Prior to the season starting I predicted Rick Carlisle as the best-case scenario for the 2020-2021 NBA Coach of the Year award. My runner-up was Steve Kerr and boy that is nothing close as the NBA season winds down. However, we do know enough at this point to determine some final top three candidates for the 2021 NBA Coach of the Year.
These coaches in the NBA represent the true factors of Coach of the Year to me. Team success, playing style and building a cohesive unit hinges on the Head Coach in the NBA. Let’s take a look at who matters the most from the NBA’s coaching standpoint in the 2020-2021 season.
Top 2021 NBA Coach of the Year Candidates
Quin Snyder – Utah Jazz
What more to say besides the Utah Jazz have been the best team all season long? They’ve maintained the best record all season and arguably the best defensive team in the NBA. Sure it helps to have a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2021 All-Star Rudy Gobert. Yes, it helps to have Donovan Mitchell. The interesting part here is that Mitchell looks to be almost identical to his career numbers. He’s scoring 2 points more this season than in any season he’s played in the NBA, shooting the ball 44-percent (career average), and playing 33 minutes a game (career average).
You have to wonder what’s the sudden rise with the Utah Jazz. They made very few movements last offseason and the biggest move was signing Derrick Favors. You’d think Utah bringing him back was for a significant reason but he is playing a career-low 15 minutes per game this season. Jordan Clarkson is the biggest factor for the Jazz this season coming off the bench (and Sixth Man of the Year Candidate). Clarkson is averaging 17.5 points currently this season and all off the bench. He’s started one game so far of the 57 games he’s played in this season this far. Hopefully, you see the momentum of reasons Synder should be the favorite to win this award this season. The next step is to see if he can coach the Jazz to a deep playoff run.
Monty Williams – Phoenix Suns
One of the easiest candidates for the NBA’s 2021 Coach of the Year is Monty Williams. The Suns bloomed a little late last season and went 8-0 in the seeding games in the Orlando bubble. Williams still was at the helm and the Suns failed to make the Play-in Tournament last season. Although their faith was partially controlled they lost out due to win-percentage. Flip the script in 2021 and the Suns are cruising into the playoffs. The only battle to fight is securing the number one seed from the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference.
Again, we can’t ignore that roster upgrades are a part of the Suns success this season. Anytime your team acquires Chris Paul, there is a good chance that your team is instantly playoff bound. Jae Crowder is another free agent signing that makes Phoenix a favor to compete for the Western Conference Championship come playoff time. This is all about credit where it’s due as we shouldn’t ignore Monty’s success end of last season. Reuniting with Chris Paul is a good thing for both parties here. A little wiser and All-Star Devin Booker is on your side with a young DeAndre Ayton. Coaches with talent striving at the top of the contender list is what I like to see.
Tom Thibodeau – New York Knicks
Hey, here is Thibbs and a team of his becoming successful. Was Tom the wrong or right hire for long-term success? That is to be determined but can we give him some love seriously? New York was in no shape or form projected to be in the top four of the Eastern Conference this year. The exciting part is that Julius Randle is an All-Star and continues to prove he might be a centerpiece for a franchise. Perhaps, Randle could be the main piece next to another All-Star? The Knicks have some sort of justification that free agents should peak their way.
New York will forever be a market where players will be attracted to. However, front office, coaching changes, and just the bad taste of hearing “Knicks” are slowly turning around from the worse. One of the biggest improvements for the Knicks? You bet, the defense! The Knicks currently sit in the top 5 of Defensive Rating this season. The early season hype has proven in the final few weeks they have maintained great defensive ratings. Plus, that OTHER team in New York is sitting in the low-20s in Defensive Rating. So let’s give credit where it’s due. This is in large due to Thibbs and his coaching.
Doc Rivers (Philadelphia 76ers) and Frank Vogel (Los Angeles Lakers)