The defending champion Toronto Raptors have exceeded expectations so far this season and much of that is due to head coach Nick Nurse.
While the Toronto Raptors are the defending champions, expectations heading into this season still weren’t high due to the loss of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Some predicted the Raptors to squeak into the playoffs as a seventh or eighth-seed while others had them missing the playoffs entirely.
However, Nick Nurse had other plans. He has empowered guys like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet on the offensive end and those guys have been a massive part of the Raptors continued success. Additionally, Nurse has consistently gotten full effort from the Raptors on the defensive end of the floor.
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Not only has Nurse got the Raptors overperforming without Kawhi Leonard, but they are also playing exceptionally well considering the countless injuries they have encountered this season. Lowry, Siakam, VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have missed a combined 76 games which has not been ideal for the continuity of the Raptors rotation, but they’ve overcome the adversity.
Despite all the injuries, Nurse has continued to get the most out of deep rotation players such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher and Matt Thomas. He has even managed to have undrafted rookie Terence Davis look like a future All-Star for stretches this season.
While Nick Nurse is doing everything in his power to keep this Toronto Raptors team up at the top of the Eastern Conference, he is helped by a lack of true competition for the award.
Other coaches of top-tier teams include Mike Budenholzer (the reigning Coach of the Year), Frank Vogel, Brad Stevens, Doc Rivers and Mike Malone. Budenholzer likely won’t win due to voter fatigue. Vogel, Stevens and Rivers won’t have much of a case because of the fact that their teams are too talented. And Malone won’t win because his team hasn’t exceeded expectations.
So that leaves Nurse, the one stand-alone candidate who has never won Coach of the Year, has a slightly above average roster and has far exceeded expectations. That’s a recipe to win Coach of the Year if you ask me.
Even if you look further down the standings at coaches like Erik Spoelstra, Nate McMillan, Brett Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Quinn Snyder or Billy Donovan, the only coach that really meets all those criteria is Billy Donovan. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder are only on pace to win 49 games. The last coach to win Coach of the Year without having a 50-win season was, ironically, Sam Mitchell of the Toronto Raptors in 2007 who went 47-35.
I think if the season ended today, the nominees for Coach of the Year would probably be the aforementioned Billy Donovan, Mike Budenholzer and of course, Nick Nurse. If that is the case, I believe Nick Nurse will most likely walk away as the much-deserved winner of the 2019-2020 NBA Coach of the Year award.
Although the last time a Raptors coach won Coach of the Year it didn’t end too well… let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.