The Toronto Raptors decided to change the entire scope of the team ahead of the 2023-24 season, as Masai Ujiri fired head coach Nick Nurse and replaced him with former Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic. After such a disappointing finish to the 2022-23 campaign, some new voices in the locker room were needed.
Nurse has proven his ability as a schematic genius, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but his inability to manage the locker room vibes was commonly cited as one of the main reasons that Ujiri pulled the plug. Given Pascal Siakam’s past friction with Nurse, this theory held some sort of water.
However, the latest rumblings from David Thorpe via his Substack (subscription required) paint a very different picture. The animosity towards Nurse was downplayed, and some aggravation was placed towards Ujiri for his inability to build a contending team.
Thorpe reported that many of the players on the Raptors roster are still fairly fond of Nurse. Ujiri, on the other hand, was pegged as a more significant reason for the team’s disappointing season. When he had multiple chances to sell players for hauls in a trade or slightly alter his “Vision 6-9” roster, Ujiri chose to do nothing.
NBA rumors: Toronto Raptors players don’t blame Nick Nurse for 2023
Ujiri was too optimistic with regard to his vision of an ultra-switchable team. The roster lacked spacing and forced the starters to play an inordinate amount of minutes. Trying to get players like Scottie Barnes, Siakam, and the departed Fred VanVleet all tons of shots in the same game made for some wacky lineups and stat lines.
While Nurse didn’t make a ton of lemonade with the lemons he was given, thanks to his stubbornness and tight rotation, he didn’t have a ton of viable alternatives. How are the Raptors supposed to win with no backup point guard, a couple of above-average shooters, and six power forwards with different styles?
Ujiri has taken strides to switch things up following the departure of Fred VanVleet. Toronto retained a true starting center in Jakob Poeltl, signed Dennis Schroder, and drafted Gradey Dick in the first round. Will these changes have an impact?
Nurse has already landed another gig with the Philadelphia 76ers, even though it comes with some James Harden-induced drama. If Ujiri continues putting together substandard teams without any postseason success, the idea of relinquishing control of day-to-day operations might be more appealing.