Roundtable: Bogut-less Bucks, Nellie's legacy, more NBA musings
Andrew Bogut's season-ending injuries could leave the Bucks in playoff trouble
Don Nelson's win total isn't enough to rank him alongside the elite coaches
Other topics: Marcus Camby's playoff impact for Blazers, year-end awards
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week.
(All stats and records are through April 5.)
1. Without Andrew Bogut (broken hand, sprained wrist, dislocated elbow) in the playoffs, how far do you expect the Bucks to go?
Ian Thomsen: They were a dangerous first-round team with Bogut scoring at one end and blocking shots at the other; without him, they're much more of a hollow perimeter team that will have difficulty against any of the top four seeds. With Bogut, they were an underdog to be avoided; without him, they're an opponent the favorites will want to face in the opening round. The other shame for Milwaukee is that Bogut will go another year without benefiting from playoff experience.
Jack McCallum: I didn't expect them to get by Atlanta or Boston even with a healthy Bogut. But, provided the Aussie center makes a smooth recovery, with Bogut having finally come alive, the sooner-than-expected maturity of Brandon Jennings and the fire-in-the-belly coaching of Scott Skiles, there finally seems to be something to build on in Suds City.
Frank Hughes: I have not seen too many worse injuries than Bogut's. Makes you wonder if the poor guy will ever be the same. It is going to be difficult for Milwaukee anyway, given its lack of playoff experience, but moving forward without Bogut would seem to make it almost impossible. In a one-game series, with the "Win One for the Gipper" inspiration playing a role, maybe. But in a seven-game series, the Bucks would be undermanned, which is a shame because they have been one of the league's nice stories since the trade deadline.
Chris Mannix: No one I've talked to expects the Bucks to suddenly become an easy out -- not with Skiles pushing them. Since Bogut's injuries happened late in the season, Milwaukee has less time to think about the impact before the playoffs, which definitely helps. But losing the focal point of the offense and the linchpin of the defense is just too much to overcome, not with unproven depth (Primoz Brezec, Dan Gadzuric) on the bench and a new starter (Kurt Thomas) who may not have enough gas left in the tank for extended minutes. The Bucks will fight and the combination of Jennings and John Salmons will keep games close, but I expect them to go out in the first round.
2. Where do you rank Don Nelson among the league's top coaches in history?
Thomsen: He has to rate behind the likes of Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich, who have won multiple championships while making a long-term impact. Jerry Sloan's superior winning percentage also gives him the edge over Nelson. Maybe a few other coaches should be ranked ahead of him -- John Kundla? Red Holzman? -- but thereafter, Nelson belongs in any conversation. Even though he never coached a champion and his reputation has taken a beating over the last couple of years at Golden State, Nellie's extended regular-season success and his ingenuity as a strategist are almost without peer and make him more than worthy of the Hall of Fame.
McCallum: We rank coaches, like players, mostly on the basis of championships, which is why names like Auerbach, Jackson and Riley top any list. But Nellie we judge by a different standard: innovation. You never heard of Red Ball or Phil Ball, but we know Nellie Ball: matchup exploitation, run-and-gun, peculiar overloads, zones, point forwards, 7-footers shooting threes, etc. Look at it this way: How great is it that Sloan, the capo of constancy, and Nellie, the eternal man of mystery, are both among the top 10 coaches in NBA history?
Hughes: Nelson is definitely in the top 10, but I'd put him in the bottom half of that 10. When you talk about the top coaches, you have to go with those who won championships. Lenny Wilkens won both a lot of regular-season games and he won a title. Riley is ahead of Nellie, as is Holzman and Chuck Daly. Though he has not won a title, I like the way Sloan coaches more than I do Nellie. It's debatable where Nelson fits in after those names.
Mannix: Chris Ballard wrote a fine piece praising Nelson in last week's Sports Illustrated, but I take a different view on Nellie. Yes, he has been the most unorthodox coach in league history and some of his mad-scientist schemes have been as brilliant as they have been effective. But he has a sub-.500 playoff record and no championships on his coaching résumé, compared to Jackson (10), Auerbach (nine), Riley (five) and Wilkens (one). The fact that we are comparing Nelson to that elite company means that he is, indeed, a very good coach, and no one said championships are required for greatness -- Sloan supporters would argue with that. But Nelson isn't in the realm of greatness, in my opinion, and has to be considered a notch or two below the best.
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