In the NBA, it’s an increasingly difficult task to find the right head coach to lead a franchise to consistent success. It almost always requires a coaching philosophy that fits the roster personnel. In some cases, it’s just a matter of the head coach being in the wrong situation for their game plan. With that in mind, here are three NBA teams that could be whistling a much different tune had they hired the right head coach.
1. Chicago Bulls
In their first season under head coach Fred Hoiberg, the Chicago Bulls have been a shadow of the team they were over the last five seasons, which saw them win at least 45 games in each campaign, including topping 50 wins three times during that span. With Tom Thibodeau at the helm, Chicago built their identity using a stout defense that ranked near the top of the league.
Things took a drastic step backward in that department as Hoiberg changed the team’s philosophy, playing a more uptempo offense, which created a more lax defense that gives up 102.9 points per game. Chicago has allowed opposing teams to score 100-plus points 50 times, and they hold a 15-35 record in such contests.
This season includes 11 straight losses (where the opponent has scored over 100 points) as well as five separate losing streaks that involved the opposing team notching more than 100 points. Along with that, Hoiberg has experienced well-documented rifts with Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah throughout the season.
Yes, the Bulls’ roster does have a few issues, such as Noah’s absence due to his shoulder injury and Derrick Rose’s consistently poor performances, but they possess too talented of a roster to currently sit two games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. With the right coach in place, Chicago should be back among the top teams in the East.
2. Sacramento Kings
Over the last couple seasons, the Sacramento Kings have accumulated enough talent to put themselves in serious contention for a playoff spot. DeMarcus Cousins is arguably the best center in the league while the addition of Rajon Rondo seems like one of the best pickups last offseason as he continues to play like an elite point guard.
However, in their first full season with head coach George Karl, the Kings’ hopes haven’t exactly panned out. Along the way, there have been several public barbs between Karl, Cousins, and Rondo. It appeared to reach a boiling point just prior to the All-Star break, when numerous reports stated that the front office seriously considered firing Karl. But they’re keeping him on board for the rest of the season.
It has been a disastrous year; one that had the potential to work out much better. We’re not saying that Karl is a bad coach, but rather that he’s in the wrong situation. And the Kings don’t possess the talent that would make them champions with the right coach, but they should be holding down one of the last playoff spots in the daunting Western Conference.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
In a similar regard to the Kings, the Milwaukee Bucks have put together a talented roster that shouldn’t be sitting out of the playoff picture. They possess a few young players will a high ceiling of potential, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Greg Monroe. So, seeing them fall short of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference makes this a bit of a headscratcher.
The Bucks have built a foundation to be a solid playoff team for many years down the road, but the fact that they took a step back this season isn’t encouraging. It begs the question about whether or not head coach Jason Kidd can take them to the next level in the future. The decision to move Antetokounmpo could help expedite that process, but whether or not he’s a long-term solution is still up in the air.
Given the young roster, there’s still time for things to pan out under Kidd, but if the team can’t show any significant progress in his third year as the head coach, it’s fair to assess that he may not be the best choice. The clock is ticking on Kidd, and if Milwaukee experiences another campaign like the 2015-16 season it will be time bring in someone who could take their promising core to greater heights.