There have been a lot of great storylines this year in the NBA. The Houston Rockets have become a juggernaut, the Toronto Raptors have the best record in the east, and injuries to star players have changed the landscape of the league. Perhaps the most significant story, or the most impressive one, is one that nobody is talking about. That is the story of the Utah Jazz and Quinn Snyder.
Last offseason, the Utah Jazz lost Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics, and most experts figured they would be a borderline playoff team. Early in the season, those experts looked right as the Jazz were nowhere near even making the playoffs. On Monday, January 22, the Jazz dropped to 19-28 with a loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks. They were nine games under 0.500 with only 35 games left. Injuries were a big part of it, especially the injury to Rudy Gobert, but the Jazz were also just not playing well.
In the ultra-competitive western conference, the Jazz were left for dead. Since that loss to the Hawks, the Jazz has been an incredible 26-5. Gobert returned and helped restore their defense, which is now third in the league. Plus, their offense came alive, with rookie Donovan Mitchell being a possible candidate for rookie of the year. Utah got contributions from all over the place.
Gobert’s health may be the most significant factor, but the man who deserves the most credit is Quinn Snyder. He pushed all the right buttons for each player to get the most out of them. Snyder instilled a culture built on trust, making the right play and playing hard. When you have a strong culture, you can survive even the worst of times.
Snyder held things together when the Jazz were at their lowest. He figured out how to better use Ricky Rubio and get more out of their bench. Mitchell is their best scorer, but the rest of the Jazz’s offense comes from smarts and structure. Snyder is one of the best X and O guys in the league. Once he figured out how to best use the roster, the Jazz became efficient and consistent.
After the Jazz were 19-28, they reeled off 11 straight wins. Snyder did a great job of making up for the loss of Rodney Hood at the deadline and integrating Jae Crowder into the lineup. Now, he has inserted Dante Exum back into the lineup after an injury and also has gotten the most out of guys like rookie Royce O’Neale.
After the 11-game win streak, the Jazz enjoyed another nine-game win streak and are currently on a three-game win streak. Now, the Jazz is the fourth seed in the west and should clinch a playoff spot tonight if they beat the L.A Clippers at home. Even more impressive, the Jazz are fifth in the entire league in net rating. Pretty amazing considering how bad they were at the start of the year.
Snyder has kept the ship afloat amidst constant change and adversity. Utah doesn’t have an all-star, but they’re a team no one wants to play in the playoffs. The reason no one wants to play them is due to the culture and style Snyder has implemented. Every possession, they will play like it’s their last, but they will also be smart and calculated. Everything has to be earned against the Jazz.
It is highly possible that the Jazz will win the first-round series, and they will give either the Rockets or the Jazz everything they can handle. Imagine saying that in January?
The coach of the year race will be competitive, and you can make good cases for lots of coaches. Dwyane Casey of Toronto and Brad Stevens of Boston each have a strong case. To me, though, no one has dealt with more adversity and, at the same time, got the most out of their team. For that reason, Quinn Snyder of the Utah Jazz deserves coach of the year.