Title: Raptors Relaunch: Can the league’s No. 2 defence stop playoff offences?
Date: July 8, 2020
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I took a fresh look at where the Raptors’ defense stood prior to the hiatus and how a big concern the volume of corner threes they give up should be.
The Toronto Raptors have one of the most interesting defences in recent NBA history.
It’s not just that head coach Nick Nurse deploys several creative schemes, though that’s certainly a part of it. The Raptors played 438 possessions in zone defence this year, per Synergy, for example, second-most in the NBA. That helped build on a foundation Nurse began establishing a year earlier in a smaller sample, not necessarily one predicated on a zone in particular but instead on challenging conventional wisdom. As Nurse told James Herbert of CBS Sports earlier in the year, “maybe it’s the defence’s turn to radically catch up” to the rapid modernization and sophistication of NBA offences.
Nurse’s coaching background is full of stories of versatility and creativity, sometimes forced by bizarre circumstances and sometimes invited by the organizations he’s been employed by. Fostering buy-in on aggressive, unconventional approaches amid heavy roster turnover in his first year on the job was the defining success of Nurse’s freshman championship campaign. He’ll likely win Coach of the Year here as a sophomore, with the focus shifting from how he helped massage an ecosystem around Kawhi Leonard to how he’s maintained a substantial floor amid turnover once again, not to mention the frequent absences of six of his top seven holdover players.