2020 PBT Awards: Coach of the Year

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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The NBA regular season might be finished. Heck, the entire NBA season might be finished. Even if play resumes with regular-season games, there’d likely be an abridged finish before the playoffs (which will also likely be shortened).

So, we’re making our 2019-20 award picks now. If the regular season somehow lasts long enough to reconsider our choices, we’ll do that. But here are our selections on the assumption the regular season is over.

Kurt Helin

1. Nick Nurse, Raptors

2. Brad Stevens, Celtics

3. Mike Budenholzer, Bucks

This was an incredibly deep field and a difficult choice (as it usually is). Nurse took a Raptors team expected to take a big step back after Kawhi Leonard left and has them as the two seed in the East with the exact same record as the season before. Nurse deserves credit for helping develop Pascal Siakam and finding a role for Norman Powell. It was very difficult to leave off Erik Spoelstra, Frank Vogel, and Billy Donovan, and there are more guys you can make a good case for.

Dan Feldman

1. Nick Nurse, Raptors

2. Erik Spoelstra, Heat

3. Nate McMillan, Pacers

Nick Nurse kept Toronto humming through Kawhi Leonard’s and Danny Green‘s departures and several injuries to key returning players. Nurse’s defensive creativity particularly stood out. Doing it in the playoffs was one thing. Few teams can execute so many different schemes during the regular-season grind.

The Heat played one of the most positionless starting lineup I’ve ever seen, and Erik Spoelstra helped get those unconventional pieces on track offensively and defensively. His record of player development somehow grew even stronger.

Nate McMillan narrowly edged the Celtics’ Brad Stevens and Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer. The Pacers had major roster turnover, and Victor Oladipo‘s injury left them at a talent deficit. But Indiana kept defending well, kept playing hard – staples of McMillan’s teams.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel and Clippers coach Doc Rivers were most difficult to place. Both teams are shooting for a championship. The regular season is merely a prelude to the playoffs. So, before seeing the postseason, it’s extremely difficult to judge how well Vogel and Rivers used the regular season. The Lakers have been awesome. Did Vogel do a great job of getting everyone on the same page far more quickly than expected? Or did he let a talented team expend too much energy before the playoffs? The Clippers had more rockiness, though they also won at a strong clip. Did Rivers adeptly manage his team’s nearly inevitable internal issues, getting everyone on the same page by the time the postseason begins? Or do the Clippers still have potentially destructive fissures entering the playoffs? It’s just difficult to answer these questions now. Coach of the Year is a regular-season award in a league with some coaches who use the whole regular season to prepare for the postseason, and we have to vote before the postseason.

Keith Smith

1. Nick Nurse, Raptors

2. Mike Budenholzer, Bucks

3. Frank Vogel, Lakers

Coach of the Year has to go to Nick Nurse. No one predicted the Raptors would be second in the Eastern Conference. No one predicted Toronto would be on pace to win more games than last year’s title team. When Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green left town, most figured the Raptors would sink to the bottom of the East playoff picture. Instead, Nurse has guided them to the third-best record in the NBA. He’s done so while dealing with injuries to every one of his main rotation players throughout the season. And the Toronto bench is made up of mostly undrafted players and castoffs from other teams. That can only be done by having a great coach on the sideline.

Mike Budenholzer and Frank Vogel shouldn’t be overlooked though. Budenholzer led the Bucks to the league’s best record by three games and had them on a 70-win pace before Giannis Antetokounmpo got hurt. Vogel brought together a newly-formed Lakers team quicker than anyone could have expected. That’s made easier by having LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but Los Angeles turned over half of their roster this season. The Lakers having the NBA’s third- best defense is also a feather in Vogel’s cap as well.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.