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Summer Dreaming: The next Coach of the Year will be ...

Taking an extra-early look at five coaches who could be in the running for the 2016-17 Coach of the Year Award

POSTED: Sep 1, 2016 10:20 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


If Steve Kerr can manage the stacked, revamped Warriors, will he win a second straight Coach of the Year Award?

After days or weeks spent lounging on a hot beach and asking the bartender to bring another round, sometimes you've got to change your drink and try something different.

That's often the fate of head coaches in the modern day NBA. Just because it's time to switch from mojitos to margaritas.

Ten teams will have new coaches on the sideline for the start of the 2016-17 season. Some will cut it, some won't. And some will stand out from the crowd.

As our Summer Dreaming series, where we pick the award winners for 2017 way in advance, continues, here are the top five picks for Coach of the Year (and you can send us your picks here):

Summer Dreaming: Kia MVP
Summer Dreaming: Executive of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Rookie of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Most Improved Player of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Sixth Man of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Defensive Player of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Comeback Player of the Year

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors: Yes, it helps to have more treasure in your lineup than there is gold at Ft. Knox. But that just puts the pressure on Kerr not to screw it up. There is certainly plenty to do here for the guy that won the award last season. First, there is the assimilation of Kevin Durant into the lineup in such a way that it doesn't detract from what he or all the rest of the Warriors do best. Golden State's "Strength In Numbers" mantra will also be tested because the Dubs had to give up much of their depth -- Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa -- to make the so-called super team happen. Don't expect Kerr to allow the Warriors to chase their brand new regular season record of 73 wins this time around. It was a worthy goal, a nice story a year ago, but the former champs learned the hard way that it just doesn't matter if you don't get the ring. In Year 3, he'll also be doing it without top assistant Luke Walton. But the amiable Kerr is as driven as anybody in the Warriors locker room and will have the best record and an edge by the time the playoffs start.

Steve Kerr

Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr sits down during Golden State's game against the Rockets in the third quarter.

Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers: Go ahead and admit it. You're not going to give this guy any credit as long as the whole wide world thinks LeBron James is pulling all the strings, drawing up the Xs and Os and deciding what color Gatorade to have in the container. But the 30-11 record notwithstanding, when David Blatt was fired in January, the Cavs were nowhere close to being in the proper frame of mind to make a run at that championship. Blatt's condescending personality was a drag on the entire team and Lue's presence as the man with the title on the sidelines allowed everybody to breathe a sigh of relief and go back to just being themselves. Lue brought 11 years experience as a backup to the job, dealt on the fly with the challenges and privileges of coaching James and had enough left over to coax the Cavs back from the ledge of a 3-1 deficit in The Finals. He's doing something right.

Cavaliers Championship Parade: Tyronn Lue

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue thanks the team and organization for all the hard work in delivering a NBA championship.

Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs: You just can't get too far down the list without paying homage to the best in the business. Popovich always said he was going to walk out the door right behind Tim Duncan. But here he is, embarking on the next chapter of the Spurs story because he promised guys like Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge that he'd be around. Duncan's minutes had steadily decreased over the past handful of years and it will be a new challenge playing without him entirely. Now he'll have Pau Gasol in the middle of the lineup and that should enable the passing game to continue to flourish. A year ago, the new-look Spurs with Aldridge finding his way, came flying out of of the starting gate on the way to 67 wins. They won't likely pile up that many again, but will be the Warriors' closest pursuers once more in the West.

Tim and Pop's Bond

NBA TV takes a look at the relationship between Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich.

Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers: Do we give credit to the team president or the head coach for continuing to resist the urge to break up his core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? Good thing it's the same guy. Rivers understands very well that perseverance is a virtue and sometimes you just have to wait your turn. It all went sour for the Clippers last season when Griffin and Paul were both injured for the playoffs and it resulted in a first round lost to Portland. Rivers keeps tinkering with the edges of the roster and switching new pieces in and out on his bench. He's made great strides getting Jordan to be more of a complete player and has the Clippers battling at the top of the Western Conference every year. Rivers has a top three seed again this time around and knows it. So should we.

Halftime: Doc Rivers

The Los Angeles Clippers' head coach Doc Rivers joins the set during halftime of Summer League action.

Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves: He bided his time and he waited for just the right opportunity. Now Thibs slips into the Timberwolves as comfortably as a fur coat in Minneapolis in winter. All of the young foundational pieces are in place, from Karl-Anthony Towns to Andrew Wiggins to Kris Dunn, and what they need is someone to mold them, shape them, kick them in the pants and drive them relentlessly. The T-Pups will benefit tremendously from his tough love that emphasizes defense and should have them as a real contender in the West in several years. For now, it's quite possible that Minnesota makes the biggest year-to-year jump in wins this season and could even squeeze into the playoffs this season.

Arena Link: Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau talks with NBA TV's Rick Kamla about joining Minnesota as head coach and president of basketball operations.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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