5 Best Coaching Staffs Who Can Mold Rookies of 2012 NBA Draft
The successful teams at the NBA draft don't just identify the best pro prospects; they also know how to coach them once they enter the league.
In the 2008 draft, the Washington Wizards thought they found a steal when they took JaVale McGee with the 18th pick overall. The sophomore out of Nevada was brimming with athleticism, but had little court awareness to harness it.
Unfortunately, neither Ed Tapscott nor Flip Saunders were able to teach McGee the nuances of the pro game. After a month under Randy Whitman, his third head coach in four years, McGee was traded to the Denver Nuggets. Perhaps he will still pan out as an NBA center, but it won't be in Washington
Earlier in that same draft, the then-Seattle Supersonics used the fourth pick on Russell Westbrook, another great athlete who had issues with fundamentals. Rather than force him into the mold of the prototypical pass-first point guard, Scott Brooks has embraced and encouraged Westbrook's attacking style, allowing him to develop into the All-Star guard he is today.
At the NBA draft, there are success stories and cautionary tales, and the right coaching staff could be what pushes a player to the best of his abilities. Here are the five best coaching staffs for developing rookies in 2012.
Monty Williams, New Orleans
Anthony Davis is a lock to become a Hornet, which means Monty Williams will get to do what he does best: coach defense.
The Times-Picayune lauded the third-year head coach on his dedication to defense, particularly for big men. Mississippi State prospect Arnett Moultrie gave Williams a glowing review following his pre-draft workout, saying "He’s a hard-nosed coach and great teacher, and it was a learning experience for me."
For his part, Williams is modest about his craft, quick to pass the credit on to his supporting staff.
“I’m not versed in all of the big man aspects, but I do know some things from being around other bigs like Patrick, David and Tim,” Williams said. “And yet I’m fortunate that we have my assistants Randy Ayers, Kevin (Hanson) and (director of athletic development) Carlos Daniel, who have been really good in helping our bigs improve.”
Under Williams, New Orleans is one of the best landing spots for an up-and-coming big man. If Moultrie was able to learn from just one session with him, imagine what a physical specimen like Davis will be able to accomplish as Williams' full-time pupil.
Byron Scott, Cleveland
Byron Scott has a reputation for being demanding, but he is committed to the development of his young players.
Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer kept tabs on Scott's handling of Kyrie Irving throughout the season. In January, Scott openly disparaged Irving's defense play after C.J. Watson gashed the Cavaliers, quipping, "C.J. Watson to me almost looked like Rose the way he was going by him."
Less than two months later, it was actually Irving's selflessness that drew Scott's criticism. Per the Plains-Dealer: "[H]e's doing a great job of getting his teammates the ball," Scott said, "but I do want him to be a little more aggressive in looking for his shot," Despite the fact that Irving was averaging 18.4 points per game at the time, Scott saw Irving deferring too much and nipped it in the bud.
Scott was hard on Irving all season, but ultimately, his treatment paid off, and Irving was named the 2012 Rookie of the Year. True to form, he wanted Irving to return in May to work on specific parts of his game. With Scott, there is always room to improve, and he will help his players every step of the way.
Doc Rivers, Boston
Doc Rivers has a reputation as a guy who does not play rookies, though the facts do not support this claim.
As Celtics Life points out, Rivers has actually never had a problem playing rookies dating back to his time in Orlando, where he coached Mike Miller to a Rookie of the Year award.
There is evidence that he has given his rookies less floor time since the 2007-2008 season, but the explanation is more than reasonable. First, it makes sense to take some minutes away from your young guys when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen come to town. Second, guys like Gabe Pruitt, J.R. Giddens and Lester Hudson did not deserve to see the court, so they didn't.
While he's been getting bashed for not being nurturing to his young players, Rivers has helped Rajon Rondo develop into a maestro at the point guard position. With the Celtics moving forward from the Big Three era and holding two first-round picks, Boston will be as good of a destination as any for rookies in 2012.
Frank Vogel, Indiana
Frank Vogel is building the consummate team in Indiana, helping to keep his players in their comfort zones while pushing them to the best of their abilities.
Looking back on the Pacers' leap forward in 2011-2012, Vogel raved to the Indianapolis Star about his players' development while stressing that they keep working to improve.
Paul George used his length and athleticism to become a defensive stopper last season, but Vogel made sure to focus on his development as a well-rounded player. "I'd like to feature him more in the offense going forward," Vogel said. "I think he's one of the biggest areas of individual growth we may see."
For Darren Collison, who came to Indiana in 2010 after a year as a Hornet, Vogel expressed optimism that the young point guard would keep working and force a point guard competition next season.
"I could definitely see a situation where Darren, one of the most driven players I've ever been around, comes back and outplays George," Vogel said. "He's that driven and that's a real possibility. I'm hoping that we have them both back; that they both strive to get better in the offseason and I have a very difficult decision to make next year. That's what I hope."
However, Trail Blazers Bloggers Network reports that the Pacers might leverage Collison and the 26th pick to move into the lottery. If so, Vogel will get another talented rookie to work with moving forward.
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
Tom Thibodeau doesn't just coach a strong defensive system; he is also one of the best in the league at developing defensive talent.
When Tom Thibodeau arrived in Chicago in 2010, Taj Gibson was drafted with the 26th pick in the first round, and Omer Asik came over from Turkey to sign with the Bulls. Thibodeau instilled in them his defense-first philosophy, and they have paid dividends with their bruising physicality and relentless motors off the bench.
In fact, the Bulls feel so strongly about Gibson's and Asik's progress that the Daily News reported they were considering moving Joakim Noah or Luol Deng for a first-round pick. If it's Noah that goes, it would signal a major vote of confidence for Gibson and Asik, giving them the minutes to really make an impact.
The Chicago Tribune believes that Harrison Barnes might be Chicago's target in trading up. If so, Thibodeau has shown he can develop offensive weapons, as well. After all, it was under Thibodeau that Derrick Rose improved his perimeter game en route to his MVP 2010-2011 campaign.
Even if the Bulls stand pat with the 29th pick, they will likely get good value. Regardless of where Chicago drafts, Thibodeau will get the most out of his young players, continuing a formula that has made the Bulls great again.