We’re back here for the Anti-Awards, honoring the worst of the worst of the NBA season.
As a sub, we had some fun with the first trophy: theÂ Least Valuable PlayerÂ Award. And decisivelyÂ lessÂ fun with the oft-criticizedÂ Worst Executive Awards. But if one bad sequel ever stopped a franchise from continuing, we would never have seenÂ The Hangover III. And like those movies, we’re going to keep riding this damn concept until the wheels fall off completely.
Next up will be the Coach portion of the evening. We’ve got some great/terrible coaches of the past here filling up the ballroom. Byron Scott‘s on stage giving a lecture about the benefits of long two-pointers, while Derek Fisher takes that opportunity to hit on Scott’s wife backstage. Multi-time winner P.J. Carlesimo is in the house, ready for his own lecture series on player relations. And of course, a new icon of bad coaching will receive a lifetime achievement award: an old lady named Ethel Blankenship, who gave Donald Trump his first ever H.R. lecture on sexual harassment back in 1974. Congrats, Ethel; you’re a legend now.
But right now, let’s focus on the here and now.
WORST Coaches of 2017-18
(5) No official # 5 given
Learning a lesson from the last award, we’re not going to force awards here. I debated a few coaches here, but couldn’t settle on a true contender.
Among them: Stan Van Gundy (Our Worst Executive of the Year!), whose Pistons team is obviously a disappointment on the court as well. That said, there are some positives. Andre Drummond‘s somehow boosted his FT% over 60. SVG has also finally embraced Reggie Bullock, who’s shooting 44.5% from three. If Bullock and Luke Kennard can take another step forward as spacers, perhaps there’s some reason for optimism here after all.
Similarly, it’s hard to blame Steve Clifford forÂ tooÂ much in Charlotte. The team’s mediocre, but the roster is mediocre. Sure, we’d like to see even more playing time for Jeremy Lamb and Malik Monk (and not MCW), but hey, it’s not criminal. And given Clifford’s health/stress issues, we’d rather lay off the guy and give him a day off. Maybe a career off, too, to be honest. Take it easy, Cliff.
Depending on how the season turns out, Mike Malone may snatch # 5, but I can’t blame himÂ tooÂ much for the team’s struggles on defense considering Nikola Jokic‘s limitations there. Also, the Nuggets’ win streak has given us an awesome matchup at the end of the regular season. Another pass on our ballot.
(4) Tyronn Lue (CLE), preseason over/under: 53.5 wins, record 50-31
While it’s not theÂ hardestÂ job in the NBA like Tyronn Lue claims, it’s certainly not easy coaching under the microscope in Cleveland. Lue’s team continues to chug along to 50 wins, but that’s not a particularly impressive pace given that he has a top 3 player of all-time on his team and top 3 payrollÂ around him. The +1.1 point difference (down from +3.2 last year) is even scarier.
Earlier in the season, Lue struggled to keep the egos of new stars Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose in check and maintain some flow on offense. And certainly, defense has never been this team’s calling card either (they rank 28th in opponents’ FG%).
Perhaps most confusingly of all, Lue has LeBron James playing 37.2 minutes a night. If you’re effectively cruising through the season, why take a risk like that with your star player? Perhaps LeBron really wanted to chase MVP and needs minutes/stats to do so, but given the way the media only valuesÂ averages,Â the team could have at least given LeBreezy a few full games off. Nope. He’s played all 81 games this season already.
Lue may be even higher on this list if the regular season or seeding “mattered” to the Cavs as much as it does other teams.
(3) Tom Thibodeau (MIN), preseason over/under: 48.5 wins, record 46-35
Perhaps expectations for Tom Thibodeau and this new-look T-Wolves team were too high. After all, they had aÂ long way to go on the defensive end and in the standings in general (coming off a 31-51 year). And there have been some signs of progress, with K.A. Towns and even Andrew Wiggins taking steps up as defenders.
But clearly, they haven’t gone far enough for the liking of NBA fans (Minnesota fans most of all.) Old habits die hard. Thib is still playing his stars too many minutes, regardless of whether or not we want to blame Jimmy Butler‘s injury on that specifically. He’s also playing hisÂ non-stars too many minutes, highlighted by our LVP Jamal Crawford at 20.7 per game. Almost single-handedly, Crawford will take away any gains the team made on defense around him. And even with Crawford doing his part to jack up some shots, the team is still dead last in three-point attempts (22.5 per game.) If Thibs is going to fulfill this team’s potential, the old leopard will have to change his spots.
(2) Frank Vogel (ORL), preseason over/under: 33.5 wins, record 24-57
You can make an argument for Frank Vogel to win this award because his team isn’t in the playoff picture at all. And make no mistake, it certainlyÂ feltÂ like that was Vogel and the Orlando Magic’s intention. Pure tanking teams don’t usually start off 8-4 on the year, which would put them well behind the eight ball/lottery ball.
I believe VogelÂ wantedÂ his team to take the leap, but he just couldn’t pull it off. HeÂ wantedÂ his team to be a modern age, 3-point shooting squad, but they couldn’t pull that off either. Perhaps he’s trying too hard, and shoving square pegs in round holes. Vogel has big man Nikola Vucevic shooting 3.6 threes a game (at 31.5%) and Jonathon Simmons shooting 3.0 threes a game (at 33.8%). And while Aaron Gordon started the year with a hot hand, perhaps he’s gone too far as well (5.9 threes per game, at 33.2% conversion.) Given all that, it’s no surprise that this team shoots the 5th worst percentage in the league from beyond the arc. Every team wants to be the Houston Rockets, but not all teams have the personnel for it.
Perhaps more damningly, the Magic haven’t taken a step up on the defensive end either. In Indiana, that was Vogel’s signature. Here in Orlando, he’s been given some long athletes to work with, but can’t translate that same success. In year two, they’ve actually taken a small stepÂ backÂ in terms of points and FG% allowed.
Vogel’s one “feather in his cap” is that the Magic made a hard charge to leap back into the tank race and may land a top 5 pick as a result. Mario Hezonja has also shown some signs of life. But overall, it’s too little, too late.
(1) Jason Kidd (MIL), preseason over/under: 47.5 wins, record 43-37
Obviously, Jason Kidd has already been shown the door in Milwaukee, so those season stats don’t fully reflect his work. The team went 23-22 prior to his firing. And 21-15 after. When you’re being shown up by some dude named Joe Prunty, it’s not a good sign.
During Kidd’s time in Milwaukee, there are definitely some positives takeaways. Kidd proved to be a good mentor for Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s development, helping spark him into a legitimate All-NBA candidate. On the other hand, he apparently clashed with the team’s other young pup Jabari Parker. Given that Parker is slated to be a (restricted) free agent, that may have been playing with fire. Getting along with people (players and execs) isÂ partÂ of the job, and it’s one that Kidd has never mastered.
There’s also some pride and stubbornness in the way that Kidd coached this team. ESPN’s Zach Lowe is a lot better at analyzing the X’s and O’s, but he’s made a point about how the Bucks’ aggressive defensive scheme has been “figured out” by most opponents who can swing the ball around and get wide open shots. Similarly, I’d like to have seen Kidd experiment with Giannis at center as the ultimate wild card and mismatch, but it’s a look that hasn’t utilized much.
The reason that Kidd ranks as # 1 for me is because this team had HUGE potential. The talent is there â,especially on defense. Given the injuries in Boston and the chemistry issues in Cleveland, the East is a wide open lane. With a better coach and system in place, the Milwaukee Bucks could have been the breakout team that Philadelphia turned out to be. Alas, they sputtered.
Kidd has also tarnished his own reputation as a rising star coach. Going forward, I imagine Kidd will be “rumored” as a coaching candidate at a few stops but will struggle to land another job because of that ego, as well as past abuse charges that may earn more scrutiny in today’s climate.