Jason Kidd has had one of the most unique coaching careers in NBA history. He went straight to coaching after ending his playing career, taking over the head job in Brooklyn. After just one tumultuous season where he was coaching a veteran team with high expectations, he was traded to Milwaukee for two second-round picks.
He took over a team that had the worst record in all of basketball and led them to a playoff birth in a watered down Eastern Conference. He followed that campaign up with a disappointing season last year, finishing outside the playoffs.
This year, the Bucks came flying out of the gate behind a revitalized Giannis Antentokounmpo, but they have sputtered of late, dropping ten of their last twelve games. This has fans getting restless about the coaching chops of the former All-Star point guard. There are cases to made on both sides.
A case could easily be made that Kidd has massively overachieved this season given the circumstances he was given. During the preseason, shooting guard Khris Middleton, who coming into the year was the Bucks’ best scorer, went down with a gruesome hamstring injury. Despite that, the Bucks are within striking distance of the playoffs as Middleton sets to return sometime this week.
Kidd has also done what few coaches are able are able to do: get former starters to accept a bench role. Greg Monroe has become an effective contributor for the second unit, feasting on backup big men as the offense flows through him. This has given much needed rest to the Bucks’ young stars Jabari Parker and the aforementioned Giannis. Speaking of Kidd’s great success, turning Giannis into a hybrid of Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen at just 22 years of age is impressive. While much of the credit deserves to go to Giannis, Kidd has put the young Greek phenom in a position to succeed, giving him the keys to the offense and letting him set the league on fire. Parker has taken a leap this year offensively, that may be partly because of health, but Kidd has shown that he can develop young talent.
On the flip side of the coin, there are obvious flaws in Kidd’s coaching style. He has a tendency to ride out lineups without Giannis and Jabari on the floor that can lead to crippling runs. Staggering minutes with your best players is something that nearly every NBA team does, and the inability to do so is the reason that Scott Brooks was fired in Oklahoma City. Over the last month, the Bucks’ defense has been horrendous, allowing opponents to shoot 47.7% from the floor and 39% from beyond the arc. They posted a putrid 111.1 defensive rating in January, which is difficult to believe given how great they were on the defensive end two seasons ago. It is not all on Kidd; Parker is a poor defender and players like Mirza Teletovic, Monroe, and Michael Beasley are all one-dimensional threats. With that being said, that level of ineptitude is inexcusable. Defensive lapses fall on coaching, and until something changes on that end Kidd should be held responsible.
Firing Jason Kidd feels like an overreaction. The Bucks are a young team, and there is something to be said for having continuity within the management of the team. Giannis has expressed his admiration for Kidd and having your best player and your coach on the same page is essential for long-term success. With all that said, the heat needs to be turned up on Kidd. If the Bucks continue to regress, he is the one who will ultimately be held responsible.