1. Brad Stevens, Celtics
2. Dwane Casey, Raptors
3. Quin Snyder, Jazz
This was the most difficult decision in all of the individual awards, and it started with just trying to narrow it down to three. Gregg Popovich led a Spurs team essentially without Kawhi Leonard to 47 wins and the playoffs. Brett Brown has spent years building a culture in Philly and it paid off. Terry Stotts, Mike D’Antoni, Nate McMillan and Doc Rivers all deserve credit. For me, Brad Stevens taking a team that lost Gordon Hayward five minutes into the season, plus had to lean on a rookie (Jayson Tatum) and a second-year guy (Jaylen Brown), and they got the two seed and had the best defense in the NBA speaks to the amazing job he has done there. He just nudges out Casey and Snyder.
1. Dwane Casey, Raptors
2. Brad Stevens, Celtics
3. Quin Snyder, Jazz
The Raptors’ eight-game improvement from last season underrates the job Dwane Casey has done. Remember, they were in line to take a step back this season as their core aged and they shed depth. But Casey implemented a new and improved offensive system (even if he deserves some blame for the previous iso-heavy scheme), got the defense cranked up and developed and empowered a mostly young and definitely elite bench. Brad Stevens nearly overtook him with a strong closing kick as the Celtics’ injuries woes continued to pile up. Quin Snyder’s coaching chops were evident in how his players trusted him – trusted him when Gordon Hayward left for (seemingly) greener pastures, trusted him when he handed the keys to the offense to rookie Donovan Mitchell, trusted him when the team dug a big hole early, trusted him when he demanded unselfishness. Not much separated the three coaches on my ballot and three others who fell just short. Getting James Harden and Chris Paul to mesh isn’t as easy as Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni made it look. Doc Rivers did his best coaching work since the Clippers hired him. Gregg Popovich kept Spurs humming, especially defensively, without Kawhi Leonard.
1. Mike D’Antoni, Rockets
2. Terry Stotts, Trail Blazers
3. Dwane Casey, Raptors
Mike D’Antoni did the impossible. He melded two players that had usage rates of 31% or more last season, then turned them into a one-two punch that essentially made it so Houston has a Hall of Fame point guard on the floor for 48 minutes a night. Plus the Rockets jumped 12 spots in defensive rating year-over-year. D’Antoni is one of the most important coaches in NBA history — first for the SSOL Suns and now in Houston — and he deserves it. Stotts gets second for realizing and openly, sternly motivating Jusuf Nurkic, one of the key cogs to that 13-game winning streak. Casey goes third for making the Raptors quietly scary for the first time, well, ever.
Why did the Lakers, after securing LeBron James, sign Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson? Their explanation leaves plenty to be desired.
What will the Lakers do with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma now that none of those four are being traded for Kawhi Leonard? Their plan there is far more intriguing.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
“We may not see this on day one, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] Death Lineup with Lonzo [Ball], Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron,” a second Lakers executive said.
LeBron at center is a dangerous weapon. The Cavaliers showed it more during the 2017 playoffs – to positive effect.
But LeBron isn’t Draymond Green, who makes Golden State’s Death/Hamptons Five Lineup function. Green possesses a unique combination of rim protection and – through his ball-handling and especially passing – ability to get into offense quickly. LeBron isn’t as good at protecting the paint, and though he’s lethal in transition when he wants to be, he’ll be fighting years of slow-down habits.
I also wonder how much LeBron embraces the physical toll of playing center. The Lakers have only JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner at the position. Are they banking on LeBron playing there a significant amount during the regular season?
LeBron would likely accept the role more enthusiastically in the playoffs. But Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will be tested – at least initially – by the heightened level of play. I’d be wary of overly relying on that lineup.
But this is the best way for the Lakers to get talent on the floor and overcome spacing concerns. I’m absolutely excited to see it in action. Whatever concerns I have about it are only multiplied with other potential Lakers lineups.
Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery in November, missed nearly his entire freshman season at Missouri then slipped to No. 14 in the draft amid injury concerns.
The Nuggets have been noncommittal about their plans for Porter, but they’ve given an eyebrow-raising update.
Michael Porter Jr. has undergone surgery of the lumbar spine at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Tex. The Procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett. There is no timetable for his return to basketball participation.
Porter is a talented forward with the length and skill to make a major impact as a scorer.
But, as this latest surgery underscores, drafting him carried terrifying risk. Denver will have to bear that for a while.
Dirk Nowitzki is set to play his 20th season – breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most seasons with a single franchise and tying Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most seasons in the NBA.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s $5 million team option, but he was never signing elsewhere. He was either going to retire or play for Dallas.
Once he decided to return, the only question was money.
The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s option to maximize their flexibility for upgrades, namely signing DeAndre Jordan. Once Yogi Ferrell agreed to an absurdly team-friendly contract, Dallas had enough cap space left to give Nowitzki his team-option amount. If necessary, he would have taken the $4,449,000 room exception.
Nowitzki has had a great career, and this could be his farewell tour. But he also remains a helpful rotation-level player. Though he’s a defensive liability, his outside shooting as a big goes a long way toward floor spacing.
The Mavericks expected Yogi Ferrell to accept his qualifying offer.
Turns out, they’ll keep him on an even more team-friendly deal than the one he could have unilaterally signed.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
This is an awful deal for Ferrell.
As reported, he’ll earn between $2,548,077 and $2,760,417 next season. That range is less than his qualifying offer – which would have paid him a fully guaranteed $2,919,204 next season.
That reduction is acceptable if Ferrell got something in exchange – but he gave Dallas the concession by adding an unguaranteed second year. If he plays well, the Mavericks will keep him at a cheap salary. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him for no cost. They have all the control.
The promise of the backup shooting guard job is probably just lip service. Teams don’t stick by that if the player struggles. If he produces, he would have gotten the job anyway.
Dallas has plenty of point guard types – Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J.J Barea, Jalen Brunson and Ferrell. Rick Carlisle uses two of them simultaneously often enough that Ferrell should land in the rotation. But it’s far from a lock.
With this deal, Ferrell is taking all the risk and the Mavericks are getting all the upside.