New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Tyronn Lue vs. Kenny Atkinson

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Published: May 21, 2015

The Case for Tyronn Lue

By: Jake Madison

A smart mind for the game. Hard work. Tutored by Hall of Fame coaches. And nearly the guy the Cavaliers hired to coach LeBron James when he came back to Cleveland. That checks off a lot of boxes for me. And it’s the reason that Tyronn Lue is the highest paid assistant coach in the league.

As a former player, and one that shut down an in-his-prime Allen Iverson in the NBA Finals I might add, Lue understands locker room dynamics. It’s been noted on multiple occasions that Lue has been the main guy keeping the Cavs locker room together this season. Which is much harder than it sounds. X’s and O’s are important but an assistant can take care of most of those duties. A head coach needs to be able to manage player’s egos, personalities, and the like. Leadership like that is what is going to take the Pelicans to the next level, and Lue learned it under Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers.

But you cannot also discount Lue on the X’s and O’s part of coaching as well. As an assistant on Rivers’ staff the past few years, Lue is the guy who has spent tons of time in the film room looking to evaluate the Celtics and Clippers rosters. Rivers says, “He sees things in games a lot of people can’t see. He’d see opportunities for us — in games, watching film, observing — and would bring them to me. He has a chance to be very special.” Those adjustments are one of the key reasons the Clippers ranked number 1 on offense last season.

After years of Monty Williams failing to make in-game adjustments, Lue is the type of head coach who would make the Pelicans more dynamic during the flow of a game. With a roster filled with talent being able to read the ebbs and flows of a game and maximize the team’s potential is a difference maker. Lue has proven he is capable of this.

Remember how nearly the entire roster, and Anthony Davis in particular, loved Monty Williams? Players love Lue. He can relate to them as a former player who retired recently in 2009. If there is any one thing that will make the next Pelicans head coach successful right away, it’s getting the buy-in from this roster right away.

I’m not even remotely worried about that. So let’s check off another box. Oh and the one in the poll below.

The Case for Kenny Atkinson

By: Michael McNamara

A young, offensive minded coach who communicates well with players, has a European influence, and is tremendous at developing point guards – Is that something you might be interested in? There is no mystery as to why Atkinson topped the most recent list of guys most likely to get a first time NBA coaching gig. He is a former point guard who played in Europe before working under Mike D’Antoni, and then to Atlanta where he is the top assistant on the best team in the East this season.

But there are plenty of good pieces about Atkinson, including the link in the paragraph above and this one by The Bird Writes. I am not going to just repeat some of those things. Instead, I will expand upon some of the things I said on the podcast, and how they would be exactly what the Pelicans need. As most of you likely know by now, I have a friendship with someone who has worked with Atkinson the past three years, so I will put his unfiltered words about his co-worker here and allow you to decide.

Kenny is a terrific player developer, first and foremost. He is the guy most responsible for Jeff’s (Teague) recent jump. And there is no way Dennis (Schroeder) would be getting key minutes right now without Kenny. Works with those guys every day, and gets through to them. Pushes, but not overbearing. Heard he was a big influence on Lin too in New York. Works with swings and bigs too, but he is great with the guards.

Kenny is always pushing uptempo to our guys and our coaches. Loves to run; Heavy European influence. Loves to push, push, push, but in the half court he will be a heavy pick and roll guy with movement off the ball. Also, is a huge proponent of the three, maybe even more so than Bud (Mike Budenholzer). Defensively, he will work from the outside in. Wants to stop the ball before it gets into the paint, so will put a heavy emphasis on that.

So, there you go. That is Atkinson from someone who knows him well, and knows the game well. So, what excites me the most about Atkinson? Do I have to pick just one thing? I guess that if I had to, I would say it is his ability to improve guards, and more specifically point guards. Yes, it is mandatory that the next coach gets the most out of Anthony Davis, but he is on a trajectory to be the best player in the league regardless. What would really help him, and the team, out is to get some high level guard play on a consistent basis. Holiday and Evans have both shown flashes, but what it Atkinson could improve them but 10-15%? Is there anything that would help more when you look at the construction of this roster?

Jeff Teague’s PER jumped 35% since Atkinson arrival, Schroeder made a huge jump from last year and improved seemingly every month this season, and Jeremy Lin attributes much of his success to Atkinson. It’s also to be noted that Lin hasn’t been quite the same without Atkinson. And it won’t just be on the offensive end. As the quote above says, he wants to stop the ball at the first line of attack, before it even gets into the paint. He will make sure that the guards we have here perform on that end, or they will be gone.

And lastly, I feel like I don’t have to say it again, but I will – Anthony Davis and Uptempo… um, YES! I want Davis on the court with a team capable of playing at a fast pace and hitting a ton of three’s. Atkinson will demand both, and make sure Dell builds him the roster to be able to do both, if it isn’t in place already. Oh, and that three point shot AD wants to add? Atkinson will help him with it and encourage its usage. Not to an insane degree, mind you, but maybe three a game like Paul Milsap this season within a couple of years. That added dimension led to Milsap’s highest point per shot average of his career this season.

So, Atkinson not only makes AD more impossible to guard, but he also helps the team around him by shoring up its weaknesses. He will turn the Pelicans into a fun team to watch, and a nightmare to defend. He is young enough to grow with AD and will always keep pushing our players to continue their evolution. Can’t ask for much more than that.

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3 Comments

  1. DefensiveMind

    May 21, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Atkinson is my leader in the clubhouse. Especially since our most likely course of action is running this team back, essentially as is. He can maximize the use of this roster and then work with Dell to get the necessary players as the time arises. 1 or 2 years to whet his beak as a coach, focusing on implementing the right style and learning how to be the head guy, and then boom.

  2. soulbreaker

    May 21, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    I picked Atkinson because Atlanta´s O is amazing when is working well even if they aren´t that good, plus like MM said his work with guards is pretty clear too. I don´t know enough about Lue to guess how he would be as a HC but he clearly didn´t give a crap about Blatt and he just let Lebron lead the show, which meant a horrible offense to watch that only works b/c the shooting and, well, Lebron; of course the PO came and the O fell apart even against very mediocre east teams, so no thanks i will pass with Lue this time

  3. mvpmb10

    May 21, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    Ty Lue!

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