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NBA

Heat Check: Who is the NBA Coach of the Year to this point of the season?

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Coach of the Year (NBA Getty Images)

Today's game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers features a battle between two of the leading candidates for Coach of the Year.

It has our NBA.com Staff wondering: Who is the Coach of the Year to this point of the season?

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It's Mike Budenholzer for me.

I think we all expected the Bucks to be better this season, but not to this extent. Not only do they have the best record in both the conference and NBA, they're the only team to have a top-five offence and defence, which has them outscoring opponents by a whopping 8.8 points per 100 possessions, the best rate in the league by a mile.

Furthermore, Budenholzer's system has turned Giannis Antetokounmpo into the leading MVP candidate and helped get the best out of Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton.

Whether or not it's ultimately enough for them to be the last team standing in the Eastern Conference remains to be seen, but Budenholzer deserves a ton of credit for unlocking their full potential.

Matias Baldo (@matiasbaldo): Mike Budenholzer gets my vote as well.

After his time in Atlanta, Budenholzer has completely changed the Bucks and made them the best team in the East - and, potentially, a candidate to win the whole thing. He has done so by building a new DNA around Giannis Antetokounmpo for a team that was suffering last season with Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty, turning them into one of the best teams in the league on both sides of the court.

Regardless of what happens in the rest of his time with the franchise, Budenholzer will always be remembered as the coach that unleashed the Greek Freak's star power.

Leandro Fernandez (@FernandezLea): In a season where we have more than one great candidate, Mike Malone gets the vote and deserves a lot of credit for what he is accomplishing with the Denver Nuggets, a team that is fighting with the Golden State Warriors for the first place in the West.

Everyone expected a step forward for the Nuggets after missing the playoffs last year on the final game of the regular season. But few expected this version of the Nuggets, who look every bit of a contender in the Western Conference.

Malone is getting the best from a team that has been far from complete during the season. Denver's projected starting five of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic has only appeared in seven games because of various injuries. The reserves have stepped up time and time again, the bench has improved a lot and the defense (something that wasn't there in the past) has turned into one of the best in the league.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): I'm also taking Mike Malone.

If Nikola Jokic doesn't win the MVP and there isn't a Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year or Most Improved Player candidate on the Nuggets roster, it feels right that someone in Denver receives some hardward for what's been a truly incredible and consistent run at or near the top of the unforgiving Western Conference.

I do think, however, that Nate McMillan is right there and if he wins it, I won't bat an eye.

When Victor Oladipo went down in a win over the Toronto Raptors in January, the Pacers were in third in the East, one game up on the Philadelphia 76ers who were in fourth. Where are they now? Third in the East, one game up on the 76ers.

Immediately following Oladipo's injury, the Pacers dropped four straight and it looked as it their season was on the verge of collapsing. Given that it was prior to the trade deadline, there was even some chatter of becoming sellers and hitting the proverbial reset button. Instead, they've rattled off a 10-4 stretch, which ranks third in the entire NBA since the start of February.

This is the second straight year McMillan has squeezed every ounce out of this team and exceeded even the most optimistic of outlooks. He's an incredibly deserving Coach of the Year candidate that could very well win it when all is said and done.

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