Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors have ended their first 44 games at an even 22-22, and they achieved those results in an extremely chaotic fashion. From starting off cold to reeling off six straight wins and falling back to .500, it’s difficult to gauge where this team is really at.
This season is already one of the most challenging in Nurse’s entire career, as he lacks the star power to compete and is in no mood to bottom out in order to obtain a high draft pick. Despite the flaws on this roster, he’s trying his best to make sure the Raptors remain competitive.
There have been several occasions where the Raptors could’ve conceded defeat and started to slink back to the middle of the pack in the East, but Nurse has done a good job of avoiding those pitfalls. A lesser coach would’ve had this team spiraling out of control with all of their injuries.
Considering all of the injuries that this team has had to suffer through this season, Nurse should be heralded for his efforts in keeping this team together. Still, has he done enough to earn an A grade? Some of the choices he has made have made even the staunchest Nurse defenders scratch their heads.
How has Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse performed this season?
Toronto was not regarded as a team that was going to make a ton of noise heading into the season, yet they are right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet are playing some of the best ball of their careers while Scottie Barnes makes a charge at Rookie of the Year.
Even though this roster has some deficiencies, Nurse has tried to work around them by mixing and matching his starters in all sorts of funky combinations. Without his combination of inventiveness and player development skills, the Raptors would be outside of the playoff hunt.
Nurse hasn’t been perfect this season, as his rotation choices have truncated the lineup he is willing to rely upon to as little as seven players. While Nurse is doing this to try and get his best players on the court as often as possible, the shortened rotation has several Raptors near the top of the league in minutes per game.
Players like Svi Mykhailiuk, Yuta Watanabe, and Malachi Flynn went from solid contributors to out of the lineup entirely. Is winning with such a short rotation sustainable in March and April?
Nurse and the Raptors also have started games very slowly over the last few weeks, as Sunday’s loss against Portland proved. They need to fix that before the postseason push comes around, as they can’t pull off double-digit comebacks every night.
While the rotation questions are very real, and while Nurse has had a habit of starting very poorly and requiring a Herculean effort from VanVleet to rescue them, it’s hard to be too upset with Toronto’s record given their situation heading into 2021-22. He could eventually end up with top marks if they make it to the postseason.