Coaches often go underappreciated in the NBA. The stars are the ones who get the credit for the team’s successes, and the coaches get fired for the failures.
Still, great head coaches can lift up a team’s fortunes, just as these five had done prior to the league’s postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SBOTOP breaks down how and why these NBA coaches have stood out this season.
Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
Budenhozer made an immediate impact last year, his first season in Milwaukee. Under his leadership, the Bucks were the best regular-season team in the NBA (60-22) as Bud won his second career Coach of the Year award.
But the Bucks have been even better this year under Bud. They’re currently 53-12 and were on pace to win 66 games.
Many will point to Giannis Antetokounmpo as the main factor for Milwaukee’s success. However, Bud’s system has played a major part in the Greek Freak being unleashed.
Budenholzer still has to prove he can make the necessary adjustments to succeed in the playoffs, but when it comes to regular season play, he’s proven that he is one of the best coaches in the business.
Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
No one thought Toronto would be quite as competitive this year. After all, the defending champions lost superstar and Finals MVP Kawhil Leonard in free agency.
However, they kept head coach Nick Nurse, whose coaching job this season might be more impressive than last year when he won the title. Even without Kawhi, the Raptors have remained one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, in large part due to Nurse’s brilliant coaching.
Pascal Siakam has continued his rise into a legitimate All-Star-calibre player, while the Raptors have consistently received timely contributions from every spot on their roster.
A lot of credit has to go to Nurse, who has helped developed those unheralded role players and put them in a position to succeed and contribute.
The NBA 2020 odds will still favour the Bucks in a Milwaukee-Toronto playoff matchup, but with Nurse’s proven playoff credentials, the Raptors should not be underestimated.
Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
After years of mediocrity, the Heat were finally back to being among the top teams in the East this year. The addition of Jimmy Butler this offseason has certainly made a big impact on their success.
But so has Erik Spoelstra’s coaching. Coach Spo has proven time and again that he is capable of getting less talented teams to overachieve.
He’s done it again this season as the undrafted duo of Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson have become major contributors in his system. Spo should also get credit for Bam Adebayo’s rise as an All-Star big man.
The Heat might not have enough to overcome the top teams in the East, but with Spoelstra at the helm, they will give any team all they can handle.
Frank Vogel, Los Angeles Lakers
Vogel was a surprise choice to be the Lakers’ new coach. His time with Orlando was disappointing, which led to questions about whether he was the right man to lead a championship-calibre team with LeBron James and key offseason acquisition Anthony Davis.
But Vogel has answered any doubts about his coaching abilities with the wonderful job he’s done in LA this season.
Many might consider his job easy considering he has two MVP-calibre stars in James and Davis. But the fact that they were playing some excellent defence, coupled with the lack of issues to speak of is a testament to Vogel’s positive impact on the team.
The playoffs will still be the true test for Vogel, but based on how well the team has played in the regular season, Lakers fans should be full of confidence in their head coach.
Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have been one of the big surprises this season. They would be in the playoffs for the first time since 2017 if the postseason started today, which is more than anyone expected of them.
Rookie point guard Ja Morant’s fine play has been a big reason for their success as he’s created several standout NBA 2020 highlights. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that Taylor Jenkins has done a terrific job in his debut season as a head coach.
Jenkins has gotten a very young Grizzlies team to play and smart, which is quite an achievement for a rookie coach.
The Grizzlies’ impressive play under Jenkins should give Memphis fans a lot of hope and optimism for a bright future ahead.
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