The Portland Trail Blazers have overachieved all season long after their starting lineup was dismantled over the summer, and head coach Terry Stotts has rightly drawn praise now that his team is in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said he believes Stotts is the "front-runner" to receive the NBA's Coach of the Year hardware, according to ESPN.com's Royce Young.
While it may sound a bit strange for Stotts to receive that sort of compliment on the surface considering the Blazers are just three games over .500 (30-27), context is crucial.
Portland entered the 2015-16 regular season with just one holdover (Damian Lillard) from last year's starting lineup after LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum all parted ways with the franchise via trades or free agency.
Not surprisingly, the team was rightly expected to suffer serious regression in the win column. But despite the tremendous turnover the Blazers have had to deal with, Stotts has had his team humming.
Now rolling with a rotation that consists of Lillard, rising star C.J. McCollum, free-agent signee Al-Farouq Aminu, young castoffs Noah Vonleh and Moe Harkless, Mason Plumlee, Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis and Gerald Henderson, the Blazers rank seventh in offensive efficiency behind surefire postseason qualifiers.
|1||Golden State Warriors||112.5|
|2||Oklahoma City Thunder||109.7|
|3||San Antonio Spurs||109.3|
|5||Los Angeles Clippers||106.6|
|7||Portland Trail Blazers||105.2|
Perhaps more impressive is that Portland's offensive rating of 105.2 is just fractional points off the pace (105.5) that last year's group set en route to winning 51 games and capturing a Northwest Division crown, per NBA.com.
And as last Friday's 137-105 drubbing of the Golden State Warriors proved, the Blazers aren't messing around. They've won six straight and 16 of their last 22 dating back to the start of 2016, trends that indicate Stotts' squad is hitting its stride at the perfect time.
Carlisle certainly belongs in the conversation thanks to the way he's propelled a fairly lackluster Mavericks roster into the postseason picture, but Stotts' case has been strengthened in a major way as Portland has defied expectations and emerged as a potential threat to pull off a first-round upset.