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NBA AM: Players Who Should Coach

Which current or recently-retired NBA players have the potential to be great coaches?

Joel Brigham

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Through the first 10 games of the season, just about anybody with a vote would have no real choice but to make Luke Walton the Coach of the Year. After all, he took a young L.A. Lakers squad almost nobody believed in and transformed them into the team with the third-most wins in the Western Conference.

Factor in his role in Golden State’s record-breaking regular season last year, and it’s pretty clear that this is a man who was born to work a sideline. He’s good at coaching, obviously, but considering how he grew up and where he worked as an NBA player, that probably shouldn’t come as too big a surprise.

Former players become coaches all the time. Some, like Walton and Steve Kerr, are very good at it. Others, like Derek Fisher and Vinny Del Negro, didn’t quite find their stride (as of yet) when in charge.

With all that said, here’s a look at current and recently-retired NBA players who could very well make for excellent head coaches someday. They might not meet Walton’s early success, but any of these guys could be great at the job if given the opportunity:

Jason Terry – Currently with the Milwaukee Bucks, 17-year NBA veteran Jason Terry has spent his last couple years transitioning away from playing big minutes and toward more of a mentor and coaching role. Last season, for example, when the Houston Rockets brought Michael Beasley over from China, Terry immediately took it upon himself to work with Beasley and get him acclimated to the team. Beasley certainly played well upon his NBA return, but getting up to speed that quickly had at least something to do with Terry’s influence and efforts.

The guy already has such command of the game itself, but his intelligence and personable nature make him a very promising candidate as a coach once he does retire. In fact, the University of Alabama at Birmingham actually interviewed Terry for a head coaching opening this past spring, but he ultimately found himself back on an NBA roster for at least one more year. When he’s done playing though, you can bet he’ll end up on some sideline in a suit and tie.

Chris Paul – In the most recent GM survey, Paul was named the player most likely to be an NBA head coach someday, with 27.6 percent of current general managers naming him the frontrunner for that career path. Of course, back in February, Paul told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post that he has no desire to do such a thing, but you never really know until the opportunity is staring you in the face:

Despite this declaration, Paul would likely do a great job if he gave coaching a chance. There have been several seasons, particularly earlier in his career, in which he essentially was the player/coach, and based on his sky-high basketball IQ, that was a role in which he excelled. He has also been known to take younger players under his wing and help them develop, with Eric Bledsoe being an example. Still, Paul doesn’t seem to be even considering those prospects, and he’ll have made enough money over the course of his career to just retire and then ride all the banana boats he wants.

Jared Dudley – Right behind Paul in this year’s GM survey was Dudley, and it seems he actually has interest in the job. After only 10.7 percent of GMs voted for him, Dudley jokingly tweeted to Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy that he felt he deserved more votes.

He’s someone who deeply understands his fellow human beings, which means in terms of a coaching style he’d probably be what we’d consider to be a “player’s coach.” He’s diplomatic, thoughtful and unafraid to lead, all of which make great qualities for someone asked to head up an NBA roster. It also helps that he’s no slouch in terms of the X’s and O’s of basketball, and his experience as something of an NBA journeyman has given him plenty of experience with a variety of players and organizations. His temperament and intelligence make him an ideal candidate for a coaching job sometime after he retires.

Chauncey Billups – Anybody who’s watched Billups do TV work since his retirement knows he’s a brilliant NBA mind that absolutely has an elite grasp on the way this game works, but that’s not necessarily surprising considering how many elite NBA point guards before him also have had genius-level understandings of how basketball is best played.

He was atop that GM survey as the league’s top future head coach for years, and in just the last couple of seasons he already has been given serious consideration for jobs in Minnesota and Orlando. Reportedly, the Wolves job could have been his in 2014-15 after Flip Saunders’ passing, but Billups turned it down for fear of starting his coaching career with the worst team in the league. Orlando pushed hard to get Billups as Frank Vogel’s lead assistant just this past offseason and even were prepared to make him one of the best-paid assistants in basketball, but he didn’t want to give up his cushy analyst job just yet.

Two years ago, Billups told Kennedy that he’d prefer a front office gig to a head coaching one: “If I stayed in the game, I always felt like my best role would be in a front office.” But he didn’t completely rule out the possibility of coaching, so we shall see. Whether it’s the front office or the sidelines, Billups looks destined to find himself involved with an NBA team in the near future. It’s really more a question of “when” than “if.”

Ray Allen – Back in the summer of 2014, Allen talked about the potential for coaching following his retirement from playing, and while Allen shrugged off any immediate opportunities in favor of spending time with his four young children, he did leave the door open for coaching at some point down the road, perhaps when his kids were older.

“I like trying to get people to realize their full potential and getting people to be better and motivating people to be better than what they were,” Allen told Kennedy back in 2014. “I’m a coach already.”

Allen only recently officially retired, but once he’s gotten the most out of parenthood and his children are more capable of taking care of themselves, he may consider a trip to the sidelines, where his combination of intelligence, court smarts, experience and tact certainly would make him an excellent NBA head coach.

Elton Brand – There is a very strong chance that the recently-retired Brand will end up either coaching in some fashion or working in a front office. In fact, Philadelphia already offered Brand a lower-level front office position upon his retirement, according to Keith Pompey of Philly.com, but he turned it down without ruling it out for later.

In reality, the last few years of Brand’s career, he was brought in more to mentor young players than to actually play. Teams have loved his leadership qualities as well as his ability to keep the younger guys motivated and in check, and those are things that obviously could translate well to a head coaching position at some point. He already has a few years of unofficial experience.

Mike Dunleavy, Jr. – It’s no secret that the original Mike Dunleavy had plenty of success on the sidelines in his own career, but putting his successful basketball son, former No. 3 overall draft pick Mike Dunleavy, Jr., through a childhood that included plenty of time spent with basketball legends was the first step in grooming him for his own career as a coach someday.

When Dunleavy, Jr. was 10 years old, his father was the coach of the L.A. Lakers, which put him around guys like Magic Johnson and James Worthy. That, combined with a tough home basketball regimen that literally never saw the father go easy on the son, helped prepare him for playing basketball at a high level. Dunleavy, Jr. also played under Coach K at Duke, who taught him even more about that aspect of the game. Now he’s one of the most cerebral, professional players in the entire league. The path to him coaching is an easy one to envision, if only because being around it his entire life very obviously has rubbed off on him as an adult.

Metta World Peace – Yes, seriously. Had World Peace not made the Lakers roster this year, Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com reported that the organization was giving serious consideration to keeping him around in a different role:

Don’t laugh, because he’s apparently pretty serious about it. Rick Carlisle, easily one of the game’s longest-tenured and most respected head coaches, has emerged as something of a mentor to World Peace, answering texts from the player with fairly regular questions about the profession.

“He is a great guy who has absolute love and passion for the game,” Carlise said earlier this season. “I think he’s got a chance to be a good coach.”

There isn’t much World Peace hasn’t seen over the course of his career, and that knowledge and experience reportedly is why the Lakers were interested in hiring him. World Peace told TMZ earlier this season, “I think these coaches are having a great time, doing something they love to do, and I want to be in that same position someday.”

And maybe he will. Despite some questionable actions earlier his career, maybe he will.

***

Are there other players you think might make a great head coach someday? If so, hit up the comments section and put in your two cents. If Metta World Peace is an option, there should be no shortage of suggestions!

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NBA DAILY: What Is Really Wrong With The Thunder?

The Thunder continue to struggle to string together wins. What’s the problem in OKC?

Steve Kyler

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At Some Point It Just Doesn’t Work

The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to be middling, despite having the star level talent it takes in the NBA to be exceptional. With the clock ticking in the wrong direction, is it more likely that this combination of players won’t work, or is there something bigger at play worth considering?

Before we dive too far into this, keep in mind the Thunder have played their 26th game, and are just a half a game out of the eighth spot in the West. Equally, they are also three and a half games behind the fourth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves, so the sky is far from falling. In fact, they have won four of their last six games, including wins over the Spurs and Timberwolves, which only makes the Jekyll and Hyde of all of this even more frustrating.

All of that said, what’s really wrong with the Thunder? Here are some thoughts:

Not Enough Touches

The Oklahoma City Thunder are dead last in the NBA in touches per game as a team at 384. To contrast that number, the Philadelphia 76ers lead the league in touches at 480.9 touches per game.

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook accounts for 94.4 touches per game, while forward Carmelo Anthony accounts for 61.3 touches with swingman Paul George bringing in 56.0 touched per game. Those three players account for 211.7 of the Thunders 384 touches per game.

That’s not as bad as you would think watching the Thunder play, but what it does illustrate is that neither Anthony or Paul are getting the volume of touches both are used to getting before joining the Thunder. It’s also why neither seems to be able to get into a rhythm on a game to game bases. They have had their moments individually, but it been far from consistent.

It’s more than fair to say that the Thunder offense isn’t generating enough touches to maximize what George and Anthony bring to the table. When the Miami HEAT brought their “Big Three” together, one of the biggest challenges they faced was how to generate the touches to get all their guys in a rhythm and rolling.

That seems to be the biggest part of the problem with the Thunder.

Russ Has To Be Russ

When you look at the Thunder’s “convincing wins” those wins in which they look like an elite team in the NBA, Russell Westbrook plays like last year’s MVP.

The problem for the Thunder is it seems Russell is trying to get other players, specifically Anthony, often to the detriment of his team and his own game. When Westbrook puts his head down and plays his game, the Thunder tend to come out on top.

Westbrook never seemed to have this problem playing with Kevin Durant, and maybe that’s why Durant opted to leave, but Westbrook seems to be trying too hard to get others going.

Where’d Offense Go?

The Thunder continue to talk about how good they are defensively, and that’s a real thing. They are currently the ranked second in the NBA’s defensive rating category. They rank second in point allowed per 100 possessions at 103, just behind league leader Boston at 101.6 points per 100 possessions.

There is no doubt their defense is keeping them in games, but what’s killing them is the long stretches of sub-par offense, many times in the fourth quarter where their offense comes to a grinding halt.

Some have suggested that head coach Billy Donovan simply isn’t creative enough for the construct of this roster. Looking at the stats this far into the season, there may be something to the idea that the Thunder, offensively, just are not creative enough to maximize the potential of their star players.

It’s Not A Selfish Problem

The easy answer on the Thunder is to say they are simply selfish players. There is enough historical evidence on Anthony and Westbrook to support the idea, however, if you really look at the Thunders’ games, it’s actually the opposite. Westbrook likely isn’t selfish enough; it’s likely why he’s struggling from the field on the season.

Part of the offensive problem may be Westbrook’s shooting. His averages this season is markedly down from a year ago—39.6 percent this season from the field versus 42.5 percent last season. Westbrook is also 31.1 percent from three this year versus 34.3 percent from three last season.

But Westbrook is not alone, George is tying his second worst season from the field at 41.8 percent shooting. Anthony is having his worst year as a pro from the field at 40.4 percent.

All three are producing some of their lowest efficiency ratings of their careers, so it’s not just one guy doing so much more than the other. None of them are playing particularly well together.

It’s easy to look at the Thunder and label them one thing or the other; there are enough polarizing personalities on the roster to draw the labels. The truth of the matter is the Thunder just are not very good or efficient offensively, and until they find a way to make that part work, they will likely continue to be middling.

That’s going to make things fairly tough on the Thunder front office, because come the February 9th NBA Trade Deadline, the Thunder may have to cut bait on some players before they potentially lose them in free agency for nothing. The trade deadline is only about 60 days away, believe it or not.

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NBA Daily: Clippers Looking Forward to Teodosic Return

Clippers hanging on and looking forward to Teodosic return, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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The Los Angeles Clippers have had a season of twists and turns. While the season is still young, they’ve dealt with setbacks, mostly in the form of a multitude of injures. In fact, the team’s misfortunes began almost immediately. On Oct 21 (the NBA season started earlier this year), Clippers guard Milos Teodosic went down with a plantar fascia injury. This stands as the first bump in the road for the Clippers, who have seen a number of key players go down.

Following the loss of Chris Paul this past offseason, the Clippers appeared to have salvaged their immediate future through a number of offseason transactions. Under the direction of the front office, which includes Lawrence Frank, VP of Basketball Operations, and Jerry West, a Clippers consultant, the Clippers traded Paul, which helped to remake the roster. West spoke of his approval of the Paul trade before the season started.

“The Clippers feel comfortable that we made out really well. We could have lost him for nothing,” West stated of the Paul trade. “I think it was kind of a win myself.”

The Paul trade brought in Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker and helped to eventually bring in Danilo Gallinari. A big part of the offseason makeover was the acquisition of European star Teodosic. Losing Paul meant that the Clippers were going to be without a highly talented, pass-first point guard for the first time since Paul’s acquisition during the 2011-2012 season.

Part of the strategy called for replacing Paul with both Beverley, who could match Paul’s defensive tenacity, and Teodosic, who could match Paul’s vision and passing. While neither player could match Paul’s overall brilliance (and Paul has been brilliant this season for the Rockets), the team hoped to create a winning environment around these two players.

Unfortunately, Teodosic went down quickly. Then Beverley experienced issues with his knee, culminating with season-ending microfracture surgery on his knee in late November. Combine this with Gallinari missing nearly a month with injuries and Blake Griffin going down for the next few months with an MCL sprain of his left knee recently, and the Clippers have struggled to stay competitive with lineups that have often included only one of the team’s opening day starters (center DeAndre Jordan). The franchise shouldn’t be completely surprised by the rash of injuries, as their offseason plan banked on players with questionable injury histories such as Griffin and Gallinari.

To fill in, the Clippers have also made use of a number of young, inexperienced players (not at all common in the Doc Rivers era), including playing 2017 second round pick, guard Sindarius Thornwell. Thornwell has benefited from the opportunity as is averaging 16.2 minutes a game and has even started in seven games (of 24 played).  Thornwell confirmed the obvious regarding injuries.

“We’ve been playing without a lot of our core guys,” Thornwell stated.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers also made it clear that injuries have affected the team.

“It’s not just Blake [Griffin]. If it was just Blake, we’d be OK,” Rivers stated recently. “But you miss [Danillo] `Gallo,’ Milos [Teodosic], Patrick Beverley.”

Currently, the team is well below .500 with a 9-15 record, good enough for 11th in the Western Conference. And while the team is ahead of a number of teams destined for the NBA lottery such as the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings, they aren’t too far removed from the eighth seed, currently held by the Utah Jazz, who are below .500 (13-14 record). It’s not reasonable for a team that has already suffered a nine-game losing streak and is only 4-6 in the last 10 games to expect another playoff berth, and the team has not yet signaled they have given up on the season.

The Clippers have stayed afloat by being extremely reliant on the individual offensive output of guards Austin Rivers and Lou Williams. Give Williams credit, as he has been brilliant recently including a game winning shot against the Washington Wizards on Saturday. Over the last 10 games, he is averaging 23.2 points on 62.7 true shooting percentage and 6.2 assists in 34.5 minutes per game, per nba.com. For reference, Williams has a career true shooting percentage average of 53.3 percent, per basketball-reference.com. However, this doesn’t scream long-term winning formula, nor should it — the team hasn’t recently had reliable offensive output outside of these guards who were originally expected to come off the bench for the Clippers.

Gallinari has since returned and played well in his second game back, an overtime win against the Wizards. Now the team has upgraded Teodosic’s condition to questionable and are hopeful that Teodosic makes his return Monday night against the Raptors.

“He’s ready. He’s close,” Rivers stated, speaking of Teodosic at a recent Clippers practice. “And that will help. In a big way.”

In addition to possibly helping their increasingly remote chances at making the playoffs, the Clippers have other goals. Teodosic is signed to a two-year deal, but the second-year is a player option allowing the European guard to leave after the season. Should Teodosic find that the Clippers are somehow not a good fit or a place where he can find success, he may opt out of the second year. If the team wants to ensure that the 30-year-old guard sees a bright future with the Clippers, they should hope that his return leads to the Clippers playing winning basketball.

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Q&A With Cavaliers Rookie Cedi Osman

Basketball Insiders caught up with Cavaliers rookie Turkish swingman Cedi Osman to discuss a number of topics. 

Spencer Davies

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Monday afternoon, Basketball Insiders caught up with rookie Turkish swingman Cedi Osman to discuss a number of topics. 

Basketball Insiders: Your first experience in the NBA, making the transition from international play and Euroleague—has it been what you’ve expected?

Cedi Osman: I mean of course it’s different rules and stuff and a different type of basketball. In international, it’s like more slow, but here it’s like always up and down, a lot of fast breaks.

Actually that’s the kind of basketball that I like. When I was playing overseas, I was also running a lot, up and down. I was that guy who was bringing the energy, so it was not hard for me to adjust to this basketball.

BI: With Euros in this league, it’s a growing amount. What does that tell you about the talent pool over there?

Osman: There’s a lot of talented players overseas—like really, a lot. Like you said, when you look around the NBA there’s a lot of European players. Starting with Dirk Nowitzki, he’s a big legend. He was the one who chose to do Europe [to show] what he can do. I can give you the example of two Turkish basketball players—Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur, he won one championship. I mean, there’s a lot of European players.

BI: Definitely. So how well do you know Hedo and Mehmet?

Osman: With Mehmet Okur, I was talking a couple times. I saw him one time in summer league this year. I talk to Hedo also because he’s president of Turkish Basketball Federation, so I was talking to him also.

BI: You’ve gotten some crucial minutes with the bench in the last couple of games. The same thing can be said when you played in New York and against the Hawks, too. What’s allowed you and that group to click together?

Osman: I always try to think positive. When I’m getting there on the court with the second unit, I’m trying to bring the energy because I’m the youngest one with Big Z [Ante Zizic] together.

Whenever I get on the court I’m trying to bring the energy on both sides of the court—on defense and offense—and I’m trying to run the floor the fastest that I can. Trying to guard players that are really good. And that also just improves my basketball [skills] a lot. I’m really happy that I am a part of this team and it’s also really important for me that I’m getting these crucial minutes.

BI: In a recent interview, you said that you don’t have a reason to be scared. You’re “cold-blooded.” Why do you feel that way?

Osman: I was playing overseas professionally since I was 16 years old…actually, I started getting paid when I was 12. [I’ve been] playing professionally for a long time. I played with a lot of good players. I’ve played also [with] former NBA players like Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic who was on the same team.

I know, yeah this is the best league in the world, but I don’t have a reason why to be scared because I was working for this—to come here, to give my best and to be stable to stay for long, long years. That’s why I said I don’t have a reason to be scared, because I know that I can play here.

BI: When you’re on the floor, what do you expect out of yourself? You said you want to get up and down the floor and give it to both ends, but is there anything outside of that, maybe mentality wise?

Osman: Of course. Not just as a rookie, but every time I get on the court like I said, I want to be always that guy who brings the energy. Also like, when we’re going bad or when we have a bad game, I want to change the momentum of the game. That’s what I’m working for a lot. We have great players and I have a lot of things to learn from them.

That’s why I said I’m really happy to be a part of this team, because we’re one of the best teams in the world. I hope that we’re going to win a championship in my first year. That would be a big thing for me.

BI: What kind of things have the coaching staff tried to help you improve in practice?

Osman: There’s a couple defensive plays that’ll be different. There’s also defensive three seconds. That was a bit of adjusting for me because in Europe you can always stay in the paint no matter what. There’s no defensive three seconds. Here it’s different, so it was a little bit hard for me to adjust in the beginning, but now I don’t have any problems and coaches are really helping me a lot.

BI: This team isn’t fully healthy yet, obviously with Isaiah Thomas coming back, Tristan Thompson coming back and Iman Shumpert down the road. That might affect playing time for some. You’ve gone to the G-League and played with the Canton Charge once before. You had a lot of minutes in that one game and did a really good job there. Is that something that you’re prepared for? Would you mind playing there again if that’s the case for you?

Osman: I was the one who asked for Canton, to go there, because before Shump got injured I didn’t have a lot of playing time. I said that I want to play whenever we have an off day, whenever I can go to play there, to run a lot, to try to do my thing. See that I’m working here before practices. That’s why I asked to go there. I talked to [Cavaliers general manager] Koby [Altman] and he said he supported me about that and that would be good for me.

BI: You have your own hashtag—#TheFirstCedi—can you explain the inspiration behind that and what it means?

Osman: So I’m working with one agency in Turkey and they’re doing a really good job about myself, my profile, my brand (laughs). They’re doing a really good job. “The First Cedi” is because my first name is Cedi and a lot of people are calling me Jedi, so that’s from Star Wars. The First Cedi—because in Turkey, ‘C’ reads as a ‘J’ so Jedi. First Jedi, that’s why.

BI: That’s pretty funny. Are you a Star Wars fan?

Osman: Yeah. I watch. But because it’s like old movies and that kind of stuff, but now new movies are better.

BI: It’s a locker room full of veterans here in Cleveland. Do you feel comfortable with everyone?

Osman: Definitely. I feel really comfortable. We have—I don’t want to say veteran players—but they are so good and they are big, big professionals. I have a lot of fun with them—locker room, when we go on the road, team dinners and that kind of stuff. It’s pretty cool.

The thing is, like it’s my first appearance. Overseas I’m coming to America and I was thinking the adjustment would be a little bit hard for me, but it was actually the opposite. From the first day that I met those guys, they helped me a lot.

BI: Is there anyone that you’ve gotten especially close to? You mentioned Big Z earlier.

Osman: Me and Z are pretty close. We’re speaking the same language. We played in the same league in Turkey. But like, I’m close with everybody. With Channing [Frye], we are always talking about the games and that stuff.

BI: Playing with LeBron—can you put that into words?

Osman: Look, it’s…(pauses), it’s something crazy. Because I was playing a game—obviously 2K—before when I was younger, I was playing with him and that stuff. Of course, it was my dream to be an NBA player, to play in the NBA. But when you’re playing on the same team with [Derrick] Rose, LeBron James, [Dwyane] Wade, Kevin Love, [Isaiah Thomas], it’s crazy.

I didn’t imagine that I would play with those players. And then, I just realize when I’m playing with them, the only thing that I can do is just work a lot and learn from them.

BI: When you hear these guys talk about you in a good light and coach Lue gives you praise, how does that make you feel?

Osman: That’s something really incredible. I mean… from the first day, from the media day when LeBron was in a press conference, he talked about everybody. But he talked also about me and he knew about Euroleague and that kind of stuff, so I was really happy. I was really proud and I was really happy about it. From the first day, he was so close to me. Not just him, but everybody.

BI: What do you think people need to know about your personality? Is there anything that hasn’t been said?

Osman: Actually, nothing special (laughs). I’m the guy who always smiles and with a lot of energy, always being positive talking to everybody, making a lot of jokes, trying to be friendly with everyone and the most important—I’m trying to be a good character.

BI: Last one—based off of this conversation alone, you’ve picked up the English language so easily. Who’s helped you on that side of things?

Osman: I actually had a lot of American players overseas on my previous team—it was Jordan Farmar, Jamon Gordon, Derrick Brown, he also played here, there was Bryant Dunston, Jayson Granger. I played a lot with Dario Saric, too, Furkan Korkmaz. Those were guys that were always talking English.

Just talking to them all the time. When they talked, I would just listen to them. I wasn’t listening to what they talked [about], but just for what kind of words they were using and what kind of sentences, the way they were talking. That’s how I learned English.

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