I know you will want it to go to D'antoni, but if i had a coach of the year vote it would go to Nate McMillian. Lost his best player. Got a guy in Oladipo who had flashes but the past 2 seasons has looked a bit lost and turned him into a star. Just look at that roster, it's awful.
Sam: The Pacers probably have been the most unexpected of the season; me included since I didn't see any way they made the playoffs. Though I did have them ahead of the Bulls. Actually, when Oklahoma City made the Oladipo trade I thought it was a good one and would help them keep Durant and perhaps give them a legitimate three. Of course, Durant left about a week later and then Oladipo was hurt and badly misused and underestimated. No one thought he had this star potential he's shown in Indiana, but he should have been a 15 to 18 points scorer with Westbrook. But the coach there couldn't and wouldn't rein in Westbrook and thus made Oladipo an accessory and never took advantage of his abilities. It is about getting a chance in almost any workplace, sports or otherwise. Some of the greatest journalists never got to write. Oladipo never did get a chance with the Thunder, but great credit to the Pacers and McMillan. I can accept McMillan as Coach of the Year. I'd probably go with Portland's Terry Stotts, whose Trailblazers have had an unexpected season in the tougher conference. Many figured the Trailblazers would make the playoffs, and heck the way the West is now they're a solid third. But just four losses from 10th. That three through 10 in the West is going to be the race of the rest of the way. Does Kwahi come back? It looks most like without a major injury that one from among the Nuggets, Spurs and Clippers miss out. Which makes for some intriguing candidates. Popovich again for keeping them there all season without Leonard, Doc Rivers in one of his better jobs having the Clippers there after losing both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and regulars like Avery Bradley, Gallinari and Patrick Beverley out. Dwane Casey will get support for the way the Raptors have pulled ahead with an impressive style change, though the playoffs is their test. Everyone had them top four in the East. I'd have Utah's Quin Snyder top three with Stotts and McMillan with the Jazz losing Hayward, relying on a rookie and making this excellent late charge while remaining in position until Gobert returned. An honorable mention: Fred Hoiberg. The Bulls coach had the best month of any NBA coach not to be honored this season with the Bulls 10-6 December with Dunn just back and LaVine still out and Mirotic being phased into the lineup after the fight. It was the best month of coaching any NBA coach has had this season to win 10 of 12 in that situation. And now basically competing despite this crazy finish with unprecedented league ordered lineups. So the Bulls may win about 25 games, this, too, after trading their leading scorer in Mirotic and working in something of tryouts and almost different starting lineup every game. Plus, the Bulls have been favored to win in games just five times this season and for the second consecutive season have well surpassed the preseason betting odds on over/under. OK, Hoiberg's not likely to get many coach of the year votes, but the Bulls continue to exceed the view of their talent under his coaching. That's generally what coach of the year is about.
Now with Derrick Rose joining Thibs, Jimmy and Taj in Minnesota is there any possible chance that they can get Luol Deng and Joakim Noah on board as well in time for the playoffs? What can Deng and Noah do to make this possible? Do they need to give up their money to do so or even if they do (not likely) are there other obstacles that stands their way?
Would love to see if Thibs can somehow get his old gang back together for another shot for the title and this time LeBron will not be standing their way.
Sam: The unfortunate part about these things is I believe both still can be NBA contributors. But you need a chance. Of course, you have no platform making $18 million (each with two years after this), and neither has said much. Deng did some interviews when the Lakers were in Chicago and showed again why you'd want a veteran like that around your young players, and one who I am sure still can contribute the way he morphed into a stretch four in Miami. Deng always has been on a similar track with Andre Iguodala, who got that chance in Golden State Deng didn't get with the Lakers. It was no surprise Noah had a harder time holding it together. I don't know for sure what happened between he and Hornacek, but it all with Noah stems from merely being a competitor. He's a great teammate and winner, and I believe whatever he did was in the vein of competing. I think Hornacek was wrong to banish him the way he did and it probably will be another of the reasons that ends up with Hornacek out of the job after this season. He was hired by Phil Jackson and a new management usually means a new coach, anyway, but it's been tough to distinguish what has gone right with the Knicks since Phil's departure as they get in the passing lane to more losses down the stretch than perhaps anyone. How it makes sense to not even let other teams see Noah seems incredible mismanagement. But because of those salaries, neither is about to take a small buyout or be traded, so Thibs has to settle for half his Bulls roster. I've heard he's trying to talk Keith Bogans out of retirement. Though when I hear about Deng, what I think about is potentially a great opportunity for a team with a lot of young players and cap room. The only way the Lakers can make room for two max deals is to get Deng's contract off the books. It's not unreasonable the way the Cavs have faded and the Lakers have come on to believe LeBron could go there with Paul George. I'm not much interested in the Lakers 2019 draft pick because they could be really good by then, especially with the injuries finally catching up with the Warriors. I'd take Deng if the Lakers gave me one of their young players. The way Julius Randle has come on to look like Charles Barkley and their love for Lonzo Ball, I'd make a case for Brandon Ingram. Sure, they love him, also. But do you let him stand in the way of the additions of LeBron and George? They're not winning a title just hanging onto Ingram, who would be an ideal wing man for some young developing team in, maybe, the Eastern Conference. Kuzma? Sorry, Ingram. No deal, fine. Tell your fans you gave up on LeBron and maybe the Finals next season for Brandon Ingram. You'd just have to figure out for which East team that might make sense. Any ideas?
It's heartening to see some positive development from Payne but it's still early. Maybe he could be a better second unit point guard than Grant or is this just wishful thinking? Apparently Blakeney can score but is he willing and able to learn defense? I'd much prefer to have a scorer that needs to learn defense than a strong defender that needs to learn to score. In this brief trial period do you think he has promise/potential as a rotation guard? With a good draft, a lot of development and luck the second unit could be a real force.
Sam: I'm sort of rooting for Payne because of the way he was so unfairly maligned last year after the trade. Seems to happen to Bulls point guards. The Bulls had no intention of resigning Taj Gibson as much as we all admired and respected him. He's in a better place in what I believe is a more appropriate use of that phrase. Even Minnesota. Yes, maybe the Bulls hang onto McDermott a little more, but at some point you get to feel maybe it's best for both sides. I still believe McDermott can be a productive NBA specialist in this era, but evidence continues to point elsewhere given the way teams continue to move him. There always are reasonable circumstances like being parts of trades of better players, but there also becomes a reason after awhile. I root for McDermott as well, but with the Bulls not exactly loaded with athletes, it made sense to move on. The Bulls still didn't have Kris Dunn in sight, so it still was point guard tryouts. Payne was a late lottery pick. Worth the attempt. The mistake was the way the Bulls forced him into the lineup, especially with veterans like Butler, Wade and Rondo, who weren't going to accept that and basically undermined him as well. It was like when all the better Bulls demeaned the defense of Toni Kukoc. Kukoc wasn't that bad, but when your favorite guys pick on someone the media generally picks up the hint to both further ingratiate themselves with those veterans and create a talking point. Similarly with Payne, he became a target of what's wrong. The problem is he's more the modern scoring type point guard who is shoot first. He reminds me, as I've said, of Brandon Jennings, and not just because of the lefty thing. OK, some of that. But the best the Bulls played against the Clippers was with Payne and Blakeney on the court, pressuring, using their athletic abilities to pursue defensively and create offense with defense. It happened against against Memphis Thursday. The starters don't do that as much. Blakeney has the potential to be a Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford type. He is the sort of athletic scorer we haven't seen much with the Bulls, able to make athletic moves on the run and finish. It seems not so much his lack of defense as his uncertainty about how long he'll play. So he takes some unnecessary shots. He needs more time and can really explode offensively, but the Bulls don't appear comfortable giving that to him yet. That's an issue with a big G-league scorer: You get to the NBA and they want you to be a role player. Blakeney could be like an Isaiah Thomas type if some team wanted to give him that volume shooter role. The Bulls don't.
Call me crazy but I like Noah Vonleh. He's really bulked up since his hornets days. More physical and a better rebounder than Portis.
Sam: Well, not crazy, but I still don't know what to make of him. He looks most like he could take the backup center role from Felicio, who has regressed. Though he may have had his best game Thursday and made two clutch free throws at the end after missing his first three. But Vonleh might be worth a longer look. He does have a nice stroke from distance even though he's not making many yet. He's really been best as a defensive rebounder. He's also got a decent first step off the perimeter, though he's a bit small for center. Again, I like the idea of taking a look at former lottery picks. No, not crazy.
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