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Raptors’ Nick Nurse Now +140 Favorite to Win Coach of the Year; Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer Given +200 Odds

Jake Mitchell

by Jake Mitchell in NBA Basketball

Mar 2, 2020 · 2:43 PM PST

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors are off to a 23-9 start during Nick Nurse's first season as head coach. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)
  • Nick Nurse is now a +140 favorite to bring home the NBA Coach of the Year award.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks could be 70-game winners. Could Mike Budenholzer (+200) take the award with that feat?
  • Read below for a look at how the odds have changed over the course of the season.

With the second half of the NBA season now well underway, the postseason awards picture is beginning to truly take shape.

One of the most intriguing races is that of NBA Coach of the Year, pitting Toronto’s +140 favorite Nick Nurse and Milwaukee’s +200 contender Mike Budenholzer.

The Raptors and Bucks are the Eastern Conference’s top two teams, but only one of their respective head coaches can bring home the Red Auerbach Trophy.

2020 NBA Coach of the Year Odds

Coach (Team) Odds 1 Odds 2
Nick Nurse (Toronto Raptors) +140 +5000
Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee Bucks) +200 +2000
Michael Malone (Denver Nuggets) +700 +1200
Frank Vogel (Los Angeles Lakers) +750 +850
Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat) +900 +3000
Rick Carlisle (Dallas Mavericks) +1000 +4500
Taylor Jenkins (Memphis Grizzlies) +1200 +10000
Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City Thunder) +1800 +10000

Odds taken March 2nd

Nursing the Raptors Through Injuries

The definitive frontrunners in the Coach of the Year race are the pair of Nurse and Budenholzer. The Bucks hold the East’s top seed, with a 52-8 record and a ten game margin between them and the second-place Raptors. If this award were solely based on the quality of teams, it would be Budenholzer that would be listed as the favorite.

However, the fact that Toronto currently holds the second seed, no matter the margin, is due to an impressive coaching job in its own right. This season started with the Raptors losing the player that almost single-handedly brought them a title last season when Kawhi Leonard left for LA, and has continued with a myriad of injuries to key players.

At various points this year, the injury report has seen a group of player that includes Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, and just about every other name on the roster. Yet, somehow, Nurse has navigated through the minefield and into a two-seed.

Budenholzer a Good Bet

Prior to this year, the odds for Coach of the Year looked very different. Budenholzer’s odds were just +2000 in October, and Nurse’s were even longer at +5000. That’s a testament to just how strong the coaching jobs from the top two Eastern teams have been.

The elevation of the Bucks under Budenholzer this season has been remarkable. They finished 60-22 last year, and amazingly, they’re set to shatter that mark. Currently at 52-8, this team is on pace to win 70-plus games. When a team is a top seed one year, and they get substantially better in the next, coaching has to get a big part of the credit. Milwaukee isn’t simply a great roster where the coach is secondary to the success. Instead, Budenholzer drives it.

Each coach has a strong case to be made for the award. Between Nurse’s handling of adversity, and Budenholzer’s ability to elevate an already great team, the odds on this award are tight for a reason.

Any Valuable Long Shots?

There’s a big valley between Budenholzer’s +200 number and the next-best odds at +700 for Denver’s Mike Malone. It will be extremely tough for either of them to be caught, given the unique success and circumstances involved with Toronto and Milwaukee. However, one coach on the outside has an interesting value.

Taylor Jenkins has +1200 odds to win the Red Auerbach Trophy, and his Memphis team is on pace to somehow, miraculously, make the playoffs. Behind rookie sensation Ja Morant, the Grizzlies are 29-31 and have possession of the West’s eight-seed. Jenkins is obviously a long shot, but if his team goes on a late run and rises well above the .500 mark, He could certainly put his name higher in the conversation.

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