With roughly two weeks of regular-season action left this year, the attention on NBA Awards is higher than ever. While Coach of the Year is one of the lesser-hyped honors, it's certainly been as closely contested as the other awards this year.
Considering the level of talent in the NBA right now, it's easy to write away the importance that a team's coaching staff plays. But at the end of the day, the results of any unit aren't down to just the performance of individual players. You have to indulge in the nitty-gritty of it, such as the defensive schemes, set-plays, team chemistry and so on.
NBA Coach of the Year Power Rankings
This is exactly where the NBA coaches on this list have excelled. They've made the most of the resources available to them and found the perfect rotations to maximize the potential of their star players. They've helped in building the needed cohesion for their teams to go out and play winning basketball.
Without further ado, let's look at the latest power rankings for the 2021 Coach of the Year Award.
#5 Tyronn Lue (LA Clippers)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: N/A
Team Record: 43-20 (3rd in West)
The LA Clippers have been on a roll since the All-Star break. They've gone 19-6 in 25 games in the second half of the season and Tyronn Lue has barely had a full-strength side at his disposal. Both Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka have missed the majority of this run and remain sidelined to date. Even Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have missed a bunch of games.
Ty Lue has managed to shuffle the pack efficiently enough to get the best out of his lineups. He's persisted with Reggie Jackson as the starter in Beverley's absence and that has allowed the point guard to rejuvenate his career. Lue has also put faith in Terance Mann and the sophomore has impressed with his energy off the bench.
The LA Clippers have gone 4-1 over the last 10 days despite Leonard missing four of those games. Lue has been able to efficiently integrate DeMarcus Cousins into his rotation as well. Cousins has been allowed to post up and attack the rim. If he's doubled up, he either finishes in traffic or creates looks for others.
There are several such nifty tweaks that Tyronn Lue has employed to make the LA Clippers look like genuine championship material again.
#4 Doc Rivers (Philadelphia 76ers)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 3 (↓1)
Team record: 40-21 (2nd in East)
The Philadelphia 76ers' hot run has worn off since the All-Star break. They've struggled to win when missing starters all season, including the last 10 days. Ben Simmons missed four games with an illness and the Sixers lost all of them. Their only win during this stretch came against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Doc Rivers' ranking has understandably taken a hit, but we still cannot ignore the major tweaks he's made to allow Joel Embiid to play at an MVP level. Rivers plans his rotations in such a way that there are at least three reliable distance shooters on the floor at any given point to stretch opposing defenses.
It is this approach that has allowed Ben Simmons to be effective on offense as a playmaker despite not having a jump shot. It's this approach that has allowed Rivers to play defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle in end-of-game lineups without going dry from the field.
The Sixers may be in the middle of a muddle right now but they're legitimate contenders when playing at full strength.
#3 Tom Thibodeau (New York Knicks)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 4 (↑1)
Team record: 34-28 (4th in East)
No one expected the New York Knicks to be competing for homecourt advantage in the NBA Playoffs when Tom Thibodeau was appointed as head coach. Thibodeau has obviously exceeded all expectations and is clearly bringing the best out of a bunch of players who look largely very ordinary on paper.
Julius Randle is the best exhibit to explain this. Randle was never a willing passer all his career but Thibodeau has made the power forward play with his back to the basket and create looks for his teammates. Even RJ Barrett has taken a much bigger leap in his sophomore year than he was projected to.
Derrick Rose has also been a much more productive player since reuniting with Tom Thibodeau. Rose has provided the needed athleticism, energy and leadership off the bench. He's even featured in closeout lineups.
Outside of individual performances, the New York Knicks have evident chemistry, especially on defense. They've allowed the fewest points per game all year and currently have the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA. The Knicks rallied their recent nine-game winning run on the back of this defensive tenacity.
Thibodeau has been the driving force behind this hard-nosed basketball culture that the current crop of players is proud of.
#2 Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 2 (-)
Team record: 43-18 (2nd in West)
The Phoenix Suns' 8-0 record in the bubble was a clear marker that they were in the ascendancy. But no one expected the franchise to compete for the first seed in the West the very next season. Chris Paul's arrival has certainly helped a lot but head coach Monty Williams has also been able to extract the best out of his players.
Williams hasn't been afraid to make bold decisions. He dropped Jae Crowder from the starting lineup in favor of sophomore Cam Johnson midway through the season because the latter was simply more efficient at that point. He's also been happy to play Dario Saric as a stretch five off the bench and the Suns have reaped the rewards of his offensive play.
The Suns went 3-2 during the last 10 days. This includes crucial wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. The Suns still have a few tough games to play until the end of the season, but they can still end up with the top seed in the West.
#1 Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz)
Previous NBA COTY Power Ranking: 1 (-)
Team record: 44-17 (1st in West)
The Utah Jazz have struggled over the last 10 days due to the absence of Donovan Mitchell and lost two consecutive games against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This takes away little from the effort that Quin Snyder has put in to keep the Utah Jazz at the top of the Western Conference for such a long time.
The Jazz have always had a defensive identity under Snyder, but he's managed to put an efficient offense in place this time around. The Jazz are the only top five team in the league in both offensive and defensive ratings. They've embraced the three-point line as well and attempted the highest number of shots per game from beyond the arc this season.
What's interesting to note is that every player on the Jazz has clearly defined roles. This allows the team to move the ball better and prevent the offensive flow from stagnating. It also helps in executing accurate defensive rotations.
The Utah Jazz may or may not finish with the best record in the NBA, but Quin Snyder will certainly be among the favorites for the Coach of the Year honors.