Larry Drew and Vinny Del Negro named NBA Coaches of the Month

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
VDN and Drew were phenomenal in December. (Getty Images)

The NBA has named Larry Drew of the Hawks and Vinny Del Negro of the Clippers as Coaches of the Month for December. From the NBA:

Drew led the Hawks to a 10-5 (.667) month, including a 4-3 record on the road. Atlanta notched victories over the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls during December, a month in which the Hawks shot .456 from the field as a team and .384 from three-point range. For the first time in team history, the Hawks connected on 10-or-more three-pointers in four consecutive games (Dec. 22-29).

Del Negro led the Clippers to a perfect 16-0 record in December, including wins over the Boston Celtics and three wins over the Utah Jazz. The Clippers' franchise-best 17-game winning streak, which included the sixteen December wins, ended with their first game in January. The streak stands as the longest in the NBA since the 2008 season when Boston won 19 consecutive games.

Del Negro is at once the most obvious choice and the most suprising. The Clippers literally did not lose a game for the entire month, going 16-0 as part of the longest winning streak in franchise history. So this isn't exactly rocket science to determine. But it does bring up a topic that's gaining steam.

Are we underrating Del Negro and why is he not a Coach of the Year candidate?

The arguments against him are patently obvious. Everything from rotations to late-game play-calling and clock management have been transparent problems for Del Negro dating back to his time in Chicago. Many people attribute the best coaching on this team to Chris Paul and veterans like Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler.

And yet, isn't that the exact thing that was said about Doc Rivers, another former player who coached to mixed results before winning the title in 2008?

Also consider the following:

  • Del Negro has now at least played a peripheral role in the development of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.
  • If we assume the Clippers do not collapse, he will have made the playoffs in four of five seasons.
  • He's won 52 percent of his games, which ain't bad for a small sample, even with good teams going in.

I'm not comfortable with the idea, either. But the results are perplexing vs. the perception.

It should also be noted that Avery Johnson won Coach of the Month for November. So there's that.

Drew, on the other hand, has improved in nearly every capacity this season. The team runs isolation sets just 7.5 percent of the time, according to Synergy. There's an even distribution of usage. The guards create shots and finish at the rim, the shooters make open looks, Al Horford and Josh Smith provide power inside (when Smith isn't shooting crazy jumpers). The Hawks have all the makings of a team that's going to up and bite someone in the backside in the first round come April.

 
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