Charlotte Bobcat coach Larry Brown is among the few candidates in line for the award this year.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder, Scott Brooks- After finishing last year with a record of 23-49, the Oklahoma City Thunder are now in position to compete for the number 2 seed in the Western Conference with a record of 46-28. With a young nucleus of talented players including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and James Harden, the Thunder were expected to be headed in the right direction as far as acquiring young pieces to compete for years to come, but not too many people expected them to be this good this quick.
2. Portland Trail Blazers, Nate McMillan- The Blazers, much like the Thunder have positioned themselves to be contenders in the West for the next few years with a talented core of Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless, and Greg Oden, but they've faced the injury bug almost more than any one this year. With Oden's career being derailed again, injuries to new comer Marcus Camby, and Joel Pryzbilla, the Blazer front court has been damaged to the point of having to rely on former Bobcat role player Juwan Howard to start for a lot of games. Amazingly, McMillan still has the team competing for the number four seed in the ultra competitive West, and home court advantage for their first round match up with a record of 46-30.
3. Milwaukee Bucks, Scott Skiles- The mid-season trade for John Salmons has turned the Bucks from a team looking on the outside in, to a legitimate number 5 seed team in the Eastern Conference. With an early season ending injury to leading scorer Michael Redd, and no big off-season acquisitions other than the drafting of Brandon Jennings, the team looked to be doomed to another trip to the lottery, but have gone from mediocre to very scary over the past 2 months. Other than Cleveland, they've been the hottest team in the league since the trade deadline, as Scott's teachings have turned a roster with no superstars, into a scrappy defensive bunch that believes it can win every game it plays. The Buck's record currently sits at 41-34.
4. Charlotte Bobcats, Larry Brown- The Bobcats appear to be headed to their first playoff berth ever with a record of 40-35, and many in the organization are giving full credit to head coach Larry Brown. Very few coaches in the league have the ability to incorporate players into their system without a training camp together, but Larry is known for the complete opposite. After finishing last year with a record 35-47, and starting this season at 3-9, moves to acquire Stephen Jackson, Tyrus Thomas, Theo Ratliff and Larry Hughes have the team in position to compete for the number 5 seed in the playoffs.
5. Memphis Grizzlies, Lionel Hollins- According to many analyst, the Grizzlies appeared headed towards another terrible season after acquiring the controversial Zach Randolph to fill their starting PF spot. That appeared to be true early on with the team starting off with a record of 1-8 and the sideshow known as Allen Iverson disrupting team chemistry, but the team has recovered greatly. Although they'll miss the playoffs again, Memphis' record of 39-36 has the good ol' folks in Tennessee believing in their basketball squad's direction for the first time in years. The team only appears to be getting better with a solid, young core of O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Hasheem Thabeet, and Marc Gasol to build around for the next few years.
6. Chicago Bulls, Vinny Del Negro- Somehow, someway, the Bulls are still fighting for a playoff berth. Not too many people thought Del Negro would be able to last throughout the entire season with all of the adversity the team was going through early on in the year. He was able to hold on to his job, and was given the promise to at least finish the season. With management basically giving up on the season by trading away Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons at the deadline, many people figured Chicago would be long done in the playoff race by now. However, they've survived injuries to Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, Derrick Rose, and Luol Deng and a 10 game losing streak and still are only 1.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the final spot in the East with a record of 36-39.
7. Houston Rockets, Rick Adelman- Injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming doomed the Rocket's season before it even started. However, Adelman's teachings and a roster full of hard working players have kept the Rockets over .500 for the better part of the year. The team only recently fell out of the playoff chase, but many look at Adelman's work as some of the best coaching in the NBA. The team made a few moves to try to make a playoff run this year that didn't quite pay off, but just may be legitimate contenders in the Western Conference when adding a healthy Yao Ming to a team full of high IQ players like Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, and Trevor Ariza. The Rocket's record currently sits at 38-37.