An argument can be made that Nick Nurse has been among the best NBA head coaches of the past half decade.
That’s why it was somewhat of a surprise that the Toronto Raptors fired him following a disappointing 2022-23 season in which they posted a .500 record.
In his first four seasons as the Raptors’ head coach, Nurse led the team to three playoff appearances and an NBA title.
But as we’ve seen with the Phoenix Suns firing Monty Williams and the Milwaukee Bucks moving off Mike Budenholzer, head coaches have shorter leashes around the NBA compared to other major professional sports leagues.
Now, does this mean that the 55-year-old Nurse will be out of the league next season? That possibility is looking less likely. Appearing on ESPN’s NBA Countdown ahead of Thursday night’s playoff game, Adrian Wojnarowski broke some news. The insider indicated that Nurse is a candidate for the vacancies with the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers.
“Monty Williams is only a candidate for two of them, Mike Budenholzer is only a candidate for two of them, but Nurse is a candidate in all three places. Among this pack of coaches, I think the one you can be pretty confident with that’s going to get at least one offer in this process is Nurse,” report on interest in Nick Nurse around the NBA.
This means that Nurse can be picky when it comes to choosing a next home. He can also potentially sit out next season while working in the media before returning to the bench in 2024-25.
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Analyzing best fit for Nick Nurse
We have to look at the dynamics of the Raptors’ roster during Nurse’s tenure with the team. Sure, it changed some when Kawhi Leonard departed after the 2018-19 season, but what Nurse likes to do is well known around the Association.
Defensively, it’s all about constant on-ball pressure. It doesn’t matter if he runs a zone or man at any given time, that pressure has in the past led to one of the best defensive schemes in the entire game. The results showed this, too.
Back in 2018-19, the Raptors ranked ninth in points allowed and fifth in defensive rating. The following season saw them rank first and second, respectively, despite having lost Kawhi Leonard in free agency the previous summer.
Since then, the likes of Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet have succeeded on defense.
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What does this all mean? There’s a team that fits with what Nurse likes to do on defense while still being able to succeed on the other end of the court. That’s none other than the Milwaukee Bucks.
They boast a reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year finalist in Brook Lopez. Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is also a five-time All-NBA Defensive Team performer and one-time DPOY. With both seen as cornerstone players moving forward, Nick Nurse would make a ton of sense.