Few expected the Golden State Warriors would be near the top of the standings in the NBA Pacific.
With the murky bill of health surrounding both Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry heading into the season, Golden State appeared to be a fringe playoff team, even with the additions of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Brandon Rush's season-ending injury didn't help their case either.
But Mark Jackson has.
Helped along by a healthy Curry, Jackson is poised to coach the Warrior to their first playoff berth in six years. Golden State has a firm lock on the Western Conference's sixth seed and is a mere 10 wins away from doubling the victory total (23) from last season.
Don't make the mistake of believing the going has been easy for Jackson and company. Bogut figured to (eventually) play a huge role in the team's plans this season, but he's seen the light of just 12 games. Jackson has thus been relegated to depending on rookie Festus Ezeli (14.6 minutes per game) more than he would care to admit.
In spite of such adversity, the Warriors are still a playoff team. How surreal is to read that?
COY Chances: 35 percent
The going hasn't been especially pretty for the New York Knicks lately, but it's tough to discredit the job Mike Woodson has done in the Big Apple.
New York is third in offensive efficiency and third overall in the Eastern Conference standings. Though the Knicks have dropped toward the bottom-half of defensive efficiency, we've seen a more engaged Carmelo Anthony on the defensive end all season, which is nothing short of incredulous.
Admittedly, Woodson's refusal to tinker with New York's current starting lineup may cost him some votes. The current starting five are being outscored by 9.6 points per 100 possessions and Iman Shumpert looks visibly uncomfortable playing at the 3.
Still, Woodson has helped transform an expensive mess into a title contender. If he could only instill a sense of defensive competency in Amar'e Stoudemire, he could wind up being the favorite.
COY Chances: 20 percent
Frank Vogel isn't receiving enough credit for the job he's doing with the Indiana Pacers.
Navigating most of the season without Danny Granger and a generally ineffective Roy Hibbert should have spelled the end for this team, yet they currently sit with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana ranks first in defensive efficiency and presently poses the only legitimate threat to unseat the Miami Heat.
Normally, I'd hang the Pacers' stagnant, bordering on insipid offense, but despite ranking 25th in points scored per game (94), they've dropped at least 100 points in four out of their last five.
In other words, Vogel is proving to be a sideline-meandering genius.
COY Chances: 15 percent
Honorable Mention: Gregg Popovich
No coach has ever won Coach of the Year two seasons in a row, but I find myself still marveling at what Gregg Popovich (2011-12 COY) has done with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs are poised to finish with the NBA's best record for the third year running and are the only team in the top six of both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Yeah, Coach Pop has rendered them that kind of dominant.
COY Chances: 10 percent