The Brooklyn Nets aren’t only chasing the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings, but their coaches are also the top-two favorites in the NBA Coach of the Year odds.
After a 12-game winning streak, the Nets lost for the first time in exactly one month in a 121-112 loss at the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. The loss prevented them from entering a first-place tie with Boston at the top of the East. The winning streak, however, helped propel the Nets from play-in territory into the conference’s elite.
Despite the loss in Chicago, Kevin Durant had 44 points, and he’s also seen his stock rise among NBA MVP contenders over the past month. The consistency of Kyrie Irving has also been a factor. In addition, the leadership of head coach Jacque Vaughn has also been a major factor in Brooklyn’s turnaround.
Vaughn Helped Turn the Tide From a Difficult Start
After a summer filled with drama over whether Durant or Irving would return, the Nets got off to a dreadful 1-5 start. After a 125-116 loss at home to Indiana in game No. 6, head coach Steve Nash called out the commitment that his players were making for the team. The responded with a seven-point win over the Pacers two nights later on Halloween. Despite the win, Nash and the Nets decided to part ways.
Vaughn was named interim coach. His only previous head-coaching experience was a brutal 58-158 run through 2.5 seasons with the Orlando Magic after the team lost superstar Dwight Howard and longtime coach Stan Van Gundy in the 2012 offseason.
He immediately had to keep the team together during a suspension for Irving that was handed down for off-the-court matters.
When Irving returned, the Nets were 6-9. They have gone 19-4 since. Vaughn, who had the interim tag dropped in earning the permanent head coaching job, was also named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month by the NBA.
This Twitter video below exemplifies the belief that the team has in Vaughn and the trust he has in his players.
NBA Coach of the Year Odds
Vaughn has shot up the ranks in the NBA Coach of the Year odds, sitting neck and neck with first-year Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. Let’s take a look at the odds, courtesy of DraftKings.
|COACH OF THE YEAR CONTENDER||RECORD||MONEYLINE ODDS|
|Joe Mazzulla, BOS||27-12||+260|
|Jacque Vaughn, BKN||25-13||+280|
|Willie Green, NO||24-14||+350|
|Taylor Jenkins, MEM||25-13||+600|
|Michael Malone, DEN||25-13||+700|
|JB Bickerstaff, CLE||25-14||+850|
|Rick Carlisle, IND||21-18||+900|
|Mike Brown, SAC||20-17||+900|
Examining NBA Coach of the Year Candidates
Mazzulla took over in Boston amid difficult circumstances, and he got the defending Eastern Conference champions off to an amazing start at 21-5. The team has cooled a bit in recent weeks, going 7-7 in its last 14 games but still remains atop the East.
Vaughn leading the turnaround in Brooklyn will be a huge feather in his cap if the Nets finish the regular season among the top finishers in the East. The team played much of last year and the beginning of this year in disarray, so the new coach deserves lots of credit for the turnaround despite having elite players in Durant and Irving.
Willie Green (New Orleans) and JB Bickerstaff (Cleveland) surprisingly have their teams contending for the top spot in their respective conferences. If either one of them nail down the No. 1 seed, they would likely become favorites for this award. New Orleans may struggle over the next few of weeks without Zion Williamson.
Denver was expected to improve with the return of Jamal Murray to join two-time defending NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, and they are performing up to expectations, which puts Michael Malone into the mix. Same goes for Taylor Jenkins in Memphis–the Grizzlies are proving that last year’s run to the No. 2 seed in the West wasn’t a fluke.
The top contenders are rounded out by veterans Rick Carlisle (Indiana) and Mike Brown (Sacramento). Each coach has their young team in playoff positioning despite low preseason expections.
Can the Odds on Vaughn Help You Cash in for NBA Coach of the Year?
Given that the Nets are coming off this long winning streak, you may want to see how things continue to play out for Vaughn and Brooklyn over the next several weeks. The log jam atop both conferences will make this a difficult race to predict. Our best bets are Vaughn, Malone, and Bickerstaff.