Is Chicago Bulls' Tom Thibodeau Still a Candidate for NBA Coach of the Year?

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Is Chicago Bulls' Tom Thibodeau Still a Candidate for NBA Coach of the Year?
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Thibodeau has led his Chicago Bulls to a 35-28 record, and they've done it all with a slew of injuries and without their MVP Derrick Rose playing a single minute.

The Bulls currently have four inactive players: Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton and the aforementioned Rose.

The last two seasons, the Coach of the Year award has come down to Thibodeau and Gregg Popovich, with Thibs winning the former year.

Could this year be the same? Is Thibodeau even a candidate for the award?

There are a few reasons why he is.

 

Team Performance

The Bulls offense has not been great under Thibs, but they've been dominant in every other aspect of the game.

Per game, Chicago currently ranks third in points allowed and sixth in rebounds (third in offensive rebounds).

That's how the Bulls have won a majority of their games. Thibodeau has the Bulls playing intense defense for four quarters and makes sure they crash the boards on every miss. With just enough of a point differential and a plus-two advantage on the boards on a nightly basis, Chicago has managed to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls have fared well against tough competition, too.

Chicago has 16 wins against teams over .500, including impressive wins against the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers and three against the New York Knicks.

They're also one of the better teams in the league away from home, posting the seventh-best road record (17-14).

 

Player Development

Second-year forward Jimmy Butler has been playing extremely well in his expanded role and has shown flashes of being a great player in the future.

Joakim Noah was selected to his first All-Star team and has become the best passing big man in the NBA in Thibodeau's system. Not to mention he continues to rebound at a high rate and could possibly win an award of his own.

Another improvement has been Carlos Boozer's defense. His help defense is better and his rotations are quicker than before. He might not be the best defender on the Bulls, but he has dedicated himself to getting better.

Marco Belinelli's season also shows how great a coach Thibodeau is.

Thibodeau often uses Belinelli as a point guard, and it has been a great call, as Belinelli has shown he can run the offense and make good decisions with the ball.

The way Thibodeau has handled injuries and kept his team alive shows that the Bulls are one of the best-coached teams.

 

Can He Win the Award?

While Chicago has performed well this season, they've also been very inconsistent, especially in the last month and a half.

The Bulls are 7-11 since February, splitting their six home games during that stretch. In fact, the Bulls haven't been great at home all season, posting an 18-14 record at the United Center.

They've lost to a Cleveland Cavaliers team that had no Kyrie Irving and let two contests against the San Antonio Spurs slip away from them in the second half.

When considering other top candidates for the award (Popovich and Frank Vogel, to name a couple) it's hard to imagine Thibodeau winning it. The Bulls' inconsistencies really hurt his chances at the award.

Even though he might not win the award, Thibodeau should still be considered a Coach of the Year candidate.

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