Ranking top 10 NBA coaches: Where Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni lands

Anthony Duckett
Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Michael Malone Denver Nuggets
Michael Malone Denver Nuggets (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

9. Mike Malone-Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone has lifted the Nuggets into contender status. In the eyes of many, the Nuggets came out of nowhere when they secured the second seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets went 54-28 this past season and made it to the Western Conference Semifinals, which is the furthest they’ve gone in the postseason since the 2009 playoffs when they had former Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony and current Rockets center Nene.

It’s been widely overlooked that the Nuggets had a record of 46-36 in the 2017-2018 season but finished in ninth place in the Western Conference and missed out on the playoffs. By comparison, if the Nuggets were in the Eastern Conference, they would have finished with the sixth seed that year, based on their record alone.

Malone has made the decision to run the Nuggets offense through All-Star Nikola Jokic, who has led the Nuggets in assists in each of the last two years. This past season, Jokic finished sixth in total assists, which was one spot behind Rockets superstar James Harden. In addition, Jokic actually shot 39.6 percent from deep in the 2017-2018 NBA season, which Malone deserves credit for. With the offense running through The Joker, the Nuggets have ranked sixth in offensive rating in each of the last two years in the NBA, which obviously shows that Malone has made the right call designating Jokic as the team’s primary facilitator.

Aside from that, Malone has been able to get the best out of Jamal Murray, who has improved in scoring, rebounds, and assists in each of his three years in the NBA. It’s important that Malone has been able to maximize the Murray and Jokic pairing, because Denver is a small market and seldomly lands top tier free agents. It should be exciting for Nuggets fans to think about how this year’s Denver roster will fare having added Jerami Grant, who has spent each of the last three seasons playing alongside current Rockets guard Russell Westbrook. In addition, if the Nuggets can get anything out of Michael Porter Jr, they could very well be in line to have an even better season than last year.

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