A dozen teams have played at least half their schedule and another seven will join them today, when the most of the most significant holidays in this country’s history becomes the season’s unofficial midway point.
So Dr. Martin Luther King Day is as good a time as any to examine the current front-runners for the annual awards. Included are links to both our staff’s preseason picks and the current rankings.
And as always, we’ve included snide remarks if/when necessary.
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Last summer’s deep free agent market and the looming supertax seemed to force creativity among GMs and generate more candidates than usual. Atlanta’s Danny Ferry, Brooklyn’s Billy King, Boston’s Danny Ainge, Miami’s Pat Riley and New York’s Glen Grunwald still have the second half of the season for their already solid moves to have additional impact.
They are in a third tier behind Golden State’s Bob Myers, who added three rotation players through the draft and significant strength to his bench with veterans Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry; Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, who showed huge cojones in coldly dealing James Harden and getting back a virtually seamless fit in Kevin Martin; and Houston’s Daryl Morey, who took an unreal trip down the rabbit hole of rebuilding but began climbing out by landing and locking up Harden.
And that trio should tip its collective caps to Gary Sacks, who wasn’t even officially the Clippers GM this summer when he signed Blake Griffin to a max entension – the biggest step toward keeping Chris Paul – and brought in Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Ronny Turiaf to fill out the deepest roster in the NBA. LA’s bench would be a playoff team in the East.
PRESEASON PICK: Mitch Kupchak. Uh, not quite.
COACH OF THE YEAR: There already have been four changes, and only one – P.J. Carlesimo replacing Avery Johnson in Brooklyn – is having the desired effect.
Until recently, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman was doing a terrific juggling act with serious personal matters, seven new players and as many significant injuries, including his top two studs. Mark Jackson has done a nice job of changing the culture in Golden State by getting his players to defend and rebound without their best big defender and rebounder. And Mike Woodson has thrived under the microscope in New York.
Right now, however, this looks like a two-horse race between Central Division foes Tom Thibodeau of Chicago and Frank Vogel of Indiana, both of whom are positioned for top-four seeds despite playing the entire season without their meal ticket.
Yes, Tibs’ guy is a bit more instrumental to his team’s success. But in the absence of Danny Granger, Vogel has overseen the development of Paul George, George Hill and even Lance Stephenson and kept slumping Roy Hibbert as the backbone of the league’s best defense. All this while maintaining a 50-win pace.
PRESEASON PICK: George Karl, whose team’s home-heavy remaining schedule keeps him a long shot.
SNOTTY REMARK: On NBA.com, you can order custom seatwarmers with the likenesses of Bernie Bickerstaff, Kelvin Sampson and Terry Porter.