Sports

Grading NBA Coaching Hires: Doc Rivers to Clippers, Brian Shaw to Nuggets

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The NBA coaching carousel has been at top speed throughout much of the playoffs and hit a fever pitch over the last two weeks.

There has been no shortage of drama, from the Brooklyn Nets hiring freshly retired player Jason Kidd to the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers staring each other down over Doc Rivers. NBA coaches are becoming as easily movable of a commodity as the men they send out on to the floor and suddenly it seems like every team not named Miami or San Antonio already has or is currently seeking a new coach.

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In the last 24 hours, we’ve learned that Doc Rivers will be heading to Los Angeles and the Denver Nuggets have stepped in to be the team that will give Brian Shaw the opportunity he’s been seeking. This game of musical coaching chairs is now heating up thanks to the impending NBA Draft in a few days time, so before the next announcement occurs, let’s take a look at what these appointments must do for the franchises that have settled (for the moment) on a new coach.

DOC RIVERS to LA

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The Clippers landed the coach they needed to keep Chris Paul in town and while no one knows what the future holds for DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, Clips fans can at least rest assured that they have a solid strategist and coach who can push their defense to the next level. The team finished this season with the 12th best defense in the league compared to Boston, a top five defensive team despite not having as much talent in its ranks.

Rivers has some decisions to make, least importantly the draft. With the 25th pick, it’s questionable that the Clippers can get much of an impact player that way, so free agency and the pursuit of Dwight Howard will clearly be on their agenda. Of course, any possibility of landing Howard hinges on either trading for the center or at the very least trading away Griffin and Jordan both. But that saga will be a whole other story in itself.

For now, let’s assume Rivers takes the Clippers as they are into next season and figure out what he’ll be looking to change in order to get this team to the next level. For starters, he’ll want more from Griffin. Since his rookie season, Griffin’s stats have been on a steady decline. Some attribute that to having to share the court and ball with Chris Paul, others see it for what it is, a clear display of his lack of a post game.

That is something Rivers will be looking to bring out in the player as he isn’t known for tolerating a lack of toughness. Everyone on the Clippers can be expected to become a better defender, but if they’re going to take the next step into the postseason, Griffin has to develop his game with his back to the basket and on the boards while Jordan needs to become a more ideal pick and roll partner for Chris Paul. Without those developments, both players will become expendable under Rivers.

BRIAN SHAW TAKES OVER NUGGETS

Shaw has done some fine work as an assistant and was part of one of the better defensive and rebounding teams this past season in Indiana. He’ll have learned plenty working alongside Frank Vogel and previously Phil Jackson for several years. The Zen master has tabbed Shaw to be a major success, but until now he’s never gotten further than the interview process.

What Shaw has to bring to the Nuggets is balance and opportunities for young center JaVale McGee. Much to the amazement of everyone in the media and, according to rumors, people within the Nuggets organization, former coach George Karl continuously sat McGee in favor of playing Kosta Koufos. McGee’s potential has yet to be realized but we’ve seen glimpses of the type of danger he can be around the rim.

Shaw has a solid team at his disposal and won’t be overly concerned with doing a lot with his team’s 27th pick, but rather how he’s going to shore up the Nuggets defense. While Denver led the league in a number of offensive categories and were a very good rebounding team last season, they often struggled to get stops when they needed them. Nowhere was this more evident than in their first round exit to the Golden State Warriors.

Also topping his list of concerns will be either re-signing or replacing free agent Corey Brewer and overseeing the rehabilitation and recovery of Danilo Gallinari who suffered an ACL tear late in the season. The Nuggets don’t have a single player on a max deal, but with close to $70 million already committed to next season, it’s going to be tough for Shaw to add much in the free agent market, so his adjustments to the already intact Nuggets unit will prove the key component to the early days of his head coaching career.