5 Biggest Mistakes NBA Coaches Have Made This Season
"Owners own, players play, coaches coach."
If you've ever played sports, you might've heard this maxim once or twice. Jim Fink's quote, although glaringly obvious, says a lot about the situations that exist in a lot of the sports we love.
This is especially true in the NBA. In a league flooded with misused or poorly handled talent, just a single bad coach can affect the well-being of a billion-dollar franchise.
Now this isn't a personal knock on any coach's intellect or basketball know-how— it's easy for anyone with a keyboard and opinion to bash a professional head coach in hindsight.
At the end of the day, owners, players and coaches are human beings, and of course, human beings are prone to making mistakes. That being said, what are some of the biggest mistakes coaches have made (or are still making) this season?
Andre Drummond Not Getting More Minutes
There are the elite teams, the fringe teams and then there's the "struggle" teams. Sadly, the Detroit Pistons are on "struggle" status this season.
Now, okay, they aren't as bad as the Washington Wizards record-wise, but they are certainly a team in that awkward rebuilding phase. Considering they are nowhere near serious contention, would it be fair to say that there's very little to lose?
Personally, I'd say, "Yes, there is very, very little to lose at this rate." So once that point is established, why isn't your ultra-talented rookie Andre Drummond getting more minutes?
Apparently, he's not getting minutes because he doesn't practice very well. If you're Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank, you need to see the bigger picture. There is absolutely nothing to lose, and when you have a guy like Drummond who is putting up productive numbers in limited time while still being a rookie, this is definitely an approach that needs to be modified.
Frank's old-school mindset of, "Play well in practice, play more in games" is admirable, but sometimes there simply players who practice poorly for whatever reason.
All that matters is the 48 minutes of action during the regular season, and considering the Pistons have absolutely nothing to lose, Frank needs to let Andre have a chance to make as many mistakes as he can and learn from them.
You can't cultivate talent if you choose to constrain it.
The JaVale McGee Conundrum
Similar to Andre Drummond, McGee is an example of an incredible talent possibly being constrained by a stringent head coach. However, we have to remember the context of the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons is much different.
Whereas the former is seriously trying to contend, the latter is just trying to get their head above water. Now this isn't a criticism of head coach George Karl necessarily, as much as it's a suggestion to take a calculated risk.
Okay, sure, McGee is definitely an incredibly tasking prospect to refine—he's built like Wilt and jumps like a prime Vince Carter (not quite 43 inches, but still, it's impressive), but he has the basketball IQ of Andray Blatche.
You can understand why Karl isn't giving him more playing time, but that being said, he has probably the most talented big-man prospect in years.
Denver isn't bad team either, but they are a team that could use a spark, and McGee could very well be the spark they need. If you're a betting man, it would be a safe wager that McGee could very well make the Nuggets one of the most frightening match-ups if McGee was given more opportunities to make the most of his minutes.
The guy is averaging 10 points, 5 boards and almost 2 blocks in 18 minutes of action, and although he's the laughingstock in the league for some of his antics, his ability can't be denied.
Karl has a risky bet on the table. The safe bet is doing what he is doing now, you know, basically reducing McGee to a reserve to spark the secondary unit. However, if he goes all in on McGee and gives him way more minutes, it could dramatically pay off in a big way.
DeMarcus Cousins and His Fiery Personality
DeMarcus Cousins is a monster. Considering his skillset, his production and his potential, his situation is so frustrating, considering how he's being handled by his head coach, Keith Smart.
Watching Sacramento Kings games is sometimes an awkward affair, especially when you see how little of a handle Smart has on his personnel at times.
The most glaring of issues Smart is having to deal with is undoubtedly the ongoing tension with DMC. To be fair, Smart's approach isn't necessarily wrong per se, but it needs to be tailored a bit.
Smart is a players' coach. He is a coach that he hopes his players can trust and understand that he has their back. He isn't some brilliant tactician, but rather, he is looked upon as an anchor in which the players can look to when the going gets tough.
After Paul Westphal got canned, Smart definitely seemed to at least be a better mediator based on the fact he was a change of pace and the players related to him better. Recently however, we're seeing a regression in the player-coach relationship between Cousins and Smart, something that wasn't as evident as it was last season.
By having Cousins' back at times, it seems as if Cousins may have seen him as more of an equal rather than a superior. Rather than correcting his outbursts on the court, Smart seemed to defend and enable this behavior rather than curtailing it, and when he eventually cracked down on it, it's possible this led for DeMarcus to mistrust his intentions.
It is the classic case of becoming too buddy-buddy with a subordinate, and as a result, they lose respect for you. After Smart had to lay down the law earlier this season, it seemed the disparity of control expanded even further.
The Kings would be wise to seek a coach that can find a way to manage these personalities better, not that there are too many, but regardless, Smart is not the solution to this problem.
The fact that Cousins is still continuing to make the same mistakes is a sign that the veteran leadership in the locker room or the coach himself has failed to establish boundaries and discipline consistently.
You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't refine and control it, you won't win in the long run.
D'Antoni and the Plummeting Lakers
D'Antoni is by no means a bad coach, and he certainly inherited a rough situation, but either way, there is obviously something horribly wrong in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Lakers have become one of the most bizarre disappointments in sports history. This is a team that many picked to win the championship after assembling what years back would've been a fantasy team you could only hope to see in an All-Star game or NBA 2K.
However, NBA games aren't played on Xbox, they're played in real life, and in real life, the Lakers have been the epitome of mediocrity, and it a lot of it stems from their coaching.
Again, D'Antoni is not a bad coach, but he is a terrible mismatch for this organization. D'Antoni's system is all about small ball. Pick up the pace, pick and roll, drive and kick, set up quick shots—traditionally, his offense is all about controlling the game and maintaining a quick tempo.
Because his system is traditionally set-up to play like that, it is a horrible idea that he is tasked with tailoring his offense with a team of guys that frankly aren't built to run at such a pace for 48 minutes.
With Kobe being required to guard the other team's best player and shoot as much as he does, he's going to have no legs by the end of games. Steve Nash isn't quite the same anymore, and guys like World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard work better in half-court sets.
What makes the mismatch even worse is the fact that D'Antoni is by no means a defensive mastermind, so considering there is a system essentially being run for the wrong personnel, they are unable to make considerable strides on the side of the ball they are as equally terrible at.
The Lakers are just a flat-out mess, and D'Antoni is beginning to show that he's failing to adapt to the circumstances. Also, considering he's effectively shattered the confidence of a player like Gasol who has a reputation for being sensitive to criticism, he's squandering the piece who might be the answer.
He has two seven-footers who could easily be a huge mismatch problem, but instead, guys like Metta are shooting way too much and the offense becomes stagnant because Kobe is relied upon to make the majority of the baskets.
Kobe is undoubtedly capable of scoring with the best the league has ever seen, but there are nights where the team lives and dies (and they're dying much more than their living) on his shots.
You can get away with his contested pull-ups for some nights, but if he's tired and his shot is off? Forget it, they just can't score and they can't stop anybody, either. It's just an all-around bad relationship, and one that Lakers would be wise to sever it at some point.
This is a team that doesn't mesh at any level, and with awkward player meetings and a plummeting record, it's clear that the inevitable Lakers rebuilding process is rearing its ugly head sooner than expected.
D'Antoni is demonstrating his failure to adapt, and he's also demonstrating his failure to curtail these wildly conflicting personalities.
Avery Johnson's Isolation Offense
The "Little General", better known as former head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Avery Johnson was an example of yet another bad relationship. Johnson is very savvy, but he favors running a lot of isolation plays within his offense.
When he was coach of the Dallas Mavericks back during their championship run years, a lot of his offense was centered around giving Dirk Nowitzki the ball and letting him work his magic.
Some nights isolation basketball works, and some nights it doesn't. Unfortunately for Avery, it didn't work very well for a good while after the Nets' hot start this season, and it became apparent that a change would be necessary.
Too many nights, the offense centered around Joe Johnson catching the ball on the wing, or at other times, Deron Williams having to make something happen off the dribble one-on-one.
In the long run, you can win playing that way no matter how great your players are, eventually, the team that moves the ball more and can utilize all of its collective ability will always outlast a team who relies on one man to fill it up each and every time.
Pervasive stagnancy is a sure sign your offense is flawed, and after a rough stretch, Johnson was eventually fired.
There were signs that Deron Williams wasn't happy with this offense to begin with, especially when he openly expressed his preference for an offense with more motion.
Now with PJ Carlesimo under the helm, it's apparent that the Nets are finally clicking on offense, and luckily for them, their star point guard is back to enjoying the game.