Kerr didn’t deserve Coach of the Year

I mean come on. This is a joke right? Steve Kerr was named the 2016 NBA Coach of the Year today. That’s a little tough to swallow.

Steve Kerr
Kerr returned to the Warriors’ bench on January 2o. (Wikimedia Commons)

Obviously, it actually has nothing to do with Kerr’s coaching ability. He is a great coach. His personnel usage is incredible and he seems to have a close connection with his players.

Kerr missed half of the season though. Actually more than half if you want to get into specifics. Due to health concerns, Kerr missed the first 43 games of the season and Luke Walton coached in his place. The Warriors ended up winning a record 73-games this season, but Kerr’s record while coaching was 34-5. Walton’s was actually better at 39-4.

While the reason why Kerr missed half of the regular season games this season was out of his control, it does not mean that it should be forgotten that he missed all of those games. Kerr’s triumphs off the court were probably more important than anything Golden State did on the court this season and he should be honored and praised for that. Just not with the Coach of the Year Award.

In my opinion, there are two ways this could have gone instead that would have been much more acceptable. The first one would be if they named Kerr and Walton Co-Coaches of the Year. They each contributed pretty much evenly to the team’s success this season.

This would be somewhat similar to 2012, when Bruce Arians won the NFL’s Coach of the Year award, despite being the interim replacement for Chuck Pagano while the later missed most of the season for cancer treatment. Arians coached 12 of the team’s 16 games, so he received the award. Walton coached slightly more than half, but with the split being so close to even, I think it would be fair to have the two coaches share the award.

x-default
The Spurs went 40-1 this season under Popovich. (Wikimedia Commons)

The other option would have been to give the award to the next deserving coach, in this case Gregg Popovich. Pop’s Spurs won 67 games this year, and he coached all of them. That comes in tied for seventh all time for most wins in a season.

Popovich rested his guys throughout the year and showed that, similar to Golden State, he knew how to manage his team. He played small ball, he went big. He played fast, he slowed it down. Pop can get his guys to do anything he wants.

In most other seasons, San Antonio would have finished with the best record in the league. In fact, the Spurs became the team with the most wins to not finish with the best record in the league this season. Usually, that would mean that the team with the best record had the best coaching. However, in this case, it was not just one coach. If the award is meant to go to an individual and cannot be shared, then it should have gone to Popovich.

I like Steve Kerr a lot and I am not trying to argue that he isn’t a great coach, but give me a break. There is no way he deserved to win this award. It should have gone to someone else.

Advertisements

Counting down the most successful sports city

So following the Super Bowl and now starting the long four-month lull until another championship game is played, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the last 15 years of sports champions. More specifically, I am ranking the top ten sports cities in the US since 2000. This includes the five largest sports leagues in America, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. The rankings will mainly rely on championships won by a single city but I will also take into account appearances in the finals as well. Let’s see if your city makes the list.

The cities just missing the cut are Houston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Houston has two titles, both coming from their MLS club the Dynamo. The Astros made a World Series run in 2005 but got swept. The Texans haven’t helped. Philly has four appearances in the big game but only one victory. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 but then lost the next year. The Eagles lost in 2005 as did the Flyers in 2010. Baltimore has two titles but both came from the Ravens. The Orioles did not do enough to really pad Baltimore’s resume.

#10 Kansas City 2 total titles in 4 total appearances
Not exactly a massive market but Kansas City has been a pretty solid sports city since 2000 when it comes to success. The forgotten team here will be the MLS club. The Kansas City Wizards, who is now Sporting KC, won the MLS Cup in 2000 and later made it to the 2004 final. 13 years later, Sporting KC left its mark with a MLS Cup victory. Then just this past year, the Royals made a shocking run to the World Series, eventually losing to San Francisco. The Kansas City NFL team, the Chiefs, could have boosted this city up the list some but they have had very little playoff success since 2000, not coming anywhere near the Super Bowl.

#9 St. Louis: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The St. Louis Rams were actually the first team to win a sports championship in the new millennium, taking home the 2000 Lombardi Trophy (which I ranked as my most exciting Super Bowl game of all time). The baseball team in St. Louis has done most of the heavy lifting though as the Cardinals have been among baseball’s best in the past 15 years. The Cards have two World Series titles from the 2006 and 2011 campaigns. This MLB team also came up just short in both 2004 and 2013, at the hands of the Boston Red Sox on each occasion. A little help from the Blues in the NHL could’ve pushed St. Louis above the next few cities on this list.

#8 San Francisco: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The San Francisco Giants have been baseball royalty over the past five years. In that time span, they have nailed down three World Series titles. San Francisco also made a trip to the Series in 2002, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Anaheim Angeles. The football team in San Francisco is pretty good as well. The 49ers came close for years to making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They finally accomplished that goal in 2013, but came up short against the Baltimore Ravens. Close, but no cigar. That Super Bowl victory could have vaulted San Francisco past the number seven city on the list.

#7 Pittsburgh: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
If this were an all-time list, Pittsburgh would have to be higher up on it. As it is only since the year of 2000, the city takes a drop. This has still been a successful city though when it comes to sports titles. The Steelers have earned two of them, in 2006 and 2009. They also came up a touchdown short in 2011 of winning another one against the Packers. On the ice, the Penguins have been one of the top teams in the NHL for some time now. They are perennial contenders and managed to make a Stanley Cup run in 2008, losing to the Detroit Red Wings, before returning the following year to beat those same Red Wings. Unfortunately, the Pirates haven’t been much help to the Pittsburgh cause in a while. Pittsburgh has been good, just not as good as…

#6 San Antonio: 4 total titles in 5 appearances
Amazing that a city with only one professional sports team can make the list. Well that’s what happens when the San Antonio Spurs are that one team. After a win in the NBA Finals in 1999, the Spurs watched as the Lakers won three consecutive titles to open the 21st century. The Spurs retaliated by winning three out of the next five. After an eight-year finals drought, San Antonio got another shot at a ring in 2013, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Heat. The rematch the following year though fell the other way giving the Spurs their fourth title since 2000.

That is the bottom half of the list. Check back in tomorrow for the top half of the countdown.

Who means more: The Big Three or Kawhi?

It’s not often the reigning NBA champion Spurs make headlines for anything other than winning. Especially not for something said by Head Coach Gregg Popovich. Yet it happened. Popovich was quoted this past week talking about his young forward Kawhi Leonard and it was some high praise. According to cbssports.com, Popovich told Leonard, “To heck with those guys. The Big Three, they’re older than dirt. To hell with them. You’re the Big One. You’ve got to go do your deal.”

All this praise for the 2014 NBA Finals MVP begs an obvious question: is Pop right? Does Leonard really mean more than Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker? Popovich has been calling this kid the new face of the franchise since drafting him in 2012.

I decided to break it down a little bit. I wanted to see if there was a way I could find a way to place a value on Leonard, even if just in comparison to his teammates. So let’s take a look at everything we can find.

The basic stats won’t cut it, but they are helpful so we will start there. Leonard is second on the Spurs in points per game (14.9) this season behind Parker (16.2) and ahead of Duncan (14.0). He also ranks second in rebounding nightly (8.0) behind Duncan (10.4) and Leonard leads the team in steals per game (1.88). Leonard is also second among starters in terms of player efficiency rating with an 18.7 behind Duncan, who has a 21.4. Clearly, Leonard can pull his own weight as he is contributing across the board. He is also a solid shooter, hitting 45.6% of his shots and is third on the team in 3-point shots made, behind Danny Green and Ginobli. Looking at it this way, Leonard seems more to me as a part of a Big 4 potentially, rather than a Big One just yet. Nevertheless, we need to search a little deeper.

Some adjusted statistics tell the story a little better especially when you look at the Big 3’s and Leonard’s averages per 36 minutes of play. Leonard is scoring at the same rate as Duncan (16.7) and behind both Ginobli (18.0) and Parker (18.7). The rebounding gap between Duncan and Leonard also widens a bit with them averaging 12.3 and 9.0 respectively. Once again, this seems like Leonard is just a part of the Big 4.

The advanced statistics are fun to examine as well as they show Leonard be an important cog in the team, but not the important one. Leonard has snagged 14% of possible rebounds while he has been on the floor this season. That is a solid mark but that only ranks 4th on the team (among players of have played at least 100 minutes) Duncan is 19.3% of the rebounds when he is on the floor. He does come up with a steal on 3% of all opponents possessions, which ranks ninth in the league. Leonard additionally has the lowest usage percentage out of the Big 4 (I am just calling them that now).

Leonard is tied for the team lead of Win Shares with Green and Duncan. The third year pro also has the second highest wins over replacement value behind Green but ahead of the rest of the Big 4. The gap though is only a meager 0.2 between him and Tim Duncan (3.5 and 3.3). For a reference point, Stephen Curry leads the league this season with a value of 8.0. That is not enough to give Leonard an edge for the title of “The Big 1.”

This does not mean by any stretch that I doubt that the former San Diego State product can’t eventually become the best player on a very talented Spurs team but for now, I am sticking with Leonard being a part of the Big 4. Kawhi Leonard is a very good player, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think he is as good as his coach wants him to think he is quite yet. Only time can tell. Let me know what you think.