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Ty Lue is the Best Coach in the NBA

Under 20 games remain in the season and somehow the Clippers have their head above water. After sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth installment of the Battle of LA, the Clippers moved on to a 34-31 record. Even more impressive is that the team is doing this with no games played by Kawhi Leonard, more than half the season missed by Paul George, and Norman Powell being limited to just three games. So how have they been able to do so well with so much missing? Look no further than their calm, cool, and collected head coach. If this season teaches anything, it’s that Ty Lue is the best coach in the NBA. After leading the team to its first conference finals in franchise history, Lue continues to build upon the culture and work he put in since becoming the coach in 2020.

Ty Lue is the Best Coach in the NBA

Doing the most with the least

Injuries plagued the Clippers’ season and continue to do so. Three 20-plus points per game scorers are all out and don’t look to be returning soon. Earlier in the season, COVID wreaked havoc throughout the league, dealing all coaches a tough hand. Despite all the adversity, the Clippers are still three games above .500 and boast the seventh-best defense in the league. Doing all this despite an anemic offense is nothing short of impressive.

Lue is getting the most from his players and empowers them to be themselves within his system. Clippers guard Reggie Jackson and forward Marcus Morris moved up the pecking order with the absences of stars. Jackson, was out of the rotation to start the 2020-21 season and eventually played his way into a major role in the Clippers’ success. Though his shooting numbers are not the most efficient, Jackson’s shot-making, downhill driving, and playmaking has kept the Clippers alive all season. Morris, who is having his best season as a Clipper, is averaging 16 points a game, including 39.4% from deep. Give credit where it’s due, Morris has stepped up and is the only player on the team that can get a shot up over any defender. A perennial playoff team with the fourth and fifth-best players leading the way shows the Clippers have the right leader at the helm.

Development of young guys

A season plagued with injury has given the Clippers the perfect opportunity to develop their young talent. Lue has given multiple young guys the trust to play pivotal rotation minutes that have accelerated their growth.

Luke Kennard was the first of the group to show flashes of improvement when the season started. Kennard is shooting over 44% from three for the second consecutive season. But this year is different. The 6’5″ guard is now hunting shots and getting more opportunities to work off the ball to generate looks. This started in the offseason when Lue would pull him from scrimmages if he passed up a shot. As a player, the confidence that stems from the support of the head coach goes a long way. Not only does Kennard have the green light, but Lue is running sets to free him up. And in turn, the extra attention Kennard draws opens up opportunities for his teammates to get open looks as well.

Amir Coffey was the next player to see significant strides in development, specifically when the team was ravaged by COVID. Although he only averages 8.5 points a game, there was a time when Coffey looked like the best player on the team. Lue is also running sets for him in which the third-year wing can make plays out of the pick and roll and create for himself and others. In the Clippers’ third game against the Lakers, the game was tightly contested heading into the fourth. Lue went to Coffey on nearly the same Chicago action four times, which led to four scores. A lot of trust for a player on a two-way deal by the head coach.

Finally, Terance Mann is starting to come around and have the season that Clipper fans anticipated. When the Clippers traded away Eric Bledsoe to Portland, Lue gave the backup point guard role to Mann. Thus, putting the ball in his hands more and giving him the green light to make plays and be aggressive. Since the trade, Mann is averaging 13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists on 52.6% shooting and 40.9% from deep. Just another example of Lue trusting his guys and empowering them to be the players they are capable of becoming

Instilling an identity and culture

“I keep saying it, but we have the best coach in the league,” said Reggie Jackson after their 132-111 victory over the Lakers. It’s not the first time that a Clipper has sung his praises. Later that night, backup center Isaiah Hartenstein said that Lue is the best coach he ever played for and the first coach who has truly believed and bought into him as a player.

Lue is not only one of the best in the game at adjusting. But he knows how to treat his players to get the most out of them. Lue is described as someone that “can hit you without leaving a bruise.” The empathy that Lue has as a coach is his best attribute. Through his ability to connect, he is able to create a culture that is inclusive of everyone. Hartenstein said that the Clippers are the only team in which everyone on the team wants each other to succeed. That is tough to find in a league where egos run amok with multiple talented players.

“You sure?”, Morris said to Lue before he subbed him back into the February 25th Lakers matchup. The bench unit brought the Clippers back into the game, but Morris bought completely into the team’s culture that he is putting a win over his individual play. Just another example of how Lue has created one of the best cultures in the league that allows him to make adjustments without hurting feelings.

Though it may hurt Clipper fans, the bubble flameout was necessary. It left a scar on this team that taught them how to play and conduct with each other. It also led to the hiring of Lue, which ultimately changed the franchise for the better. Lue may not be a frontrunner for coach of the year. And that’s fine. Monty Williams, Erik Spoelstra, and Taylor Jenkins are doing phenomenal work this season. But, if you ask Clipper Nation who the best coach in the league is, they probably will have the same answer.


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