One of the deepest positions in all of the NBA is on the bench for this upcoming season. Over the last few weeks, I have been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out what my final rankings for the coaches were going to be. I made a lot of updates over this time. Moving coaches around here and there, going to bed, waking up in the middle of the night and doing rerankings. Some of these were rather obvious and some of them were not.
Most of them were not.
Let’s get to it.
30. Taylor Jenkins – Memphis Grizzlies
This is a literal make or break year for the Grizzlies. They have a lot of fun young talent in Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., but after that, there isn’t a whole lot to work with for the Grizzlies. They are going to be toward the bottom of the West. Jenkins has his work cut out for him this season.
29. James Borrego – Charlotte Hornets
Another guy who doesn’t have a whole lot to work with. I expect the Hornets to be one of the worst teams in all of the NBA, but how competitive can Borrego get Terry Rozier and the rest of that roster to play night in and night out?
28. Lloyd Pierce – Atlanta Hawks
I really didn’t want to rank Pierce so low here. He could potentially be a really good coach and we’re going to see how good he is with how he develops the load of youth on this team. Let’s see how Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Bruno Fernando, and Cam Reddish all grow up under Pierce.
27. John Beilein – Cleveland Cavaliers
Beilein is a hell of a college coach, but that is a whole different animal than what he is going to find in the NBA. He’s got some vets in Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, but a lot of youth in Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, and Cedi Osman. He might be able to connect with the kids a bit more than the veterans on this team. If he can then we might see a fun Cavs team this year.
26. David Fizdale – New York Knicks
I feel bad for Fizdale, I do. He’s a good dude and he’s coaching for the worst owner in all of professional sports. He’s set up to fail with the roster he’s been given. We’ll see if he employs an all power forward lineup when the Knicks are down 30. There’ll be ample chances.
25. Ryan Saunders – Minnesota Timberwolves
Last year Saunders did a decent job with the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns continued to grow and played a lot better under Saunders than Thibs and from time to time Andrew Wiggins looked like a serviceable NBA player. I want to see what he does with Jarrett Culver.
24. Frank Vogel – Los Angeles Lakers
I wanted to rank him lower, but he does have some chops and has taken an Indiana Pacer team to the Eastern Conference. But he didn’t do a great job in Orlando and has been out of the NBA for a few years now. He’s got LeBron James and Anthony Davis to make him look good, but can he get the supporting players to support the superstars? He probably won’t be around long enough to see the Lakers break their playoff drought.
23. Jim Boylen – Chicago Bulls
For all the hub-bub that flared up last season about how the players hated Boylen they seemed to respond to him more and more as the year went along. Was that an aberration or will he be able to turn Zach LaVine into an All-Star?
22. Dwane Casey – Detroit Pistons
Dwane Casey is one of my favorite people in the NBA. He cut his chops in the NBA coaching the likes of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, but like George Karl he was never able to get his talented rosters over the hump. The Raptors won the championship the year after he left (and LeBron went West and Kawhi Leonard hung out for a year).
21. Scott Brooks – Washington Wizards
In Oklahoma City the talent got the wins over the coach and now that there is only one All-Star to play with in Washington (Bradley Beal) you can see the type of job Brooks actually does. I had him lower originally and maybe he does belong there. Ugh, I better move on.
20. Billy Donovan – Oklahoma City Thunder
Donovan has had it really easy up until this point in Oklahoma City. He’s had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Steven Adams all together. Then he had Paul George and Westbrook and Adams. Now he has Adams. He does a decent job of building up young talent. Let’s see if he does it with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and whatever assets Sam Presti gets back from moving Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, and Adams this season.
19. Monty Williams – Phoenix Suns
Not sure how long Williams is going to last in Phoenix, because no coach seems to last in Phoenix. For him to stick around we need to see a big jump from Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker in an All-Star jersey… this year.
18. Steve Clifford – Orlando Magic
Clifford has so many young big men to work with his head must be spinning. I think he’ll get the Magic back into the playoffs again this year. I don’t think they’re quite ready to win a playoff series yet (top of the east is tough), but they’ll be playing well all year.
17. Luke Walton – Sacramento Kings
Walton heads back north with an array of good young talent. The West is tough, but I think we’re going to see the Kings competing (but not quite making) for a playoff spot this season. I’m excited to see what he does with Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield, and De’Aaron Fox this coming season.
16. Quin Snyder – Utah Jazz
I hated putting the Seattle native this low, but there are a lot of good coaches in the NBA this year. He can move way up the list if he wins the best record in the NBA (which I think they do) and go deep into the playoffs. Not sure they are a championship team, but with Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley running things this year.
15. Kenny Atkinson – Brooklyn Nets
Can Atkinson get along with Kyrie Irving?
14. Alvin Gentry – New Orleans Pelicans
I had Gentry lower, but he handled the distractions last year with Anthony Davis pretty well and the Pelicans weren’t an easy out last season. Hopefully, he can help Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram take the next step in their progression, plus how does he handle Zion Williamson and the building knee issues?
13. Erik Spoelstra – Miami Heat
He should probably be higher. He does a great job and he has a nice roster and has his first true star since LeBron left (sorry to end of career Dwyane Wade) in Jimmy Butler. They are not a championship team, but Spoelstra does a great job.
12. Nate McMillan – Indiana Pacers
McMillan is probably too high because of how much I loved him as a Sonic. I am calling out my bias right now. Take into account that he did a great job last season after losing Victor Oladipo early in the season. With Oladipo the Pacers were a top-three team in the East, after losing him they only dropped to fifth and beat some good teams along the way. He got that team to play out of their minds, but they ran out of juice in the playoffs.
11. Mike D’Antoni – Houston Rockets
He’s helped build James Harden into one of the three best players in the league. He struggles with in-game changes, but his teams win. Let’s see if he can get Harden and Westbrook to gel as a backcourt.
10. Terry Stotts – Portland Trail Blazers
Year after year the media counts out the Blazers and year after year the Blazers make a run in the playoffs. At some point, you can’t count out Stotts, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and team.
9. Nick Nurse – Toronto Raptors
The dude won a ship last year. Let’s see how he does now that he doesn’t have Kawhi.
8. Brad Stevens – Boston Celtics
Last year was not a good year for Boston. I think now that Kyrie is gone and he has Kemba Walker running point we’re going to see a much improved Boston squad. I think we’re going to see big jumps from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum this coming season as well.
7. Mike Malone – Denver Nuggets
He probably should be higher He’s killed it coaching the Nuggets. He’s developing Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray into superstars. He doesn’t make mistakes in games and he adjusts his gameplan extremely well.
6. Doc Rivers – Los Angeles Clippers
The last time Doc had this much talent he had his team in the NBA Finals. He’s got a stacked roster. A deep roster. I think we’ll see the Clippers playing well into June.
5. Brett Brown – Philadelphia 76ers
There was a lot of movement last season in Philadelphia and we should see some roster stability this year. Guys are going to have their roles and they have a united goal to win a championship. Another Gregg Popovich disciple stands in his way.
4. Rick Carlisle – Dallas Mavericks
He’s a really good coach. You could send him 12 Kevin Nesgoda’s (with current back and weight issues) and turn that group into a 17 win team. He’s the right guy to coach Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
3. Mike Budenholzer – Milwaukee Bucks
I thought we would see an improvement with Budenholzer taking over for Jason Kidd in Milwaukee, but not turning them into the best record in the NBA. I expect another small jump for the Bucks this year.
2. Steve Kerr – Golden State Warriors
This is going to be Kerr’s toughest challenge to date. No Kevin Durant. No Klay Thompson to start the year. A bench that does not have a whole lot on it. We’re really going to get to see what Steve Kerr is made out of this season.
1. Gregg Popovich – San Antonio Spurs
There is talk that Pop might not have an All-Star this year. I do think that Zion is going to replace LaMarcus Aldridge on that roster this year and the West is too deep at guard for DeMar DeRozan to make a dent. But the Spurs will more than likely make the playoffs again. You can give Pop a band of one-legged, blind monkeys that have had their dominant hands cut off and he’d still push for a playoff spot.