Right now there are three head coaching openings in the NBA: Orlando, New Orleans and Denver. Chicago's Tom Thibodeau has been linked to the first two. Here I'll examine Bovada's NBA odds on the next Pelicans coach and Thibodeau's future.
Best Available Job
There's no question whatsoever that the New Orleans job is the best of the three right now. I'm not talking about living in the Big Easy, either. I'm speaking of Anthony Davis, the next superstar in the NBA. You could make an argument he should have been the MVP this season over Steph Curry as Davis took a much worse Pelicans team into the playoffs. Plus if you go by ESPN's player efficiency rating, Davis' 30.89 mark was tops in the NBA (Curry No. 3 at 28.06). Barring injury, Davis is going to be an MVP someday and probably lead his team to a title with LeBron James on the wrong side of 30 and Kevin Durant now having foot problems.
Reports are that the Pelicans fired Coach Monty Williams last week without consulting Davis, which seems hard to believe. Davis, already a two-time All-Star at age 22, is entering the final year of his contract before he becomes a restricted free agent. And he liked Williams. The question for the next coach is personnel control and making sure Davis stays. Will the team give it to the coach or will GM Dell Demps keep it? Obviously if it's up to Demps that's a no-brainer call, but that decision would be made over his head.
Bovada lists Thibodeau as the even-money favorite for the Pelicans job. Yes, Thibs is still the head coach of the Chicago Bulls but that's not going to be the case for much longer. The Bulls want to have his replacement lined up -- Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg is the favorite -- before letting Thibs walk away, firing him or trading him. The Bulls definitely want something in return for a defensive guru who was 255-139 in his five regular seasons with the team and the 2010-11 NBA Coach of the Year. The only knock on Thibodeau is that he rides his players way too hard and plays then too many minutes. Some in the organization believe that's why guys like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah (and Luol Deng before them) are breaking down all the time. The Bulls I'm sure would like a first-round pick for Thibodeau but the Pelicans don't have theirs this season. He is known to have eyes for that job solely because of Davis.
The Magic are +245 on the NBA odds to be Thibodeau's team for the 2015-16 season. Reports came out Monday that Orlando is willing to make Thibs one of the league's highest-paid coaches at somewhere between $7 million-$9 million per season. Plus the team will give him extensive input on basketball-oriented decisions. Orlando is an intriguing team as well with some very nice young pieces like Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon to name three (and whomever they take with their lottery pick next month). Plus no state income tax.
Thibodeau staying put is +300 but that's not going to happen. Him with any other team is +400 and not an NBA coach next season is +500.
Other Pelicans Candidates
On Tuesday, there were reports that Kentucky coach John Calipari had interest in coaching his former star Davis (and Tyreke Evans) with New Orleans, only for Coach Cal to then say he is staying at Kentucky and has no interest in jumping to the NBA. Calipari would have to take a pay cut to coach the Pelicans as he makes about $8 million a year with UK. Still, Calipari is +500 for this job.
The second-favorite to Thibodeau is Golden State Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry at +150. The Pelicans met with Gentry on Monday night in San Francisco after the Warriors granted permission. Gentry is considered a good offensive coach (so the opposite of Thibodeau) and was 140-131 in three-plus years as the Phoenix Suns head coach. He was fired in 2013. The Bulls also might have interest in him, so keep him in mind for your NBA picks.
The rest of the candidates on the prop are former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson (+600), former Thunder head coach Scott Brooks (+750) and ex-Kings coach Mike Malone (+1200).
NBA Free Picks: Thibodeau will not be in Chicago next season, that's a lock. Might he sit out a year and wait for a marquee job to open, perhaps with, say, the Los Angeles Lakers? Knicks? New Orleans hires Gentry and Thibodeau lands in Orlando.