Yesterday the NBA handed out monthly awards, honoring each conference’s respective head coach of the month. Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies won the Western Conference’s, and to the surprise of some, Avery Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets took the award for the Eastern Conference.
Of course, these awards are near meaningless for these coaches, whose ultimate goals are to be winning in May and June, as Al Iannazzone pointed out. Coach of the Month is probably little more than a gold star for head coaches at this point in the season. However, considering the circumstances, did the Knicks’ Mike Woodson deserve to be the East’s Coach of the Month?
Through the month of November, Woodson and Johnson’s teams posted identical records of 11-4, tying their teams as leaders of the Atlantic Division. However, the skill level of those teams remains a point of debate amongst Knicks fans in favor of Woodson. In November, the combined records of the Nets’ opponents (current as of today) was 96-105, a winning percentage of .478. The combined records of the Knicks’ opponents in November, also current, was 110-103, a winning percentage of .516.
So while the Nets’ schedule was easier, statistically, it’s also been argued that Avery Johnson doesn’t have the same quality tools to work with as Mike Woodson. While this is probably true to an extent, the Nets didn’t come into the season completely unrepresented or considered to be underdogs. The Nets do still have an All-Star back-court and two borderline All-Stars in Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez. The Knicks were knocked all offseason for becoming too old and assembling a roster that doesn’t fit together.
Perhaps Avery Johnson’s best case for the award over Woodson is that the Nets won the two teams’ first head-to-head battle. Otherwise, however, the Knicks have also gotten off to a better start statistically than the Nets. According to Hoopdata, the Knicks rank first in offensive efficiency, whereas the Nets are ninth. On offense, the Knicks also shoot a better True Shooting percentage (field goals, three-pointers, and free throws weighed) at third in the league at 56.4%; the Nets are 15th at 52.4%. The Knicks also rank third in three-point percentage and first in turnover rate to the Nets’ 24th and 9th, respectively.
On defense, the Knicks rank one spot ahead of the Nets in defensive efficiency at 11th to the Nets’ 12th place spot. The Nets do rank better than the Knicks in categories like points allowed and opponents’ true shooting percentage, whereas the Knicks have a better rank than the Nets in forcing turnovers.
To the current day, what we have is a somewhat meaningless award and proof that both teams are pretty close in terms of their records, stats, and skill levels. What is interesting is to see who is getting recognized for their accomplishments.
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