We here in the D-League blogosphere (myself, Scott Schroeder and Mike Gansey from Ridiculous Upside, Steve Weinman from D-League Digest, Matt Hubert from Blog Talk BayHawk and Matt Moore from NBA Fanhouse) got together a while back to discuss the best in the D-League from the regular season. What'd we talk about? Well, all sorts of things pertaining to the D-League.
In the end, though, we decided to give out the same awards that the D-League coaches vote on: Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Impact Player of the Year and Coach of the Year - as well as our own All-D-League teams.
We named the Iowa Energy's coach, Nick Nurse, as our coach of the year with a tie for second between Austin Toros coach Quin Snyder and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers' Chris Finch.
Today the D-League named Finch their coach of the year, though I'm not totally sure that I agree with this.Without a doubt, there were several coaches who deserved some consideration for this award.
Iowa's Nick Nurse had a fair amount of talent come through this season, but some of those guys didn't stay for very long ( only played in 14 games, 22, etc.) and Nurse had his team at the top of the league from the very beginning, before Sims and Jeffers and showed up. He's also getting it done (albeit in a somewhat ugly manner) in the playoffs with a roster that features Connor Atchley and Darian Townes as its big men. With an ever-fluctuating roster and no help from an NBA team (besides the underwhelming Taylor Griffin), Scott thinks he deserves at least co-Coach of the Year (UPDATE: And Maine Red Claws president Jon Jennings thinks he won it outright).
- As I've noted before, Austin's Quin Snyder (who won the award last year) was able to develop and into NBA call-up-worthy players (the same goes for , though some of that work came last season), and won 32 games without much in the way of a bench or perimeter defense for most of the year.
- Tony Fritz in Sioux Falls was able to win 32 games while relying on just one star player () for the majority of the season, and while it's true he had and a healthy later in the year, he also should be credited with some of Williams's improvement on defense and keeping the team winning (and basically unstoppable) over the last few months of the season with a decent amount of turnover.
- Brad Jones managed to get Utah in the playoffs without his usual wealth of NBA assignees and starting point guard/best defender hurt for much of the year. It's true that he had several former NBA players on the roster ( , ), but those guys are now in the D-League for a reason, and Pruitt was kind of a disaster for his first D-League team this year (the D-Fenders). Jones also deserves a lot of credit for helping develop any kind of offensive game, let alone an effective mid-range jumper while being recognized by coaches on the All-D-League teams.
- Rory White got Dakota to the fifth playoff seed despite having zero (0) players on the roster who earned NBA call-ups and only two (2) NBA assignees, one of whom only played six games (Hasheem ThaBlog).
- Joey Meyer in Fort Wayne helped and improve their games enough to earn call-ups.
- Nate Tibbetts helped bring Latavious Williams along in his first pro season to the point where he's not a complete zero on offense.
- Et cetera.
Not to take anything away from Chris Finch, however, as he isn't a bad choice either.
While it's true that he was helped by having a lot of talent on the roster with, , and all earning All-D-League honors (and Harris was just named MVP) along with NBA-assignees and , RGV's turnaround this season is pretty remarkable.
After finishing 21-29 each of the previous two seasons, the Vipers not only finished this year with a winning record but won 34 games and made the playoffs for the first time. He also was able to keep the Vipers winning on nights when almost all of those players I mentioned above were away playing in the NBA.
The D-League cited RGV's 10 call-ups this season in their press release for the award, and while the new relationship between the team and thehad something to do with that, a few of those players did develop their games this year and were called up by other NBA teams (Harris with the , Anderson with the , with the ).
There really wasn't a wrong choice for this award, at least from the above coaches I mentioned, so congratulations to Chris Finch on winning the D-League's Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year Award.