The Toronto Raptors looked like they were destined for a major regression in 2020-21, as Nick Nurse couldn’t get his troops to muster the same effort on both sides of the floor as they did in 2019-20. Given the looming COVID-19 pandemic forcing them to relocate to Tampa in addition to the loss of both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume a downturn is coming.
While the Raptors started the season off on a miserable 2-8 slide that saw them sink to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Nurse has since rallied the troops, winning five of the next six games as he looks to drag Toronto back into the playoff picture.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has made the best out of a poor situation
Nurse is not infallible, as some of his rotation decisions were critical to Toronto’s slow start. Chris Boucher started off the season as an end of the bench player before Nurse finally unleashed him, and first-round pick Malachi Flynn barely sees the floor. The decision to keep riding Aron Baynes in the starting lineup despite offering little on the offensive end remains a thorn in the side of Raptors fans.
Despite that, Nurse has taken a team that lost their two best bigs, have been saddled with injuries plaguing their two best players in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, and is playing home games in South Florida and turned them around in a hurry, winning five of six games. OG Anunoby looks completely revitalized, Boucher is playing like an award-winning bench player, and Norman Powell looks completely resurgent. Nurse has won with and without superstars, which goes to show his insane ability to adapt.
At the end of the day, Nurse hasn’t been dealt a very good hand. While he can be questioned for some of his rotation decisions, this Raptors team is not as strong as it has been in prior seasons, and the fact that he has this team rolling of late should bump his grade up a notch or two.