No Kawhi Leonard, no Danny Green, and the Toronto Raptors still excelled.
Toronto coach Nick Nurse followed up a championship season in 2018-19 with a 53-19 record, just 2½ games behind Milwaukee for the second-best record in the league, and the Raptors did it without Leonard and Green, who left for other teams in free agency last summer.
For his efforts in keeping the Raptors a championship contender, Nurse was named the NBA’s 2019-20 Coach of the Year. He received 90 of the possible 100 first-place votes and finished with 470 points, well ahead of Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer (147 points) and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan (134 points), who were second and third in the voting by media.
While bubble games were not considered for this award (votes were due before the seeding games began), the Raptors have been one of the best teams in the bubble, finishing 7-1 in seeding games and taking a 3-0 series lead against Brooklyn in their first-round series.
Nick Nurse and the Raptors won the NBA title last season. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)
The Raptors barely missed a beat without Leonard and Green, and that speaks volumes to what Nurse has done in his two years as head coach. He becomes the first coach to win G League and NBA Coach of the Year honors. Nurse was a Raptors assistant until 2018, when he replaced Dwane Casey.
Toronto was on pace for 58 victories before COVID-19 suspended the season on March 11, and it had two All-Stars in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam.
Nurse and his staff have done a fantastic job with player development. Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and rookie Terence Davis II have become valuable contributors. Nurse has also earned a reputation as an excellent tactician — both a master of pregame planning and in-game adjustments.
The Raptors had the second-best defense (104.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and No. 13 offense (110.8 points per 100 possessions) for the league’s fourth-best net rating at plus-6.1 points per game.
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