Ranking Best Candidates for NBA's Coach of the Year

Andres MonteroContributor IMarch 2, 2013

Ranking Best Candidates for NBA's Coach of the Year

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    The best coach in the NBA must either bring a winning atmosphere to a team, a new dimension to their game or perhaps simply sustain a franchise's previous success.

    There are plenty of coaches this year deserving of this accolade.

    Gregg Popovich comes to most fans' minds early in discussions about best coach in the league, but newer and younger coaches like Mark Jackson and Frank Vogel have made a name for themselves by bringing a winning culture to their respective teams.

    The coaches on this list are picked based on not only their team's performance, but also how they've gotten there.

    Stats and records don't tell the entire story, but there's no doubt they are major factors.

5. George Karl, Denver Nuggets

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    George Karl has a Denver Nuggets team with no real No. 1 option (although most of his starters are borderline All-Stars) and has led his squad to a 38-22 record, good for fifth in the Western Conference.

    While his system doesn't feature a great defense, their fast pace allows for many easy scoring opportunities in transition.

    According to TeamRankings, Denver is first in fast-break points, with 19.5 points per game. They are also first in points in the paint per game with 57.4, 11 more points than the second-place team.

    The Nuggets have the second-fastest pace in the league, with 95 possessions per game. This has given them one of the highest-octane offenses in the NBA.

    The Nuggets' performance against elite teams has been solid, too. They have beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder twice and are 1-1 so far against the San Antonio Spurs.

    Karl has his team on the right track and, with the right matchups, could make a good playoff run. Because of that, Karl is a candidate for Coach of the Year.

4. Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies

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    After the Memphis Grizzlies' playoff run was cut short a year ago by the Los Angeles Clippers, Lionel Hollins now has his team on the brink of elite.

    They have the top scoring defense in the league, force the third-most turnovers and are third in steals.

    Memphis has fared well against some of the toughest teams, beating both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder once and defensive powerhouses like the Chicago Bulls twice.

    After Memphis traded Rudy Gay, some believed they would lose their chances at competing for a title. Since shipping him to the Toronto Raptors, however, the Grizzlies have gone 9-4, including an eight-game winning streak.

    Considering all the adjustments that come with trading away a star player, being able to maintain the same level of play is a great feat.

3. Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors

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    In his second year as a coach, Mark Jackson has made the Golden State Warriors a legitimate playoff threat.

    The Warriors are 33-26, second in the Pacific Division, a big improvement from last year's record of 23-43.

    Jackson has brought a new attitude to the team. He has made the team tougher and they are better offensively, mostly due to Stephen Curry.

    Klay Thompson's development has been a big part as well and that's where Jackson comes in.

    Thompson is averaging 11 more minutes per game than last year and is a regular starter now. He fits perfectly in a fast-paced, running team.

    According to Synergy, a majority of Thompson's points come from spot-up, off-screen plays and transition opportunities. He averages a combined 1.05 points per shot.

    Not only has Thompson's game improved, but the Warriors also had their first All-Star player (David Lee) since 1997.

    The Warriors' turnaround season and player development earns Jackson Coach of the Year consideration.

2. Frank Vogel

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    The Indiana Pacers are perhaps the biggest threat to the Heat's playoff run.

    While some are quick to not regular season success is not a great predictor for dominance in the postseason, the Pacers have beaten Miami by double digits twice, dominating the boards and in the paint.

    Currently, the Pacers are right around where they finished last season: third in the Eastern Conference, but they are leading the Central Division.

    So, why is Frank Vogel this high on the list?

    The Pacers' defense is allowing five less points per game than last year and rank first in defensive efficiency. They are also leading the league in rebounding.

    The biggest adjustment they've had to make was playing without leading scorer Danny Granger.

    The emergence of Paul George has been a huge asset to the team and his performance was rewarded by being selected to his first All-Star game.

    He has the best defensive rating (per basketball-reference.com) on the team and has proven that he can be the go-to guy when he is called upon, as he leads the Pacers in scoring.

    This team has improved in many ways and the fact that they are a legitimate championship contender makes Vogel one of the main candidates for Coach of the Year.

1. Gregg Popovich

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    Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA. No coach has ever won back-to-back Coach of the Year awards, but he could be on his way to becoming the first.

    The Spurs have the best record in the NBA, but how they have reached their 46-14 may be more impressive than the record itself.

    Tim Duncan has missed 10 games, Manu Ginobili has missed 13 and Tony Parker four, yet they've only lost three games in which at least one of the three aforementioned stars missed a game.

    This has shown that Popovich has faith in his bench and led to the emergence of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter as key pieces of the team. They have all increased their scoring from last season and are now averaging 10 points per game each.

    The Spurs do most of their damage as a team, however.

    Their ball movement is next to none, as they have the best assist ratio in the league, with 19.3 percent of their possessions ending in assists.

    They also have the third-best defensive efficiency in the league and are fourth in offensive efficiency.

    Popovich has the team to beat. He has the deepest and most complete unit. The Spurs remain on pace to finish with the best record in the league.