As we near the conclusion of the NBA regular season, award races across the league are heating up. That is evident when taking a look at the NBA Coach of the Year candidates, as a number of coaches have an argument to be made that they deserve the award.
Only one can win it, and it has a history of not always going to the most deserving candidate. The award should go to the coach that does the best job leading the team he is given. Making the most out of the least deserves credit. That should be factored in when weighing coaching performances against each other.
While the league may not do that successfully, the rest of us can. That is part of what makes up our Coach of the Year rankings as of April 16, 2021. Things can still change, but time is running out.
1. Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
No surprises at the top of the rankings. Quin Snyder has the Utah Jazz sitting atop the entire NBA in terms of record and has done an incredible job with the roster he has. Not only has he found the perfect balance on both offense and defense in his starting five, but he also has a lethal bench unit led by Sixth Man of the Year favorite Jordan Clarkson.
The Jazz are 25-3 at home on the season and have a number of big wins over the usual ‘contenders’ in the NBA. In proving themselves this season they have proven themselves as true NBA Championship contenders. That speaks to not only the job Snyder has done this season but the job he has done for years in building things up with this group.
Of course, the award is for this year. Snyder is certainly deserving. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have become the perfect duo to lead the franchise and Snyder has made the most out of all their complementary pieces around those two. He has pushed all the right buttons all season and in doing so has his team atop the NBA standings. For that, he is the leader for the league’s Coach of the Year award.
2. Doc Rivers, Philadelphia 76ers
Veteran coach Doc Rivers is a distant second as we stand today, but that isn’t a knock on the job he has done. In his first year with the 76ers, Rivers has led the team through a number of injuries to players such as Joel Embiid and has them sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings as things stand today.
Quite the impressive start to his time in the City of Brotherly Love. Rivers has gotten the most out of the one-two punch of Ben Simmons and Embiid while also utilizing the now underrated Tobias Harris as a featured player. As long as the 6ers are atop the Eastern Conference or right in the mix for it, Rivers will have a hard time losing his grip on spot number two in the NBA Coach of the Year rankings.
3. Nate McMillan, Atlanta Hawks
The first real surprise, at least to some. McMillan holds the third spot despite coaching just 21 games so far this season. After taking over for the dismissed Lloyd Pierce, McMillan has the Hawks thriving and in the process, they have shot up the standings.
Before he took over the team was 14-20 and in possession of the title as one of the league’s most disappointing teams. Since he took over, the team has completely flipped those results. They are 16-5 under McMillan and the quick and swift change he made once he took over shows just how good of a coach he is.
He has Trae Young and company playing winning basketball for the first time in years. John Collins is also playing his best basketball and more recently, Bogdan Bogdanovic is earning his big offseason contract. If he had the full season of work and the same success, McMillan very well could sit atop these rankings.
4. Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns
The Western Conference isn’t just led by the surprising Utah Jazz, the second place Suns are also not what anyone could have predicted at this point in the season. There are a number of reasons for their success but those can’t take away from the important role Williams has obviously played.
That being said, he does drop a bit because of the team’s success only after Chris Paul joined Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Paul has a track record of elevating teams and teammates, and he, like Williams, has played a big role in the team’s emergence. it might not be fair, but Williams takes a little bit of a hit in the standings due to the fact that he has something no other coach has – Another head coach running point guard for his team.
5. James Borrego, Charlotte Hornets
Last but not least is Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego. He edged out a few candidates that will be mentioned later thanks to the way his team has exceeded any and every expectation anyone had for them. He caught heat early in the season for keeping rookie stud LaMelo Ball in a sixth-man role, but that appears to have been a smart move.
Eventually, Ball forced his way into the starting five but only after he learned the importance of things like ball security and making the smart play. When Ball eventually got hurt, Borrego kept his team moving in the right direction. That is in addition to all the time Gordon Hayward has missed over the course of the season.
Borrego has this team closing in on a playoff appearance. That leadership earned him the fifth and final spot in the NBA Coach of the Year rankings.
Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks
Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies
Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers