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Rick Zamperin: Toronto Raptors’ Nick Nurse should be the NBA’s coach of the year

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Sunday, March 1, 2020.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Sunday, March 1, 2020. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

With about a month remaining in the NBA‘s regular season there are a handful of questions that remain unanswered, such as which team will be crowned champions.

Some of the other hot-button debates revolve around the candidates for the league’s MVP award, rookie of the year and coach of the year, the latter being the one slam dunk (pardon the pun) decision as far as I’m concerned.

The Red Auerbach Trophy is Nick Nurse’s to lose, and the way his Toronto Raptors (46-18) are playing, it doesn’t appear that he will see the award slip through his fingers.

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The Raptors’ head coach is up against Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer — who was named coach of the year last year — Lakers coach Frank Vogel, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan.

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All of them can make a solid case to win the honour, but none have faced the adversity that Nurse has had to deal with this year.

After losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency last summer to the L.A. Clippers, there weren’t too many basketball pundits who projected Toronto to be among the top three teams in the league, yet that is where the Raptors stand with 18 games left on their schedule.

In addition to losing Leonard, the Raptors have compiled the sixth most man games lost due to injury this season which has forced Nurse to employ more than a dozen different starting lineups and constantly juggle his in-game rotations.

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The five teams who have more man games lost than the Raptors (Golden State, Washington, Detroit, Portland and Chicago) are all currently on the outside of the NBA’s playoff picture.

Should Toronto, who at different points this season have played without core players like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka, continue to pick up wins down the stretch, Nurse should be a lock for the NBA’s top coaching honour.

Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia receives honour from the Basketball Hall of Fame
Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia receives honour from the Basketball Hall of Fame