The Toronto Raptors promoted assistant Nick Nurse to head coach Tuesday, replacing Dwane Casey who guided the team to 59 wins this past season and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Nurse was among the first candidates interviewed by team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster after the Raptors fired Casey. Nurse joined the Toronto coaching staff in 2013 and has been in charge of running the offense.
As a coach in Britain where he made a name for himself, Nurse was high on the uptempo style of basketball and a willingness to shoot three-pointers. Nurse and Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas have a strong relationship, as the two spent hours working on improving Valanciunas’s three-point shot this year.
In 2017-18, Valanciunas shot 74 three-pointers, hitting 30 of them. He spoke many times about how Nurse’s philosophy was something he would have to adapt to considering the traditional big man game in the post is not something that is utilized often in today’s NBA.
According to a report from Sporting News, the Raptors are unlikely to trade Valanciunas this summer. The 26-year-old is set to make $16.5 million in 2018-19 and has a player option worth $17.6 million for 2019-20.
There is optimism within the Raptors organization that Valanciunas will have more confidence in his perimeter game and won’t be hesitant to shoot more threes now that Nurse is the head man in charge.
In 77 games this year, Valanciunas averaged 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds, shooting 56.8 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from beyond the arc.