For the first time since the Year 1 of the NBA, we had two rookie head coaches meet in the Finals in the Warriors' Steve Kerr and Cavs' David Blatt. We aren't going to see rookies in the '16 Finals but let's grade the new hires (order of best jobs).
Kerr/Blatt Situations Were Very Rare
Let's look back at Kerr and Blatt for a moment. They walked into two of the best situations of the NBA with a superstar in place. Kerr nearly took the New York Knicks job before the Warriors put on a last-minute full-court press. Kerr was so close to accepting the Knicks gig that he wanted to get the blessing of Knicks team president Phil Jackson, Kerr's former coach, before instead heading to Oakland. That worked out pretty well. And it sure appears the Warriors will be title contenders for a while as long as they re-sign restricted free agent Draymond Green and, more important, league MVP Stephen Curry stays healthy.
As for Blatt, he was in talks to be Kerr's assistant before the Cavaliers made the out-of-the-box hiring. Remember, the team hired Blatt before it knew that LeBron James was coming back to Ohio. The Cavs thought Blatt would be perfect for a young, rebuilding team with only Kyrie Irving as a star. Blatt certainly looked over his head at times in his first season and it sure doesn't seem like LeBron respects him at all, but you have to bring him back next season after the Cavs made the NBA Finals. Right?
Here are the five new hires.
Billy Donovan, Thunder
The two-time national championship winning coach at Florida, Donovan had been rumored for NBA gigs ever since briefly accepting the Orlando Magic job in 2007 but quickly changing his mind and returning to Gainesville. He looks very smart for waiting because he is walking into perhaps an even better opportunity than Kerr or Blatt did (well, Blatt before the LeBron return and Kevin Love trade). Of course OKC has two of the NBA's 10 best players, maybe five best, in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The worries are about Durant's foot injury and the fact he can become a free agent after next season. So if he doesn't like Donovan, then the Thunder are in trouble. OKC does need to re-sign restricted free agent Enes Kanter, but I believe they will. He was tremendous after coming over in a trade from Utah.
Odds to win 2016 NBA title: +750
Fred Hoiberg, Bulls
Hoiberg also has long been in demand in the NBA because he played in the league for a decade and was a front office guy for a few years before heading to Iowa State and turning that program around -- and using an NBA-style offense to do so. Certainly Hoiberg, who is tight with Bulls GM Gar Forman, will improve Chicago's offensive system that stagnated under former Coach Tom Thibodeau, who was all defense all the time. And I'm sure Hoiberg won't ride his players as hard as Thibs did. Does that make Chicago better on the NBA odds? It all really comes down to the health of guys like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, plus re-signing restricted free agent Jimmy Butler. No reason this can't be the second-best team in the East behind Cleveland.
Odds to win 2016 NBA title: +1400
Alvin Gentry, Pelicans
Gentry won an NBA championship ring as an assistant on Kerr's staff this season in Golden State. Is he a sexy hire? Not really. Gentry is 335-370 in his NBA head coaching career, with his best team being the 2009-10 Suns, who reached the Western Conference Finals. Gentry's only job here is to get the best out of superstar Anthony Davis and make sure he wants to stay in New Orleans when he becomes a free agent. He's eligible for a maximum extension this offseason and there's no question he will get that offer. if Davis stays, this could be a Top-5 NBA job sooner rather than later.
Odds to win 2016 NBA title: +3300
Scott Skiles, Magic
I am fan of some of the young talent Orlando has and the Magic should had another one Thursday night with the No. 5 overall pick. I'm not a huge fan of this hire. Skiles will improve the team immediately and the Magic will play hard. All Skiles' teams do. It's just that he wears out his welcome fairly soon. So by the time Orlando might be a title contender, Skiles probably won't be there. This has a bridge coach hiring feel to me.
Odds to win 2016 NBA title: +25000
Mike Malone, Nuggets
Malone was stupidly fired by the Kings last December even though the team was playing well and he was getting the best out of star center DeMarcus Cousins, who was definitely not pleased when the team fired Malone. Unfortunately for Malone, he is walking into what is likely to be a full tear-down in Denver as it is a franchise going nowhere right now. I'll be shocked if there's not at least one major trade involving the Nuggets sending out either Ty Lawson or Kenneth Faried (or both). It might happen during Thursday's NBA Draft.
Odds to win 2016 NBA title: +10000