Who were the Most Profitable NBA Head Coaches Last Season?
During the 2015-16 NBA season, five teams — the Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, and New York Knicks — fired their head coaches. From that pool of five replacement coaches, only two will stay with their teams for 2016-17 season.
Ten teams, which accounts for 30% of the entire NBA, enter the upcoming season with new head coaches. That includes three first-time coaches with Kenny Atkinson (BKN), Luke Walton (LAL) and David Fizdale (MEM) earning promotions over the summer. An additional five coaches have never gone through a full season.
Given these significant coaching changes, as well as roster changes in free agency, it’s important to re-examine each coach from a betting perspective. Each coach has their own particular style and unique skill set, some of which are more conducive for certain styles of betting.
In preparation for the upcoming season, we wanted to examine the 30 head coaches and see how profitable each one is in regards to spread, moneyline, and over/under betting.
The tables below display the spread, moneyline, and over/under records for all 30 NBA coaches. This includes their record during the 2015-16 season as well as for their respective careers (since 2005).
|Coach||2015-2016 (ATS)||Units Won||Since 2005 (ATS)||Units Won Since 2005|
|Stan Van Gundy||42-37||+3.68||304-251||+38.97|
It’s worth noting that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr took an indefinite leave of absence to rehabilitate his back at the beginning of last season. During that 43-game stretch, Luke Walton served as Golden State’s interim head coach, but the team’s record was still attributed to Kerr.
For what it’s worth, Walton went 26-16-1 ATS (+8.51 units) in those games. In the regular season games coached by Kerr, the Warriors went just 19-20 ATS. If we attribute those wins to Walton, he would have been the most profitable ATS coach in the league.
This season Walton remains in the Golden State, though he’ll be coaching the Lakers. Coaching-wise, he’s definitely an upgrade over his predecessor, Byron Scott, who has the worst coaching record in LA’s franchise history. The post-Kobe Lakers have some intriguing young talent in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram. Walton spent the past two seasons alongside Kerr (considered by many to be one of the best coaches in the league), which should boost the morale of Lakers fans. With an arsenal of talent and an upgrade at the head coaching position, Walton and his Lakers could be a surprisingly profitable bet this season.
It’s also interesting to note that Scott Skiles, who stepped down as head coach of the Orlando Magic during the offseason, was one of the most profitable ATS coaches last season. In his lone season as Orlando’s head coach, Skiles went 45-36 ATS with +6.67 units won.
|Coach||2015-2016 SU||Units Won (u)||SU Since' 05||Units Won SU Since '05 (u)|
|Stan Van Gundy||44-38||+3.93||349-212||-3.97|
Although the moneyline is not the most popular form of betting in basketball, it is worth examining for the purpose of this exercise. Part of the philosophy of a contrarian bettor is taking teams that are undervalued, which often are the bottom-dwellers of the league. When these plus-money dogs pull off the upsets, it’s like striking gold.
During the 2015-16 season, Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone (33-49, +11.76 units) was the most profitable moneyline coach. As my colleague David mentioned earlier this offseason, the Nuggets’ win total has increased from 34.5 to 36.5 due to sharp action on the over.
The Nuggets have stockpiled young, high-upside prospects like Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Jamal Murray. If the team can stay healthy and their young players continue to grow, the Nuggets could surprise some people this season. It will be worthwhile monitoring how oddsmakers value Malone’s team.
|Coach||2015-2016 Over||Units Won (u)||Over Since' 05||Units Won Over Since '05 (u)|
|Stan Van Gundy||43-39||+1.74||277-327||-64.22|
Houston’s interim head coach JB Bickerstaff (42-29, +11.81 units) was the most profitable over coach last season, but there’s one over coach bettors should become familiar with — his replacement. Mike D’Antoni is famous for his seven second or less offense, which was implemented in Phoenix during the ’05-’06 season. His style is a perfect fit for Houston’s offense-minded personnel.
Last season the Rockets had one of the best offenses in the league and played at one of the fastest paces. Houston’s offense could be even better this season due to the additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, two capable 3-point shooters tailor made to play alongside James Harden. The team’s offense looks to be improved, and their defense could struggle without Dwight Howard. Bettors should expect some very high totals involving Houston this season.
|Coach||2015-2016 Under||Units Won (u)||Over Since' 05||Units Won Under Since '05 (u)|
|Stan Van Gundy||39-43||-5.93||327-288||+23.50|
Quin Snyder, whose Jazz had a top ten defense in ’15-’16, was the best under coach last year. For the most part, defense-minded coaches, like Snyder, were better suited for the under. Utah also played at the slowest pace in the NBA last year, which only aids Snyder’s success as an under coach given the fewer possessions and opportunities to score.
In addition to Synder, Gregg Popovich, Frank Vogel, and Erik Spoelstra all fit this model. Personally, I’m skeptical whether Spolestra’s Heat can repeat their defensive success this season and be a profitable under team.
Miami lost Dwyane Wade, a capable defender, and will now lean on its younger players (including Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Hassan Whiteside) to step up and lead the team defensively. While Whiteside’s impact on defense is well-known, it’s uncertain how much of the burden Richardson and Winslow can pick up in their sophomore seasons.
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