At the end of an NBA season, players are voted for seven different awards which include, the Coach of the Year, Clutch Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year, and last but not least, the Most Valuable Player.
When a player or coach wins an award, they get to call themselves the best in that category for that season. At the beginning of each season, there are players we expect to be in the conversation for each award. For example, the last three seasons, the top three MVP candidates have been Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Joel Embiid.
Throughout the course of the season and near the end of the season, there are always players who we did not expect to be in the conversation for an award. Here are the top dark horse award candidates for each award.
Dark horse Coach of the Year candidate: Jamahl Mosley, Orlando Magic
The NBA Coach of the Year, the Red Auerbach trophy, is named for the coach that had the best season. Looking through the course of NBA History, the award goes to a coach whose team had the best record in the NBA, the coach of a team that greatly exceeded expectations, or a coach of a team who did a bit of both.
Last season, the NBA Coach of the Year went to Mike Brown of the Sacramento Kings. He led them to a 49-33 record. The Kings were expected to be really bad, instead, they had the highest offensive rating in NBA history and made the playoffs. Brown became the first-ever unanimous coach of the year winner.
As we are going into next season, a lot of the favorites are coaches of really good teams like Joe Mazzulla from the Celtics, Michael Malone from the Nuggets, and Nick Nurse from the 76ers. The one dark horse candidate is Jamahl Mosley from the Orlando Magic.
Mosley has coached under Hall of Famer George Karl, Mike Brown, Rick Carlisle, and just recently coached along Steve Kerr, Tyronn Lue, and Erik Spoelstra for the FIBA World Cup. He has now learned from many great offensive and defensive coaches where he can incorporate that into his system.
Going into last season the Magic were expected to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference but exceeded their low expectations by finishing with a record of 34-48. Despite their bad record, in their last 56 games, the Magic had a record of 29-28 which was the eighth-best record in the East over that span.
Mosley did a great job of developing Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, and fixing up Markelle Fultz. For the Magic to finish last season as strongly as they did, for as young as they are, they'll exceed their expectations again. If they greatly exceed them, with Mosley leading the way, he has a great shot of winning Coach of the Year.