taken notice of the team since February.
History is not on his side
It’s been since 1999-2000 since Doc Rivers of the Orlando Magic won the Award with a .500 record. And before that, it had been 1978 when Hubie Brown won. And even though there were a lot of roster changes, Spo went from a 48 win season to a 41 win season.
Spoelstra would have to win over a lot of people on what they accomplished to finish the season to win the award with a .500 record. The last nine COY winners had a .610 win % or better.
I don’t think anybody is downplaying the job that he did this season. It was masterful. We all watched it and saw how Spo demanded that his team give their all. And I will be honest, at the mid-point of the season, I called for them to tank and seek what is best for the franchise.
But they didn’t. They came within one win of making the playoffs.
I think the Award is likely going to go to Scott Brooks or Brad Stevens. Voters don’t like to keep giving the same notice to the same guy, so I think although Popovich is clearly the top coach — the award typically goes to the guy with a job well done.
When you look at them, Spo did a great job — but mostly in the second half of the season. Brooks and Stevens have done a great job all season long and deserve to be recognized.
I would love to see Spo win, but I don’t think he will.
What do you think? Is he more deserving that the other candidates? Why? Let’s hear from you in the comments below!