We are almost to the halfway point of the NBA season. It is not too early to start thinking about who’s making a case for postseason awards.
When looking at candidates for coach of the year, I think the best gauge is to see who exceeded expectations. Who got their team playing at a higher level than you would have guessed? Who pulled a bunch of mismatched guys together to create a true team? Who is the real Gordon Bombay? (If you get that reference, we can be friends)
A couple Portland Trail Blazers players think their coach, Terry Stotts, deserves to be in the discussion.
Rookie Damian Lillard says Stotts is doing a great job of taking the Blazers past people’s expectations.
"I definitely think he is [an early Coach of the Year candidate] because of the way he handles our team," Lillard said. "What everybody expected from us, it wasn't this. I can remember when people were saying 'We don't expect much' and 'It's going to be a rough year,' and in my head, I believed in our team and he did, too. As long as we continue on the same road as we are now, I think it's definitely a possibility he could win the award."
LaMarcus Aldridge also thinks his coach is worthy of the honor.
"I would definitely say he should be Coach of the Year right now," Aldridge said. "I think he has taken a bunch of pieces and he's meshed them together to put us in position to win every night and to put us in position to be in the playoffs right now. So he definitely deserves to be recognized for what he's done."
The Blazers are 19-15, good enough for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. While I do think Stotts has his team higher in the standings than most would have guessed, I think there are other coaches who deserve more recognition.
My top candidate would be Mike Woodson, head coach of the New York Knicks. Who thought the Knicks would be 23-11 and challenging the Heat for the top spot in the East? Woodson finally has that team playing to their potential and he deserves to be acknowledged for that.
Right behind him would be Vinny Del Negro. I know it is kind of a cop out to pick the coaches of two of the top teams in the NBA, but, honestly, who thought the Knicks and Clippers would be competing for conference titles?
Other top candidates would be Kevin McHale in Houston, Larry Drew in Atlanta and maybe even Mark Jackson in Golden State. All these guys are leading their teams past what people expected of them before the season started.
There is still a lot of basketball left to be played, so a true frontrunner for coach of the year could emerge before the end of the season. For now, there are a lot of good choices out there. It’s hard to pick just one.