Not making the playoffs for the first time in six years puts Scott Brooks on the hot seat, with reports of the Oklahoma City Thunder considering replacing him this offseason.
Finishing the season at 45-37, the Thunder miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009. While the obvious reason has been injuries to Kevin Durant and later in the season Serge Ibaka, many have been thinking for quite some time that Brooks is holding the Thunder back with his inability to create a more complicated and sophisticated offensive system, instead relying on isolation and improvisations from his two stars.
Adrian Wojnarowski, who is usually quite reliable, is reporting that the Thunder, which means Sam Presti and the ownership, will be evaluating Brooks’ future with the franchise and if moving on from him can actually make them better, if the team is actually healthy next season.
But who can they bring that will be an upgrade? The coaching market isn’t stacked with impressive options, at least not with NBA experience. The first name that seems to come up lately has been Billy Donovan from Florida, who almost made the plunge once (with the Orlando Magic) before changing his mind. Bill Self of Kansas is another name NBA execs are hot for, but it’s not quite clear if he’s willing to leave Lawrence where he’s had a huge amount of success.
Since David Blatt seems to blending in well in the league, maybe a European option (although Blatt is American) is put on the table. Ettore Messina has been mentioned with vacancies for the last two or three years, but right now it remains speculation. If Tom Thibodeau is actually fired by the Chicago Bulls at the end of the playoffs, that’s a whole different story. It seems that Mike D’Antoni, at least as an offensive assistant, is more than welcome by many.
But is replacing Brooks with a college coach actually an upgrade? Considering he’s quite close and popular among his players, including Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for never actually trying to limit the things they do on the floor, it’s hard to believe that a move like this is going to sit well with the team’s stars, who the Thunder are afraid of losing in 2016 and Westbrook in 2017.
On the other hand, Mark Jackson was very popular with Stephen Curry, and under Steve Kerr he made another leap forward towards MVP territory while the Warriors seem to be the favorites to win the NBA championship, suggested by finishing with the best record in the league.
Brooks has been coaching the Thunder since 2008, with a record of 338-207 (62%). The Thunder have made the playoffs five times in a row (2010-2014), including the finals in 2012. Brooks was awarded with Coach of the Year in 2010.