The Toronto Raptors have fired Coach Nick Nurse after five seasons. Nurse coached 390 regular season games with a record of 227 and 163 for a 58.2 winning percentage. He has a 25-16 record in 41 playoff games. Both of those records dwarf Jason Kidd’s. Kidd has accumulated a 50.8 winning percentage in the regular season and 42.9 winning percentage in the playoffs.
Nurse obviously benefitted from “Playoff Kawhi Leonard” in his first season as a coach. Leonard had a playoff-run very similar to Dirk Nowitzki’s 2011 playoff-run except he also happened to provide all-time great wing defense. Because of the greatness of Leonard, there can be a tendency to discount Nurse. That is unwise.
Leonard was a supernova during those playoffs. Luka Doncic is a completely different player than Leonard, but he has gone toe to toe with Leonard in two playoffs and matched him blow for blow. The deficiencies of Doncic and Kyrie Irving defensively are actually reasons that Nurse makes so much sense as a coach for this Dallas Mavericks team.
Nurse has coached a slew of long, athletically gifted defenders that the Mavericks simply cannot match. But he has also shown a history of trying a variety of defenses. He is the most adaptable defensive coach in the NBA. He has shown a willingness to try everything under the sun to slow opposing offenses. The Mavericks need to become willing to try different things because they are incapable of guarding teams on an athlete-to-athlete basis.
Nurse is not all sunshine and rainbows. He has a tendency to rub his stars the wrong way. He famously feuded with Pascal Siakam, and he has also developed a tendency to over play his stars with Siakam averaging 37.4 minutes per game this season. The Mavericks are already overplaying their stars with Irving averaging 38.2 minutes per game in Dallas. Doncic averaged 36.2 minutes but that number trended up as the Mavericks became more desperate.
The Mavericks chose vibes over coaching acumen when they moved onto Kidd from Rick Carlisle. It is unpopular to say this at the moment, but Kidd has done a good job developing Josh Green and Jaden Hardy. Overall, the team would be better off returning to a more technical coach. Nurse might be a short-term solution for the same reason Carlisle wore out his welcome. But the Mavericks need a drastic change at the moment, and Nick Nurse could be the coach the Mavericks need, even if he isn’t the coach they deserve.