Jun 26, 2013; Playa Vista, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talks to the media after he was introduced during a press conference at the Clippers Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 NBA Preview: 7 Coach of the Year Candidates

May 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson instructs during the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 102-92. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Jackson (Golden State Warriors)

Jackson and the Warriors have a great chance to take a step forward, or due to raised expectations, could end up with a slightly disappointing season, but by years end, we will know exactly what type of coach Mark Jackson is. He will finally be without the overqualified assistant, Mike Malone, as he took a head coaching job with the Sacramento Kings, so Jackson will be forced to carry the load as both motivational leader, and the guy who deals with the X’s and O’s.

But if the Warriors claim a top-four seed in the West, it’ll be hard to keep Jackson from grabbing that Coach of the Year award. The Warriors have already shown that they can go as far as Stephen Curry’s ankles take them, but can Jackson, with all of his years as an elite point guard in the NBA, raise the ceiling of this team? He will surely pass along every last ounce of knowledge to his young guards, but health factors in so much with this team, that it may not matter how great of a coaching job Jackson does.

Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta Hawks)

A longtime Spurs assistant coach, Budenholzer has been sought out by many teams through the years to be their head coach, including the Warriors, until this offseason when he finally decided to take on the Atlanta Hawk head coaching job. The Hawks are stuck in the middle of a very top-heavy Eastern Conference, and could very easily grab a fifth, sixth or seventh seed in the playoffs with the addition of Paul Millsap.

Other than their tough frontline, though, this Hawks team is lacking in quality young players, if Budenholzer can get this team in the playoffs, he will turn lots of heads and will surely be a front-runner for the Coach of the Year award.

Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers)

The Clippers had arguably the best offseason in the NBA, re-signing Chris Paul, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Hollins, while also acquiring Doc Rivers and J.J. Redick via trade. They now have the deepest team in the Western Conference and are poised to finally claim the title in the West. If the Clippers are the number one seed in the West and make a run to the Finals, Rivers could grab the Coach of the Year award.

Many critics will view Rivers as the force that pushed the Clippers over the edge to become elite, he brings a championship pedigree, but the biggest issue with this Clippers squad is the crunch time play from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Monty Williams (New Orleans Pelicans)

Monty Williams is the longest tenured coach on this list, but he has had little success with the Hornets (now Pelicans) thus far. With the recent addition of Tyreke Evans, however, the Pellies are looking like a real playoff contender with a big three of Evans, former number one overall pick Anthony Davis, and the oft injured Eric Gordon.

Williams has had some time to coach this team, but this will be his first real shot at cracking the top eight in the West. If he cannot bring this team to their first playoff berth since the new ownership has taken over, Williams may get canned by seasons end.

Jason Kidd (Brooklyn Nets)

After his unprecedented leap from starting point guard to head coach, Jason Kidd will be coaching one of the oldest teams in the league with some of the highest expectations of anyone in the NBA. After their major acquisition of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Nets have one of the most potent starting five in the league, but the regular season isn’t what matters to this Brooklyn ownership, Mikhail Prokhorov expects this team to win a championship.

Kidd will have plenty of detractors claiming he should have waited a few years, and after being an assistant he could make the jump, but Prokhorov isn’t one to do things traditionally, he wants his title now. Kidd will be given some wiggle room, being that he’s a first year coach, but should this season come up disastrous, Kidd will be the first one to go.

Maurice Cheeks (Detroit Pistons)

Having toiled away in the lottery for the last few years, the Detroit Pistons made some major moves to put themselves in playoff contention this offseason. After signing power forward Josh Smith to a lucrative deal, Pistons GM Joe Dumars traded his starting point guard Brandon Knight, for free agent Brandon Jennings via a sign and trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Maurice Cheeks was brought in to calm these massive personalities and if he can get Jennings and Smith’s heads screwed on straight, this could be a solid up and coming team in the East. Cheeks will have his work cut out for him, but if the Pistons jump 7 or so spots from being one of the worst teams in the East to a playoff contender, Cheeks will garner much attention for this award.

Jul 1, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone during a press conference at the Sleep Train Arena press room. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Malone (Sacramento Kings)

While this seems the most unlikely, if the Kings are even respectable next year, who deserves most of the credit? It would have to go to newly minted head coach Mike Malone who the Kings most recently poached from the Golden State Warriors bench. If Malone get star center DeMarcus Cousins to play with max effort on both ends, the Kings will have the most dominant big man in the league since Shaq.

Malone is known as one of the best ‘X’s and O’s’ guy in the league, so he should be able to get Cousins easy buckets via drawn up plays, which will hopefully lead to Cousins putting in more effort on the defensive end, knowing that he will be rewarded with offensive touches. Malone surely has his work cut out for him, as the Kings have tons of great offensive stars, but hardly anyone on the roster that takes pride in their defense.

Malone should get a few years to try to fix this Kings team, but should they make the big jump from perennial lottery contenders to playoff team, Malone should carry much of the praise.

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Tags: Atlanta Hawks Brooklyn Nets Detroit Pistons Doc Rivers Golden State Warriors Jason Kidd Los Angeles Clippers Mark Jackson Maurice Cheeks Mike Budenholzer Mike Malone Monty Williams NBA Offseason New Orleans Pelicans Sacramento Kings

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