Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 3:00 PM
Generally speaking the NBA is “a player’s league” while college basketball is much more about head coaching. We talked about that during March Madness, remembering the importance of college coaching within the Advanced Sports Betting and handicapping process. But, with Frank Vogel’s odd decision to keep the best rim protector in the league off the court in the final seconds of overtime this past Wednesday Night, it’s time to talk about coaching in the NBA Playoffs.
Let me run through the strengths and weaknesses of each remaining head coach from a handicapping perspective.
*FRANK VOGEL, INDIANA PACERS
I think Vogel is a great young coach with a strong future ahead of him. I love how he coaches defense. Though, I do believe he tends to over-think things under pressure. You saw that the other night. He was too concerned about jumpshooters getting open looks in the 10-20 foot range, and forgot all about protecting the rim to deny the easiest shot in basketball. I hope he isn’t always know for this poor choice!
Offense is another matter. Indiana plays great defenders, which means they’re very sloppy and inconsistent on offense. The best coaches find a way to excel on both sides of the ball. Phil Jackson’s teams played top-notch defense and ran the triangle on offense for example.
I have no trouble asking Vogel’s teams to cover as decent-sized underdogs. I’m much less comfortable asking them to win a game outright near pick-em that’s likely to go right down to the wire. It’s telling that their playoff wins so far have largely avoided last second drama. When they win, it’s by compiling a lot of cheap points off turnovers.
*ERIK SPOELSTRA, MIAMI HEAT
Spoelstra is underrated because there’s a large segment of viewers who assume that anybody could win with LeBron James on the floor. This is unfair to Spoelstra, who is already a great X’s and O’s coach who gets intensity and execution on both sides of the ball. Far too little credit has been given to Spoelstra for designing the play that freed up LeBron for the layup.
If there’s a strike against Spoelstra, it’s that he doesn’t go for the jugular. This makes Miami a very dicey team to bet on in Las Vegas when they’re pricey favorites. You saw that during the regular season when they laid double digits vs. bad teams. They’d just go through the motions and grind out a win. Miami is best to take at cheap prices when the media is doubting them…worst to take at high prices when everyone assumes they won’t be challenged.
*LIONEL HOLLINS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Hollins is best considered “a player’s coach,” meaning…that players love to play for him and will give an all-out effort. I think he’s very weak at X’s and O’s, and a poor in-game decision-maker. Management had to trade away Rudy Gay because Hollins kept trying to rely on a very poor percentage player to score in crunch time.
Defense is about effort…and Memphis plays great defense. I think harsh critics of Hollins need to give him more credit for this team’s defensive passion. But, those critics are right about some of his other weaknesses. It’s best to back Memphis in situations where their defense can key a cover (much like Indiana), either through cheap points off turnovers or hanging close as a medium-of-higher underdog.
*GREGG POPOVICH, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
You could make the case that Popovich is the Coach of the Year…every year…in the NBA. His brains and vision are just off the charts compared to so many other coaches. That being said…his teams have underachieved expectations in recent playoff action. His best players are getting old. His role players tend to have a weakness that gets exposed when matched up against the very best competition.
To me, Popovich can turn B+ talent into an A+ won-lost record in the regular season. But, there’s the consistent danger that they’ll drop back to playing like a B+ team in the playoffs. You saw that last year when Oklahoma City won four straight from them. You saw it two years ago when they were stunned in the first round by this very Memphis team. Heck, you saw it in the second half the other night when the Spurs blew an 18-point lead before surviving in overtime
Popovich has the coaching edge over Hollins, but he’ll need to keep his players from getting physically bullied the rest of the way if he’s going to advance to the league Finals.
I will certainly be considering the head coaches very strongly when handicapping this weekend’s playoff action.
Friday: Indiana at Miami in Game Two
Saturday: San Antonio at Memphis in Game Three
Sunday: Miami at Indiana in Game Three
Monday: San Antonio at Memphis in Game Four
I strongly encourage you do-it-yourselfers to do the same. If you’d like some help reaching final decisions on side and total action, you can always purchase game day releases from The Dean of Sports Handicapping right here at the website with your major credit card.
See you again early next week to talk about basketball or baseball. I’ll let developing stories in the world of sports make that determination. Thanks again to all of you for your hard work in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping!