Toronto Raptors: How Do Nick Nurse’s First Two Seasons Stack Up Against the All-Time Greats?

Toronto Raptors, Nick Nurse (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors, Nick Nurse (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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In his first two years, Nick Nurse won his first coach of the year award and led the Toronto Raptors to a championship. Now who else has done that?

On Tuesday, news broke of the Toronto Raptors re-signing Nick Nurse to a new multi-year contract. The contract was universally praised after a strong 2019-20 season that saw Nurse and the Toronto Raptors earn a 53-19 regular-season record (a franchise-record .736 winning percentage) that ended with a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Semis to the Boston Celtics.

This strong performance came as a surprise to most as the reigning NBA champions weren’t expected to be this strong after losing Kawhi Leonard to free agency last offseason.

This season, in just his second year as an NBA head coach, Nurse won the 2019-20 NBA Coach Of The Year Award. It was a decisive win with Nurse earning 90 first-place votes out of a possible 100. In his first season without Kawhi, Nurse had garnered recognition league-wide as one of the best in-game tacticians and most creative decision-makers in basketball.

Despite not having a single-player voted to an All-Defense team the Toronto Raptors had the best defensive efficiency in the NBA despite Kyle Lowry, Fred Vanvleet, Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol all missing significant time due to injury. A lot of the success on that end of the floor can be attributed to the defensive schemes, systems, and rotations that Nurse had deployed all season.

Right now Nick Nurse’s stock is at an all-time high. He is the ninth head coach in NBA history to win a title in his rookie season and as of right now he has the highest winning percentage of all-time with .721.

He has already cemented himself as an all-time Raptor great as the third Toronto coach to ever win NBA coach of the year (Sam Mitchell in 2007 and Dwane Casey in 2018) and delivering the only championship in franchise history. But after just two seasons, he has a long way to go before he’s considered one of the all-time great coaches in basketball history.

In this post, I plan to take a look at Nurse’s first two seasons with the Toronto Raptors and compare them to some of the legends of the game when they were at the same point in their career.

Nick Nurse’s resume: 111-43 regular-season record (.721), 23-12 playoff record (.657), 2019 NBA Champion, 2020 Coach of the Year,  2020 All-Star Game head coach