IT’S never too early for NBA coaches to feel the heat. Some winless clubs are already starting to fret wondering if their head coach is the right man for the job. On the other side of the ball, after nine days of the new NBA season, a handful of franchises have been pleasantly surprised by their start to the season. Of course, it’s too early to tell which teams will be playoff squads, but we do have an idea of which coaches are trending up and who’s heading in the wrong direction.
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I’M convinced that this Bucks team is going to do wonderful things in 2018-19 and they have Coach Bud to thank. No disrespect to Jason Kidd, but Mike Budenholzer is having an immediate impact in his first year as Milwaukee’s lead man. They are jacking up over 40 shot from behind the arc a game in the early season, compared to just 24.7 per game a season ago. With the Bucks playing at a much faster pace and Giannis Antetokounmpo seemingly ready to emerge as an MVP favourite, Budenholzer’s stock is only going to keep rising.
IT’S fair to say I didn’t see this coming from the Nuggets. Sure, I knew they could light it up on offense and the pudgy unicorn known as Nikola Jokic is already one of the best big men in the league. Seeing this Denver team succeed on the defensive side of the ball is a new wrinkle that could see them take a huge leap. They have stifled teams like the Warriors and Clippers in the early going recording a 4-0 start and in the process, easing the pressure that was mounting on Mike Malone. The Nuggets head man needed a fast start to ensure fans he was the right guy for the job and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
YOU’D think it’s hard for the reigning Coach of the Year to improve his stock through the first week of the season, however, Dwane Casey has this Pistons team looking pretty good early on. For this team, health is going to be the major factor moving forwards with Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin leading the charge early, yet we all know about their injury history. Still, Casey seems to have this group rolling at the moment and the Pistons will be eager to keep rolling and emerge as a playoff team in the East.
YES, I know that Russell Westbrook missed the first two games of the season. Yes, I know their woeful shooting numbers will get better, but this Thunder team could be in trouble. Going by most analytics OKC is one of the worst teams in the early season and even when Westbrook returned to the lineup they still fell to the Sacramento Kings by double digits at HOME. If you have serious championship aspirations you can’t have too many of those losses on your resume and Billy Donovan had better figure out this offense soon or things might go pear-shaped in Oklahoma.
ADAPTING to life after LeBron is proving to be just as hard the second time around for Cleveland. A miserable 0-4 start has left fans (me) wondering what direction this team is travelling in. Contrary to what the Cavs owner Dan Gilbert thinks this team is not a list of winners and it could cost Tyronn Lue his job if he’s not careful. Not only has Cleveland gone winless through the first four matches, they’ve been SMASHED, leading to them recording the worst net rating (-14.4) in the league. They rank amongst the worst teams recording blocks and steals as well as the likes of Brooklyn and Atlanta have walked all over them. Putting it bluntly, if Lue’s doesn’t change things he’ll be the first coach shown the door before we even reach Thanksgiving.
IF I was steering the ship Fred Hoiberg’s job would be safe purely because this Bulls team isn’t ready to win games in big batches at the moment. Player development is the main focus right now for Chicago, however, their big offseason investments aren’t living up to the hype at the moment. Both Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine have virtually been traffic cones on defense, which could cause Hoiberg to shift in his seat with unease. While the expectations are low, there still needs to be some signs of progress and at the moment Hoiberg is failing to find them.
FOR the first time in his NBA coaching career, Scott Brooks was ejected the other night against the Heat. I can understand why Brooks is frustrated though, with another season full of promise seemingly destined to end with a first-round playoff exit for the umpteenth time in franchise history. With John Wall and Brad Beal in their prime, surely the time is now for Washington to challenge out East. If not, Scott Brooks might not last the season.