Milwaukee Bucks: Is Mike Budenholzer the Coach of the Year front runner?

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With the NBA on break, who’s in the running for Coach of the Year. Is Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer the favorite?

As we head into the All-Star break, the NBA as a league gets a chance to take a step back and review what’s happened after every team has played the majority of their season.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, it’s an opportunity to relax and look back on one of the best stretches of basketball in franchise history. At 43-14, the best record in the entire NBA, the Bucks are in the midst of their best season since Sidney Moncrief wore Milwaukee green and Don Nelson roamed the sideline in the 1980’s.

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One could even argue this season represents the Bucks best opportunity at a championship since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson wore Bucks colors in the 1970’s.

The primary storyline following the Bucks is Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s dominance and attempt to claim the MVP trophy, which would make him the first Bucks player to do since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1977.

One of, if not the biggest, reasons for Giannis’ spectacular season is the job done by first-year head coach Mike Budenholzer. The system changes on both ends of the court by Budenholzer and his staff have brought the Bucks from fringe playoff team to legit Finals contender.

With two-thirds of the season complete so far, is Budenholzer the front runner when it comes to the Coach of the Year race?

There are numerous viable candidates for the award this season, but the Bucks’ turnaround and complete revitalization into a contender has Budenholzer looking like the odds-on favorite for the award.

But I don’t want to just make assumptions. It’s easy to just say that Bud is the favorite, but how does he compare to the other candidates? Who’s résumé currently has the best chance of impressing enough voters to take home the award?

To find out, I decided to do a little research on past winners, specifically the previous five Coach of the Year (COY) award winners, and look at what they have in common to maybe find some clues as to who has the edge in this year’s race.

After looking at the previous winners, I’m going to comb through a list of possible COY candidates and see who matches up the best with past winners. I put together a rough list of possible coaches who I believe will be in the running for the award at the end of the season.

The list I’m working with, in no particular order, is Budenholzer, Nick Nurse (Toronto), Mike Malone (Denver), Steve Kerr (Golden State), Gregg Popovich (San Antonio), Brett Brown (Philadelphia), Dave Joerger (Sacramento), Brad Stevens (Boston), Nate McMillan (Indiana), Kenny Atkinson (Brooklyn) and Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City).

Obviously, this isn’t every NBA coach, but I’m confident the 2019 COY will come out of this batch. Reasons for inclusion vary from coach-to-coach from team success, like Nurse, Malone and Kerr, to overachievers like Joerger and Atkinson, to Popovich because he’s the best basketball coach to ever live.

The previous five COY award winners are as follows, in order of most recent: Dwane Casey (Toronto), Mike D’Antoni (Houston), Kerr (Golden State), Budenholzer (Atlanta) and Popovich (San Antonio).

To better understand what voters are looking for, I want to see if we can find some similarities between these five Coach of the Year award winners.

Let’s see what looking at the past can tell us about the future.