Utah’s Quin Snyder leads NBA Coach of the Year candidates

This is especially true for the coach of the year, in which at least five candidates have given serious consideration. Indeed, there is something for everyone this year, whether voters prioritize team success, culture change, or overachieving an award that is usually one of the most difficult to predict.

The story continues under the advertisement

The conversation starts at the top with Quin Snyder, whose Utah Jazz comes first in terms of win percentage and points difference and is also the only team with a top 5 offense and defense. Utah (44-16) is well on its way to its best season in the prime years of John Stockton against Karl Malone in the late 1990s, beating Las Vegas’ pre-season forecast of 41.5 wins with 12 games left.

Utah is one of the few teams that made it easy to leave Snyder’s candidacy without major flaws. Though nit-pickers will find that he’s benefited from excellent line-up stability, Snyder has taken a multi-year second division playoff team to the battle for the title with a disciplined defense and an offensive elite attack that relies on ball movement and outside shooting. His two stars, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, have shown hard feelings in the rearview mirror after their positive coronavirus tests last March. They have played at the NBA level and led a veteran-dominated team to double-digit league wins.

Monty Williams’ Phoenix Suns have several qualities in common with jazz: They far exceeded expectations, showed a strong balance in both directions, and received quality contributions from relatively unannounced supporting actors. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two main seeds of the West is experience. Aside from Chris Paul, Williams has forged a winner from talent under 25 and veterans with limited postseason resumes.

The story continues under the advertisement

If Snyder is the choice for voters who value sheer dominance, Williams’ case is based on maximizing his team’s talent and transforming a wayward franchise after an unforgettable decade. Yes, Paul deserves a lot of credit for pumping Phoenix up for its first playoff trip since 2010 and its best record since 2007. The Sun’s two-year rise, however, began with the arrival of the reserved and compassionate Williams, whose professionalism and skill The connection with Paul and the development of Devin Booker were key drivers of their mutual success.

The undisputed turnaround king this year, however, is Tom Thibodeau, whose New York Knicks continue to defy skeptics who assumed they would rejuvenate after a surprisingly strong start. Instead, the Knicks will drive a nine-game winning streak on Monday, battling for home advantage in the east after Las Vegas odds-makers predicted they would finish with one of the league’s five worst records.

The Knicks’ narrative is neat and orderly: Thibodeau has breathed new life into a sad franchise with its signature intensity and focus on defense. New York ranks fourth on defensive efficiency after finishing in the last 10 for the past four seasons. In the meantime, Thibodeau has successfully used Julius Randle as a jack of all trades and even received strong contributions from youngsters like RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, contrary to his reputation for prioritizing short-term success over long-term development. Absolutely no one has seen the Knicks bring joy back to the Big Apple so quickly, and it is easy to imagine voters flocking to Thibodeau’s unexpected redemption story after his chaotic exit from Minnesota.

The story continues under the advertisement

Thibodeau and Steve Nash are perfectly cast Crosstown foils: the former screams himself hoarse and indulges in building a strong defense out of anonymous gears, while the latter dances on TikTok, overseeing a superstar-laden offensive considered the most efficient in history the league could end. Voters shouldn’t be fooled by Nash’s calm demeanor, or hurry to pay tribute to Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets’ remarkable attack. Brooklyn may have the most talented squad in the league, but Nash rarely had all that talent available.

During his rookie season, Nash has rolled brilliantly with the punches in response to Irving’s personal absences, Durant’s contact tracing episodes, and Harden’s midseason arrival. Brooklyn (41-20) has the best record in the East, and preseason questions about internal chemistry and the star pecking order have faded. Nash certainly wouldn’t have been able to get as much out of the overwhelming Knicks roster as Thibodeau, but could Thibodeau have managed the great personalities of the Networks as well as Nash?

The confident and media-savvy Rivers inherited an organization in dire need of trust, and its arrival helped make the 76ers the most starved activists in the league. Joel Embiid declared himself the league’s MVP, Ben Simmons argued he was Defensive Player of the Year, and Tobias Harris repeatedly expressed frustration over his all-star snubbing. Philadelphia has also gone the same way, occupying third place in defense and playing with a lot more solidarity than last season.

The story continues under the advertisement

On this hypothetical vote, the vote would take place: 1) Snyder, 2) Thibodeau, and 3) Williams. Utah’s exceptionally high level of play has been normalized by its persistence, making it easy to overlook the fact that Jazz has the seventh-best point differential in the NBA for the past decade. Jumping from “good” to “great” is the hardest jump, and Snyder should be rewarded for the continued excellence of jazz, just as Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks was two years ago.

In addition to Nash and Rivers, honorable mentions go to Nate McMillan for the Atlanta Hawks’ remarkable midseason reversal, and to Taylor Jenkins for their recent win out of the Memphis Grizzlies during a difficult season of injuries and coronavirus protocol absences.