The Knicks are the toast of the town, winners of seven in a row with a 37-27 record and just 1 1/2 games out of the No. 4 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
The acquisition of Jalen Brunson, who torched Brooklyn on Wednesday night with an impressive 39-point performance and has embedded himself in the Most Improved Player conversation, deserves plenty of credit for this remarkable turnaround.
But an argument can be made that the real engine behind the team’s success is Tom Thibodeau.
As of Wednesday, you could still bet Thibodeau to win the NBA Coach of the Year at +4000 on BetRivers.
That value is gone with a line move down to +2500, but PointsBet is still hanging +3300 as of Thursday. Caesars is offering the bet at +3000.
Below I breakdown why that is a smash play with just a few weeks left to play in the NBA regular season.
Tom Thibodeau’s Coach of the Year case
Last season, the Knicks had a negative overall plus-minus (-0.1), the 11th-worst (19th-best) in the NBA.
But that number has vastly improved to the seventh-best in the NBA this season (+3.1), ahead of the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns.
Down the oddsboard, we see contenders such as Mike Brown (-130), Joe Mazzulla (+170), and Mike Malone (+600), with six more candidates ahead of Thibodeau.
NBA Coach of the Year odds
Mike Brown -130
Joe Mazzulla +170
Michael Malone +600
Mike Budenholzer +1100
Taylor Jenkins +1200
JB Bickerstaff +1200
Jacque Vaughn +1500
Doc Rivers +2000
Willie Green +3300
Tom Thibodeau +3300
Brown is the rightful favorite to win the award; the Sacramento Kings’ improvement from 30-52, the 12th seed in the West in 2021-2022, to the third seed in the loaded Western Conference with a 36-25 record is remarkable.
Should the Kings hold on to the third seed, wrap up the award: It’s over.
But the Kings have the third-most difficult remaining schedule in the NBA regarding opponent win percentage – although one of those games is against the tanking Nets.
With 18 games left for the Knicks, they would likely need to leapfrog the Cleveland Cavaliers and grab the four seed.
For comparison, the Knicks have the 10th-easiest remaining schedule in the NBA.
As New York comes on strong and bets flood in on them to win the Finals, it is just a matter of time before Thibodeau gets his respect as a top coach in the NBA, and the line starts moving even more drastically.
For now, let’s call this award a four-horse race between Brown, Mazzulla, Malone and Thibodeau come season’s end.
And frankly, I am iffy on Mazzulla’s true contendership.
There have only been five rookie coaches to be named Coach of the Year (Nick Nurse, Tyronn Lue, Steve Kerr, Pat Riley, and Paul Westhead).
Betting on the NBA?
Regardless, +3300 is a disrespectful line, as he should easily be higher than Jacque Vaughn (+1500).