Toronto Raptors: Former Suns coach Earl Watson joining as an assistant

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 06: Earl Watson of the Phoenix Suns (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 06: Earl Watson of the Phoenix Suns (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors will not only have to figure out what the next steps of the franchise will look like considering that Kyle Lowry could be on the move this offseason, but they must also replace several trusted assistant coaches. The latest reports seem to suggest that Earl Watson has been selected as one of Nick Nurse’s right-hand men.

The Raptors saw Chris Finch take the head-coaching job in Minnesota during the middle of last season, and the offseason started off on a sour note when trusted developmental coach Jama Mahlalela took a position with Golden State.

The Raptors have hired Trevor Gleeson, a consistent winner in Australia, in order to fill the void, and it appears as though Nurse will let Watson get one more shot at proving his coaching acumen on Toronto’s bench next season.

Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes is reporting that Watson, who most recently served as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns before he was fired three games into the 2017-2018 season, will join the Raptors’ coaching staff as an assistant coach.

What does Earl Watson bring to the Toronto Raptors?

A former star guard at UCLA, Watson bounced around the NBA, largely as a backup point guard, for 13 seasons. His most productive time in the league came during the latter half of the 2000s, mostly spent with the Seattle SuperSonics. After retiring in 2014, Watson immediately made the switch to coaching.

Watson started off as an assistant with the G League Austin Spurs before moving to the Phoenix bench in 2015 and being named head coach in 2016. Watson struggled in Phoenix, winning just 33 of his 118 games (28%) before getting fired early in 2017, but that only tells half of the story.

Devin Booker has spoken at length about what a critical force Watson was in his development, as his ability to create for himself and make plays for others stemmed from Watson’s tutelage.

With Toronto expected to take a young point guard like Jalen Suggs in the 2021 NBA Draft, are they leaning on Booker’s recommendation in order to find Suggs a mentor?

Watson was not the best head coach in the world, but that doesn’t mean that he is totally bereft of value as an NBA coach. If there are any positives to take away from his Phoenix tenure, it’s what he was able to help Booker morph into.

If he can help a Toronto backcourt that may or may not include Lowry, Suggs, or Gary Trent Jr. next to Fred VanVleet take that next step, the Raptors will be more than justified in giving him another chance.

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