As we approach the NBA playoffs, the structure of the top 10 seeds in both conferences has started to take shape. The top tier teams are beginning to distinguish themselves from the ones below them while the mid-table teams are trying their best to avoid the NBA play-in tournament and grab a top-6 spot.
A major factor in the franchise's success is the head coach who is an integral part of the team. Without his expertise, rotation strategies, and adjustments, even the best players cannot win games.
NBA Coach of the Year power rankings
There have been several coaches who have turned the fortunes of their teams and they deserve recognition for their efforts alongside the star players. Toronto Raptors' Nick Nurse won the NBA Coach of the Year award last season and a lot of new names have made the race this year. Let's take a look at our NBA power rankings for the NBA Coach of the Year award for 2021.
#5 Terry Stotts (Portland Trail Blazers)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: N/A
Team Record: 32-23 (6th in West)
A lot of people wouldn't have Terry Stotts as an NBA Coach of the Year candidate, but he makes a strong case for it. After losing CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins to injury, people expected the Portland Trail Blazers to lose a chunk of games and slip in the conference standings. However, the team has shown resilience and grit and have won games despite the odds being against them.
Coach Terry Stotts made the adjustments necessary to keep the Trail Blazers afloat. He often started Derrick Jones Jr., Gary Trent Jr., Carmelo Anthony, Enes Kanter and Robert Covington as and when required and kept them on the bench when they weren't serving a purpose against a particular team. Stotts didn't let injuries derail him from the mission and he deserves credit for the real-time changes he made.
He has also done a great job putting in Norman Powell in the starting lineup. But Stotts gets a lot of slack for messing up defensive strategies. He is certainly not a defensive-minded coach and the team's lack of defense has hurt them many times.
#4 Tom Thibodeau (New York Knicks)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 4 (-)
Team record: 30-27 (6th in East)
Tom Thibodeau is best known for his time with the Chicago Bulls when he led a 22-year-old Derrick Rose to become the youngest MVP in NBA history. He won his first NBA Coach of the Year award that season. Thibodeau joined the New York Knicks on July 30th, 2020 and has changed the landscape of the team. The Knicks were the laughing stock of the league for the longest time but this season they have a new look.
A defensive-minded coach, Tom Thibodeau has taken the New York Knicks to become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The Knicks were 27th or below in most defensive categories until last year and now they are top 5. He developed Julius Randle amazingly as he earned his first-ever NBA All-Star selection this year and is a prime candidate for the NBA 'Most Improved Player' award as well. The Knicks are finally ending their playoff drought this year, and the coach has had a major role to play in that.
#3 Doc Rivers (Philadelphia 76ers)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 2 (↓1)
Team record: 39-17 (1st in East)
Doc Rivers left the LA Clippers last season and joined the Philadelphia 76ers. The coach has done a great job coming in and developing a rhythm. The team got swept in last season's first round of the playoffs, albeit Ben Simmons was injured. He has used the talents of Joel Embiid and Simmons perfectly and transformed this franchise into the powerhouse we know this season. His defence-first attitude has greatly benefited the 76ers as they are ranked top 5 in almost every defensive category. His coaching might also earn Ben Simmons the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award this season.
Daryl Morey, on the advice of Doc Rivers, made the changes necessary for a championship run. The team acquired Danny Green, Dwight Howard and Seth Curry in the offseason and bolstered their shooting and defense even further. Rivers won the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2000 with the Orlando Magic and he might win his second award this year.
#2 Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 3 (↑1)
Team record: 40-15 (2nd in West)
Monty Williams' arrival in Phoenix has been nothing but amazing for the Suns. His first season as the Phoenix Suns' coach was slightly underwhelming, but the highlight was going 8-0 in the NBA's Orlando bubble in 2020. He coached a young Chris Paul in New Orleans and was reunited with his star point guard this season. Paul and Williams' chemistry and playmaking have led the Phoenix Suns to the 2nd-best record in the rugged Western Conference.
The Suns are primed to end their long playoff drought this season and are a force to be reckoned with come postseason. The Phoenix Suns are just 2 wins behind the conference-leading Utah Jazz and if the team ends up grabbing the top-most seed, Monty Williams' case for NBA Coach of the Year is even stronger.
#1 Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 1 (-)
Team record: 42-14 (1st in West)
The coach who deserves the most credit for turning around any franchise this season is Utah Jazz's head coach Quin Snyder. He didn't acquire any All-Stars or great new players in the offseason and has taken the same squad to the best record in the NBA. They have come out this season all guns blazing and have run over teams with their new offensive and defensive strategies.
The Utah Jazz are terrifying defenses with their high-volume three-point shooting and spacing. They are also in prime form on the defensive end of the floor with an impressive interior and perimeter presence.
Certainly, nobody expected the Utah Jazz to be first in the Western Conference this season and head coach Quin Snyder deserves a lot of the credit for the team's success. He was nominated for the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2018 but might finally win the award this season.