March 04, 2009

Question: Who is the most fantasy-friendly coach in the NBA?

Coaches play a huge role in the NBA. They are often the first ones blamed (and fired) if a team isn't living up to expectations. Their philosophies help to mold and shape a team's identity. Just think of where the Lakers and Bulls franchises would be without Phil Jackson and the triangle offense, or the Knicks and Suns without Mike D'Antoni's "7 seconds or less".

But which coach provides the most help to fantasy owners? I asked the RotoExperts to find out...

This question is a no-brainer. Earlier in the season, I'd have had to select Mike D'Antoni for the outstanding work he's done in getting production out of the Knicks. However, with the recent firing of Terry Porter, I have to go with new Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. And I back it up with but one stat: since Gentry took over the reins, the Suns have averaged a whopping 124.9 points per game played. With Amar'e Stoudemire down for the count, that leaves oodles of points to go around, meaning we get a bunch of chucks from downtown and boatloads of assists to boot. Fantasy goodness!-- Tommy Landry

There are two main ingredients to the perfect fantasy-friendly coach. The first is offensive pace: how many possessions does the coach demand of his team? Fantasy managers want a coach that pushes the rock and asks his players to shoot early and often. More possessions mean more stats, and more stats are fantasy gold. Look at the difference between the slowest team in basketball, the Detroit Pistons (89.3 pace factor), and the fastest team, the Golden State Warriors (100.6 pace factor). On average, the Warriors have over 10 more possessions per game, which means 10 more chances at that assist, three-pointer or rebound that will put you over the top in your weekly matchup.

Using the Warriors as an example brings to the forefront that other important ingredient to the perfect fantasy-friendly coach: predictability. This one is less clear, but obviously Don Nelson's erratic lineups are not ideal for the fantasy manager. He has definitely created more waiver-wire pickups and multi-position eligible players than any other coach this year (Anthony Morrow, Marco Belinelli, C.J. Watson, Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike). On the other hand, he's often quickly destroyed the value of his players by changing the lineups almost daily at times.

It follows that a very predictable coach may not offer you the chance to find gold on the waiver wire. Think of Gentry. Despite boasting the fourth-fastest pace in the NBA, the list of waiver wire acquisitions on his squad is short (only Matt Barnes). So what we are looking for is a coach of a fast-paced team with a level of upheaval that falls short of pure chaos. That would describe both Indiana's Jim O'Brien and D'Antoni. Given his history with creating the mythical Seven Seconds or Less philosophy, D'Antoni gets the nod here.-- Eno Sarris

I would love to say it's someone other than D'Antoni of the Knicks, but I honestly can't. You have to consider a few factors here. First, he has five players who are currently in the top-100 in standard Yahoo! leagues, with a possible sixth, Larry Hughes, joining them by time the season comes to a close. Many of these players, aside from maybe David Lee, weren't "home runs" this season to begin with. He's also been responsible for coaching his team to the fourth best offense in the game (106.0 ppg), all while helping opponents drop 108.1 ppg on a given night, which is good for the third-highest total in the NBA. I know that Don Nelson has the pleasure of being the coach of both the worst defensive team (111.6 ppg) and the second-best team offense (108.1 ppg) in the game, but where D'Antoni trumps Nelson is in his rotation. Coach D'Antoni has been consistent all season long with his rotation, while Nelson has been wishy-washy. Even as of this past week, he has decided to sit his star players on a given night. Sure this is "good practice" for the Warriors in the long-run, but it is not helpful for fantasy owners who desperately need those statistics in their lineups. I'm sure I'm not alone on this one, but it's hands down that D'Antoni is the fantasy coach of the year. Though, Gentry may want me to reconsider ...-- Tom Lorenzo

This year it has become clear that fantasy owners need to glom on to anyone who suits up for D'Antoni. While his system would leave Norman Dale and any other coach who demands five passes before a shot disappointed, owners of Nate Robinson, David Lee, Chris Duhon, Al Harrington and Wilson Chandler have been walking around with a permanent Joker-like smile on their faces for over four months. In the meantime, we saw all of the Suns take a major hit outside of the friendly confines of a D'Antoni system. Now even Larry Hughes is gaining traction playing for D'Antoni, who has the magic touch with nearly everyone but Tim Thomas. Come on, D'Antoni's not that good.-- Jeff Andriesse

No coach is more fantasy-friendly than D'Antoni. His style is actually a perfect storm of fantasy-friendliness: he runs an extremely up-tempo system and sticks to his rotation. Unlike Don Nelson over on the Left Coast, D'Antoni doesn't randomly shuffle players in and out of his lineups every night, leaving fantasy owners to pass out in befuddlement. No, D'Antoni knows who his guys are, and he sticks with them. And that allows fantasy owners who roster his players to sleep comfortably at night.-- Kyle Stack

My vote for most fantasy-friendly coach is D'Antoni. Everyone remembers how free-flowing the Suns were last year, and what a flop they turned into when Terry Porter replaced him at the beginning of this year. The '08-09 Knicks are averaging just over 10 more points per game than they did in '07-08. The up-tempo strategy inflates the value of players on that team, with more shot opportunities and rebound attempts. Do we think that David Lee would be an All-Star candidate in a ball-control offense?-- Greg Kinzer

Looks like the general consensus is that teams coached by D'Antoni are the way to go in fantasy leagues. In fact, the only other coach receiving a vote here was Gentry, who is a disciple of D'Antoni's sytem. I expected Don Nelson to get a little more love, but given his habit of mixing up the minutes and benching players on a whim, I can understand why he doesn't warm the hearts of fantasy owners the way D'Antoni does.

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