As the 2020-21 NBA season inches closer to the playoffs, the true contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the crop.
While the league is dominated by star players and rightfully so, there are the unsung heroes who make things happen from behind the sidelines. A good coach can be the difference between a championship-caliber team and a mere .500 one in a season.
As things stand now, it is safe to assume that last season's NBA Coach of the Year, Nick Nurse, probably won't bag the award this time around.
While Nurse is still one of the best in the business, his Toronto Raptors are nowhere close to being a contender in the postseason battle brewing up in the Eastern Conference.
Top five candidates who could win the 2021 NBA Coach of the Year Award
Like in every season, a few coaches have performed at an elite level this campaign and deserve recognition. On that note, let's take a look at the top five candidates who are in the race for the 2021 NBA Coach of the Year award.
#1 Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz)
Quin Snyder is the frontrunner for the 2021 NBA Coach of the Year award. He has done a marvelous job with the Utah Jazz, who are sitting atop the Western Conference with a 33-11 record on the season.
Under Snyder's tutelage, the Jazz have been a dominant force at home, winning 18 of their 20 games at the Vivint Arena. However, the highlight of their season was their 11-game winning streak the team embarked upon between 9-30 January this year.
The Utah Jazz also have the best winning percentage (.750) in the league this season and are well ahead of their competition.
Coach Snyder's men have proven their mettle as an elite unit, tying for the franchise record of three All-Star selections this season. All that is left for them now is to make a deep playoff run to silence their critics and announce their arrival as a championship-caliber team.
#2 Doc Rivers (Philadelphia 76ers)
Doc Rivers is a true professional who knows every in and out of the basketball world.
In his first season as head coach of the Orlando Magic in 2000, he was named the Coach of the Year. He later went on to win the ultimate prize in the game, hoisting the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy with the 08' Boston Celtics.
After the debacle in last year's Western Conference semi-finals, Rivers moved to another contender in the East, taking charge of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The transition has been smooth, as coach Rivers has made strides in his first year with the team. The 76ers are playing at a high level under him, leading the East (32-13) with authority thus far. Ask Philly fans and pundits, and they will all tell you how the team is looking completely different from years past.
Doc Rivers' defense-first mantra is better suited to the 76ers, and this season could mark the year when the Philadelphia 76ers take the next step in the playoffs, with a championship-caliber head coach at their helm.
Rivers could be another leading candidate for the 2021 Coach of the Year award if his team continue their stunning performances.
#3 Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns)
Monty Williams has turned around a lottery team into a top contender this season.
It all began with the Phoenix Suns' splendid 8-0 run in the bubble last year that made them an attractive destination for veteran elite Chris Paul. Since then, the Phoenix Suns have taken the league by storm.
They have ascended towards the top of the Western Conference with a 30-14 record and are three games behind the conference-leading Utah Jazz at the moment.
The mutual respect and admiration between CP3 and coach Williams have transformed the Phoenix Suns into an emerging powerhouse in the West.
They are looking primed to end their playoff drought this campaign and could pull off an upset in the 2021 playoffs. The Suns have struck a balance at both ends of the court and are looking better and better with every passing game.
Williams deserves much credit for their quick turnaround, making him one of the prime candidates for the 2021 NBA Coach of the Year award.
#4 Tom Thibodeau (New York Knicks)
The New York Knicks don't boast a season record that is comparable with other teams in this list.
Nevertheless, their coach Tom Thibodeau must be included in this list for his achievements with a side that have been irrelevant in the East since the 2012-13 season.
In just his first year with the team, coach Thibs has infused the Knickerbockers with defensive attributes, transforming them into an elite defensive unit.
The New York Knicks are currently occupying fifth place in the East with a 23-22 record on the season. Under coach Thibodeau, the New York Knicks could easily clinch a playoff berth and start a new chapter in their history.
The resurgence of the Knicks this season can potentially turn them into a desired destination for All-Star caliber talent in the off-season. While coach Tom Thibodeau is not a frontrunner for the Coach of the Year award this campaign, he could do so in the very near future.
#5 Tyronn Lue (LA Clippers)
Through all the ups and downs of the season, Ty Lue has been able to maintain an impressive winning record (30-16) in his first year in charge of the LA Clippers.
Having won his first NBA title (as a coach) with the Cavaliers in 2016, Ty Lue is no stranger to both big-game pedigree and adversity. He brings with him ample playoffs experience and the know-how to deal with superstar talent.
This season, the LA Clippers are playing with a different style under coach Lue, which has worked wonders for them so far. Paul George is looking more comfortable in his role than last year and could potentially do better in the postseason this time around.
The LA Clippers have the pieces to make a deep run in the playoffs. With the right adjustments, the Clippers might just present the biggest threat to their cross-town rivals and defending champions, the LA Lakers.
Depending on how the LA Clippers end their ongoing 2020-21 campaign, Lue could receive the honor of the NBA Coach of the Year award as well.