The NBA's Coach of the Year Award is typically one of the more difficult annual awards to pick, as there are often a number of worthy candidates, and that's certainly the case this season. With several legitimate contenders in each conference, and a number of upstart squads outperforming expectations, a case could be made for a bunch of coaches from across the league's landscape. Here, we take a look at the five top candidates for the award for the 2020-21 season.
1. Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
Quin Snyder will assuredly receive a lot of consideration when it comes time to cast votes for the annual awards given how downright dominant the Jazz have been this season. Utah has held the league's best overall record for virtually the entire season to this point, and they're not showing signs of slowing down. They have the league's third-best defense, fourth-best offense, and the overall best net rating. Plus, if the playoffs started today, they'd have homecourt advantage throughout the Finals.
When it comes to Utah's success this season, Snyder deserves major credit for altering his game plan and offensive approach from last season to this season. The Jazz have completely embraced the long ball this season, and it has worked in their favor. Last season, the Jazz were tenth in the league in 3-pointers attempted per game with 35.2. This season, they lead the league with 42.9 long-range attempts per game. They also make more 3-pointers (17) per game than any other team. Snyder has empowered his players by giving them the green light, and it has made Utah very difficult to defend. The Jazz have been solid under Snyder for the past several seasons, but they appear to be on another level this season.
2. Doc Rivers, Philadelphia 76ers
Doc Rivers knows a thing or two about winning the Coach of the Year Award, as he did so as the coach of the Orlando Magic in 2000. This season, Rivers has a real chance to win the award again with the 76ers. Rivers came to Philadelphia and immediately improved the culture and chemistry of the team in his first season, and the Sixers have been sitting at, or near, the top of the East all season as a result.
Rivers has empowered his players and put them in a position to maximize their talents. Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP candidate under Rivers, Ben Simmons is playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and Tobias Harris is playing like an All-Star. Plus, roles for all of the other players are well-defined, and players know exactly what is expected of them when they're out on the court. That wasn't always the case for the Sixers in recent seasons. There's a great vibe in and around the Sixers this season, and Rivers is at the center of it.
3. Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
The job that Steve Nash has done as a rookie head coach this season is extremely impressive. Nash has the Nets competing for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and putting up historically effective numbers on the offensive end despite the fact that the team's top talents have been in and out of the lineup. Kyrie Irving has already missed 15 games on the season, and Kevin Durant has only played in 19 games at this point. But even with the frequent major absences, the Nets are still just humming along.
Sure, the addition of James Harden has a lot to do with Brooklyn's success this season, and an argument could probably be made that Nash's job is made infinitely easier given all of the talent on the team. And it's true that the Nets are absolutely stacked, but the counterpoint to that argument is that Nash has done a great job of managing all of that talent -- and all of those egos -- and he has put his players in position to succeed -- from Durant, Harden, and Irving down to Nicolas Claxton and Bruce Brown. The Nets are fighting for the top seed in the East, and they look like a legitimate contender, and Nash deserves his fair share of credit for that.
4. Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have been the surprise of the NBA season so far. After their promising play in the bubble in Orlando last season and the addition of Chris Paul over the offseason, the Suns were expected to be good, but not too many people expected them to be this good. The Suns sit second in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, and they're playing some great basketball on both ends of the floor.
Phoenix has the NBA's eighth-best offense, fifth-best defense and the second-best net rating in the entire league, behind only the Utah Jazz. The Suns are one of only three teams -- along with the Jazz and Bucks -- that have both a top-10 offense and defense. Williams' players have clearly bought into his style and system, and they look like a legitimate threat in the West as a result. After over a decade without a postseason appearance, the Suns are relevant again and Williams is a big part of the reason why.
5. Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers
Injury issues have ravaged the Trail Blazers this season. Key contributors CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic both missed major chunks of time during the season so far, and they haven't had Zach Collins' services all season. Despite all of the absences, Portland enters Friday night 11 games over .500 and right in the thick of the playoff picture in the West. They also have the NBA's fifth-best offense, they look to be getting healthy at just the right time, and they could be poised to go on a real run leading into the postseason. Stotts has gotten solid production from players up and down the roster, and he did a good job of keeping the ship steady through some choppy waters. Because of this, he deserves some Coach of the Year consideration.