NBA Teams Who Need to Trade Their Coaches, Not Players
Can you actually trade a coach? Well, sort of. Just ask Stan Van Gundy.
In December of 2005, Van Gundy resigned as head coach of the Miami Heat only 21 games into the season. Team president Pat Riley took over and the Heat won the NBA title.
In 2007—after Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan backed out of the $27 million contract he had signed—the Orlando Magic pursued Stan Van Gundy, the only other coach they had interviewed for the position.
The Heat still retained the rights to Van Gundy's coaching services, but they allowed him to take the job with the Magic. For compensation, the Heat received the 39th pick in the 2007 draft and the option to swap first-round picks in 2008 or receive another second-rounder and cash.
Getting compensation for a coach you don't want? That's a win-win situation.
So, how about some other current coaches that should be traded? Well, where do I start?
While I would be very, very surprised to see any of these coaches actually get traded, the point is that it could technically happen. So please indulge my tongue-in-cheek review of the NBA coaching landscape.
There have already been three head coaches dismissed this season, and it's not even the All-Star break yet—so it seems like anything could happen. Here, in order of their worthiness to be fired, are coaches that should instead be traded for something. Or anything.
Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
Rick Carlisle coached the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA title in 2011, but upper management has allowed that championship core to relocate around the NBA. Gone are Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry.
Currently, the Mavs are 14-23. They're 1-4 in their division and 6-14 in the conference. They allow 103.2 points per game, tied with Houston for worst in the Western Conference—except Houston averages 105.6 points on offense. Dallas averages only 98.9 per game. And in the NBA, only the Charlotte Bobcats allow more points per game (103.9).
Coach Carlisle has had a good run with Dallas, but this seems like time to rebuild. Mark Cuban has pinned his hopes on landing a marquee star to supplement Dirk Nowitzki, but such an acquisition seems less and less likely.
The Mavs have O.J. Mayo producing 18.4 points a night, and both Chris Kaman and Darren Collison have posted nice numbers. Even Shawn Marion and Vince Carter are enjoying a renaissance. But Dallas is still losing. The Mavs have dropped eight of their last 10 games.
Perhaps Carlisle can impersonate Jim Carrey for another NBA franchise. They should trade him for a president of operations who can actually stand up to Mark Cuban, instead of kowtowing to every whim like GM Donnie Nelson.
Mike D'Antoni, Los Angeles Lakers
The L.A. Lakers already fired one coach this season, so they'd be crazy to do it again. That's why they should instead trade Mike D'Antoni.
When Mike Brown was fired, the Lakers were 1-4. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff went 4-1. D'Antoni is 10-16 so far. They've allowed over 100 points in 18 of D'Antoni's 26 games.
If D'Antoni's stint as the New York Knicks' head coach wasn't proof enough, his feat of making Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard uninterested in playing defense is the ultimate coup. The Lakers have lost six in a row and look completely lost.
With Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol out, the Lakers just need to scratch out a few games until one or both can return. But they will really need to get hot in the latter half of the season to secure a playoff berth in a loaded Western Conference.
D'Antoni could be the offensive coordinator for the Indiana Pacers if they're willing to ship Brian Shaw out to L.A. That's who Jim Buss should have hired in the first place to take over for Phil Jackson.
Instead, to justify the younger Buss' massive ego, the Lakers deviated from their proven formula to be coached by Mike Brown and then D'Antoni, and they're 15-21. They are currently in 11th place in the West, 13 games out of first place—even with Kobe playing MVP-caliber basketball.
It's hard to believe they were Vegas favorites at the start of the season. And seven seconds or less doesn't seem to be the answer for this team, despite the presence of Steve Nash.
Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are in limbo. They lost Steve Nash in the offseason and currently have a 12-25 record—last in the Pacific Division.
Alvin Gentry took over coaching duties during the 2008-09 season. After advancing to the conference finals in 2010, they have been a .500 team. And now they're without the talents of Nash.
The Suns have a young roster and the team is in rebuilding mode, though it's not building much of anything as yet.
Phoenix has a talented player in Jared Dudley who can't seem to find his ceiling. It has also plumbed the depths of foreign basketball talent with Goran Dragic (who took some of the sting out of losing Nash), Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat.
However, Michael Beasley has disappointed, and the current roster isn't clicking. The Suns are getting outscored by 4.7 points per game, and something has to give. They are a deplorable 2-16 on the road, and the winds of change are blowing.
This team should swap Gentry for whatever draft pick it can get. He can coach up the point guards on some other team as to what Nash used to do, and the Suns can hope for successful young talent in the draft.
The desert sun has set on Gentry. It's time for a change of scenery.
Keith Smart, Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings appear likely to be sold to a group that plans to move the franchise to Seattle. Keith Smart is almost certainly not going to be invited along for the move.
The highlight of Smart's basketball career was surely hitting the game-winning shot in the 1987 NCAA Championship Game to lead Indiana over Syracuse. It's pretty much been downhill for him since then.
He has been the head coach of three NBA teams, each time being promoted from assistant coach to replace someone who had been fired.
In the 2010-11 season, Smart guided the Golden State Warriors to a 36-46 record—a 10-game improvement over 2009-10. But Golden State still gave him the ax.
With the pending move to Seattle in the cards, the Kings will surely look to overhaul the team. It looks like this will be another one-and-done gig as head coach for Smart.
So you might as well get something for him. Given the depth of the Western Conference, the 13-23 Kings are very unlikely to make a playoff run. Perhaps GM Geoff Petrie could exchange Smart for a Starbucks gift card.
Lawrence Frank, Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are not that bad a team, which is why it's a travesty that they are 14-23.
Lawrence Frank took over coaching duties in Detroit last season, going 25-41. It looks like more of the same this year, and the Pistons are going nowhere fast.
Though they have played decent defense this year, the offense hasn't sufficed, and they are a terrible 4-14 on the road.
Frank could be traded back to the Brooklyn Nets to recreate the good old times. They are currently operating under their own interim head coach, P.J. Carlesimo.
The Nets could ship Kris Humphries to Detroit. He's pretty unpopular and looks far too much like teammate Brook Lopez. In Detroit, he could team up with budding star Greg Monroe to form a frontcourt to build upon.
Byron Scott, Cleveland Cavaliers
Byron Scott is in his third season as the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have finished dead last in the Central Division in each of the last two seasons. This year, they're still stuck in the cellar, with an even worse record than the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Cavs also sport a dreadful 1-9 record in their division and a point differential of minus-5.3 points.
The Cavs have been hit hard by injuries this year. After losing young superstar Kyrie Irving earlier in the season, they are now without big man Anderson Varejao, who had been enjoying an All-Star-caliber season.
Cleveland is 4-12 at home this year. Pretty much nothing is going right for the team. Watching Irving play from night to night is the only reason the Cavs are relevant at all.
It's time to rebuild around Irving, who will be great for a long time if he can stay healthy, and Scott will be part of the housecleaning.
How about Byron Scott and Anderson Varejao to the Lakers for Mike D'Antoni and Pau Gasol. Now there's a coach who could turn Kyrie Irving into a superstar.
Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards named Randy Wittman their interim head coach in January of 2012 after Flip Saunders was sacked on the heels of a 2-15 start. Wittman had his interim status removed prior to the 2012-13 season.
With John Wall sidelined due to injury, the team has stumbled to an embarrassing 5-28 record, including 1-15 on the road.
The Wizards are currently the worst team in the NBA, but there are a couple of bright spots. The play of Jordan Crawford has been a boon to fantasy players at least. And rookie Bradley Beal has really begun to blossom.
But Wittman is essentially just the whipping boy for a terrible team. One wonders if no coach at all could do a better job. The Wizards are averaging 89.2 points per game—the worst offensive output in the NBA. As a team, they are shooting worse than 41 percent from the field.
According to the team's official Twitter account, John Wall is back already, debuting against the Atlanta Hawks on January 12. Washington should try to trade Wittman for a college coach who can motivate thisyoung roster.
Maybe Billy Donovan can be lured back to the NBA for real this time.
Note: all statistics accurate as of January 11, 2013.
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