OFFSEASON PREVIEWS: Lakers | Knicks | BullsThere is obvious value in a coach that leads a team to the top seed in the conference. There is also the coach that takes his team to another level from the year before. And there is the coach that gets the most out of a roster with limited talent. These factors make the 2018-19 Coach of the Year race intriguing and unpredictable.A few NBA coaches have a case this season, but we’ve whittled it down to a final four. Let’s take a look at the argument for each coach winning the award.Mike Budenholzer, BucksCoach of the Year case: Budenholzer is no stranger to the award. He was the Coach of the Year in 2014-15 after leading the Hawks to the top seed in the East with a 60-22 overall record, but this might be his best coaching job yet.After a first-round exit at the hands of the Celtics in the 2018 playoffs, the Bucks decided Budenholzer was the right man to develop Giannis Antetokounmpo and push them to the next level. No one knew just how good this Bucks team could be, or what Antetokounmpo could do with a proper roster and strategy built around his game. Budenholzer hasn’t disappointed.Milwaukee’s offense has transformed under Budenholzer. Surrounding Giannis with shooters like Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton has allowed him to thrive and develop into a possible MVP. The Bucks are the third-most efficient offensive team after finishing 10th last season. They take the second-most 3-pointers in the league (up from 25th in 2017-18), and they’re top three in both field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage.MORE: Giannis surprised by Bucks’ sensational seasonDefensively, they have improved by leaps and bounds as well. Under Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty in 2017-18, the Bucks were 18th in defensive efficiency (109.1). They currently sit at the top of the league in that category (104.5). They are much less aggressive on the perimeter and prioritize protecting the paint. That has led to a boost in rebounding — Milwaukee went from dead last in defensive rebounding percentage last season (70.9) to second this year (75.4).It’s not always easy to judge a coach’s impact, but what Budenholzer has done for the Bucks cannot be overstated. He’s been Milwaukee’s best offseason acquisition. He took a team with potential and turned it into a title contender with the best record in the league. He certainly is deserving of his second Coach of the Year award.Doc Rivers, ClippersCoach of the Year case: Vegas had the Clippers’ over/under win total at 35.5. They are currently at 47 wins with four games left on their schedule. Proving the doubters wrong is often a tired cliche in sports, but that’s exactly what Los Angeles has done.The Clippers were only supposed to be rebuilding after the “Lob City” era and chasing free agents this summer. Competing in the stacked Western Conference seemed delusional. Sure, the roster had competent role players, but hardly anything approaching star status. (The one potential star the Clippers did have, Tobias Harris, was traded to the 76ers ahead of the February deadline.)And yet, here we are. The Clippers have a shot at 50 wins. They hold the sixth seed in the West, and they’ve become the best team in LA. Rivers, rightly so, is getting plenty of praise.This is the start. pic.twitter.com/k1251e8jtx— x – LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 27, 2019MORE: Lou Williams is much more than Sixth Man of the YearNot long ago, Rivers’ time in LA seemed to be coming to an end. His role as president of basketball operations and head coach didn’t go as planned with a few roster-building misfires. But with the burden of personnel decisions no longer on his shoulders, Rivers has rediscovered his magic touch. He’s taken a team without a superstar and found a way to maximize this roster.Danilo Gallinari is enjoying a career year now that he is finally healthy. Lou Williams is going to win his third Sixth Man of the Year award. Montrezl Harrell has been a revelation, and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has thrived under the tutelage of the former point guard.To put it simply, Rivers has been masterful. He’s created a culture that preaches family and togetherness. If you’ve spent any time around the locker room, you know how much Rivers’ team loves him. The respect and trust in Rivers has resulted in a playoff berth — and maybe Rivers’ second COY trophy.Mike Malone, NuggetsCoach of the Year case: The Nuggets have morphed into one of the best teams in the West under Malone. They likely won’t take the top seed in the conference after losing to the Warriors on Tuesday night, but the fact that they were even in that position is its own accomplishment.The Nuggets have officially made “the leap.” They’ve easily surpassed last season’s win total, and Malone has overseen the impressive development of All-Star center Nikola Jokic. Malone has also been a major factor in the development of young guards like Jamal Murray, Monte Morris and Malik Beasley.The most obvious improvement has been on the defensive side of the court. Last year, the Nuggets struggled to stop anyone. They finished 23rd in defensive efficiency, just behind the lowly Knicks.MORE: Malone frustrated by mistakes in loss to WarriorsWhile the Nuggets aren’t going to blow anyone away with their defensive prowess, Malone has been able to make them respectable. They’re currently a top-10 team in terms of defensive efficiency, and Jokic in particular has made strides on that end. Denver has also jumped from the worst 3-point defense in the league last season all the way to second-best.Malone’s job hasn’t been easy. Denver has been bit by the injury bug throughout the season. Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton have all missed significant time with injuries. Malone has been able to keep winning while waiting for his roster to get healthy.Denver could enter the postseason with a better record than every West team except the mighty Warriors. Malone deserves credit here.Nate McMillan, PacersCoach of the Year case: When Victor Oladipo was lost for the season in late January, the Pacers became an afterthought in the East. Without the services of their lone All-Star, Indiana was expected to slide down in the standings.Somehow, McMillan and Co. have been able to collect enough wins to have a fighting chance at home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Pacers share an identical record with the Celtics (46-32) in the fight for the fourth seed.They’ve done it with a starting lineup consisting of good-but-not-great players. Myles Turner, Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young aren’t stars, but they are typically reliable with effort and production. Domantas Sabonis, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and Doug McDermott have contributed off the bench.MORE: The story behind Pacers players appearing on “Parks and Recreation” The Pacers have remained competitive because of their defensive energy. They’re third in defensive efficiency, seventh in opponent field goal percentage and fourth in opponent turnovers. As FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring notes, this team has no problem with winning ugly.Though a deep playoff run seems unlikely, don’t count out the Pacers against a Celtics team that has been inconsistent. With Boston’s inability to find its rhythm and Indiana’s defensive pressure, the Pacers will have a fighter’s chance at advancing to the second round.Considering the Oladipo injury and a roster that is far from loaded, it would be quite the accomplishment. McMillan should be recognized for keeping his team afloat during a trying season. Every year around this time, NBA media types get the awards ballot in their inboxes. Voting for awards like MVP and Rookie of the Year is an inexact science, but there are certain guidelines to follow that can limit the pool of players and ultimately decide a winner.When it comes to Coach of the Year, however, the reasoning behind voting for a particular candidate can be murky.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Jordan Clarkson during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)The stars will be out in Los Angeles, on the basketball court and all around it.The NBA’s All-Star festivities are back at Staples Center, with the usual events on All-Star Saturday night and a new format for the game Sunday.ADVERTISEMENT Lights inside SMX hall flicker as Duterte rants vs Ayala, Pangilinan anew Steam emission over Taal’s main crater ‘steady’ for past 24 hours Sea turtle trapped in net freed in Legazpi City GALLERY: Barangay Ginebra back as PBA Governors’ Cup kings LATEST STORIES Phivolcs records 2 ‘discrete weak ash explosions’ at Taal Volcano Some things to watch as Los Angeles hosts the All-Star Game for a record sixth time:LEBRON IN L.A.: James refuses to discuss his free agency during the season, but figure on it coming up in Los Angeles since there’s been such speculation about him signing with the Lakers. The Lakers, after a trade with James’ Cavaliers last week, would have enough salary cap space to offer a maximum contract to James and another star if he opts to become a free agent and leave Cleveland this summer.HOMECOMING KINGS: The Los Angeles area is home to a number of All-Stars, including 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City and runner-up James Harden, along with Oklahoma City’s Paul George and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.SIDELINED STARS: James’ team will look much different than the one he drafted after a number of injuries. DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, John Wall and Kristaps Porzingis all were forced to pull out. George, Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic and Kemba Walker were added as injury replacements by Commissioner Adam Silver.DUNK LIKE DAD: Larry Nance Jr., one of the players who went from Los Angeles to Cleveland in the four-player trade at the deadline, will be back in his former home arena to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest. He’ll try to follow in the footsteps — or flight path — of his father, who won the NBA’s first slam dunk title in 1984. Rookies Donovan Mitchell of Utah and Dennis Smith Jr., and Indiana All-Star Victor Oladipo round out the field.ADVERTISEMENT It’s too early to present Duterte’s ‘legacy’ – Lacson Nueva Ecija warehouse making fake cigarettes raided, 29 Chinese workers nabbed MOST READ BIEBS IS BACK: Bieber will return to play in the celebrity game on Friday night after winning MVP honors in the 2011 game. He will play on Team Lakers, co-coached by actor Michael B. Jordan. They will play against Team Clippers, who feature Academy Award winner Jaime Foxx.ALL-STAR SINGERS: Fergie will sing the U.S. national anthem and Barenaked Ladies will perform the Canadian national anthem. Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D will take the stage at halftime. Kendrick Lamar also is set to perform Friday night in Los Angeles as part of the weekend festivities. Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Arellano stuns Perpetual, nears NCAA men‘s volleyball crown UK plans Brexit celebrations but warns businesses may suffer Captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry drafted players from the pool of All-Stars and the winning team gets a $350,000 donation from the NBA to the charity it chose. The league is hoping the new format that replaced the traditional East-West matchup will make it more competitive after a couple of lackluster games the previous two years.Perhaps the players can heed the words of Kobe Bryant, who won the MVP award on his home floor when the All-Star Game was last in Los Angeles in 2011.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSTim Cone, Ginebra set their sights on elusive All-Filipino crownSPORTSGinebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup titleSPORTSAfter winning title, time for LA Tenorio to give back to Batangas folk“I feel like we have a sense of responsibility and we are voted in for what we do during the season, which is play hard,” Bryant said following that game. “And we come here, that’s what the fans want to see. They want to see us go at it and see us compete and that’s what I try to do and that’s what I try to tell my teammates to do.”Bryant is gone now but Beyonce and Jay-Z, Jack Nicholson and Justin Bieber are among the celebrities who attended that game and are scheduled to be back for at least some of this weekend. Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard PLAY LIST 02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite03:23Negosyo sa Tagaytay City, bagsak sa pag-aalboroto ng Bulkang Taal01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award Phivolcs records 2 ‘discrete weak ash explosions’ at Taal Volcano View comments