Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Nurse As Sixers’ Head Coach

Well, this ought to be interesting.

The Sixers are hiring former Raptors coach Nick Nurse as their head coach. Nurse and Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid will now pair together as the franchise looks to bring Philadelphia a long-awaited championship. The Sixers’ drought has reached 40 years and counting.

They have a history together as playoff foes. Toronto broke Philly’s hearts in the 2019 playoffs with Kawhi Leonard‘s basket that bounced four times on the rim proving to be the dagger. The Sixers had the KO punch last year during the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Nurse will also inherit a very talented young guard in Tyrese Maxey but the rest of the roster is in a state of flux. The Sixers could look to unload Tobias Harris, who is entering the final year of his contract. The bench figures to be revamped too, but the biggest offseason question is whether James Harden will decline his player option. Rumors have persisted for months that Harden wants to return to Houston.

Despite delivering a championship to the Raptors franchise, Nurse had a falling out with the front office. They felt he didn’t develop their bench players sufficiently and overworked his starters. There were also questions about accountability and his relationships with key players.

A fresh start for a talented coach could be the Sixers’ gain. That championship on his resume gives him immediate credibility.

It could also attract a top free agent such as Fred VanVleet, who tweeted out congratulations via an emoji after he heard the news.  VanVleet is expected to decline his player option so that he can enter the free agent market. He could be Harden’s replacement.

That brings us to our topic of the day: What do you think of Nick Nurse taking over as the Sixers’ head coach? Did the franchise make the right choice and do you feel Nurse can bring the franchise a long-awaited championship?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Raptors’ Offseason

The Raptors find themselves at a significant crossroads this offseason, with a variety of decisions to make about the direction of their roster in the short- and long-term.

Toronto’s first priority, of course, is finding a new head coach. The club let Nick Nurse go after a five-year run, during which he led the franchise to its first-ever NBA title in 2019. He was named the league’s Coach of the Year in 2020.

More recently, the team finished the 2022/23 season with a 41-41 record and the ninth seed in the East. The Raptors were quickly ousted from the postseason by the Bulls in a play-in game.

Toronto has already interviewed several candidates for the opening, and is pondering several others, per our tracker. The Raptors have spoken with – or is expected to talk to – Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez, Suns assistant Kevin Young, Spurs assistant Mitch Johnson, Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic, former Nets head coach Steve Nash, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, Heat assistant Chris Quinn, Nuggets assistant David Adelman, player-turned-ESPN analyst JJ Redick, and Virtus Bologna head coach Sergio Scariolo.

Toronto has also been linked to former Suns head coach Monty Williams, Williams’ former Phoenix assistant Patrick Mutombo, and Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse. While the club had informal conversations with Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon, it is unlikely Hammon is ready to move on from her current gig just yet. The Raptors also spoke with Nurse’s former assistant coach, Adrian Griffin, though it has been reported that the Bucks plan to hire Griffin as their new head coach.

Nurse, meanwhile, is currently in the running to fill the head coaching vacancies of the Sixers or Suns.

At present, the Raptors are still fielding several veteran players from their championship run, including All-Star power forward Pascal Siakam, 2022 All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet, and 3-and-D swingman OG Anunoby. The team’s most important player, however, might be 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, who regressed a bit during his sophomore season. The 6’9″ forward out of Florida State didn’t evolve much as a ball-handler or scorer this year, while his defense plateaued.

In terms of potential free agents, center Jakob Poeltl will be unrestricted, while guards VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. both have player options for next season. Veteran reserve forward Thaddeus Young, who averaged just 14.7 MPG off the bench this year, has an $8MM contract for next season that is only partially guaranteed for $1MM. The direction the Raptors ultimately opt to take could dictate what the team decides to do with Young’s money, though he probably wouldn’t command nearly that much coin in free agency at this point.

Given that the NBA is poised to have a fairly light free agent class, especially in terms of guards, both VanVleet and Trent seem to be in line for lucrative new deals somewhere. VanVleet’s option for next season is worth $22.8MM, while Trent’s would pay a guaranteed $18.6MM, plus $250K in unlikely contract incentives. As an experienced championship playmaker in his NBA prime, VanVleet should have a robust market, while Trent is a solid veteran floor spacer. Would Toronto want to re-sign both players to new long-term contracts, or try to coordinate sign-and-trades for one or both?

The 29-year-old Siakam is in the final season of a four-year, $136.9MM maximum extension he signed with Toronto during the 2020 offseason, and is now eligible for his next extension.

Should Toronto opt to ultimately rebuild its roster and prioritize its youth, it would find plenty of suitors for the contracts of Siakam and Anunoby.

The Raptors have a late lottery pick, No. 13 in this year’s draft, at their disposal, with which team president Masai Ujiri can add more young talent under long-term team control. A deal to offload Siakam or Anunoby, or perhaps VanVleet in a sign-and-trade, could probably get Toronto an even better lottery selection this year.

Trying to simultaneously compete with veterans while also developing youth, in the form of Barnes and this new lottery pick, is a difficult line to thread. The Warriors have found some some success with their “two timelines” approach, though several of their young role players failed to take next steps in their growth this season. Toronto obviously has had mixed success thus far in this department. Would the club be open to trying again?

We want to know what you think. What should the Raptors do this offseason? Which head coach among their finalists should they hire? Should they build around Siakam and/or Barnes? Head to the comments section to share your thoughts.

Community Shootaround: Remaining Head Coaching Vacancies

The Bucks have reportedly made a decision on their next head coach, having landed on veteran assistant Adrian Griffin. That leaves four teams that are still looking for someone to fill their respective coaching vacancies: the Suns, Sixers, Raptors, and Pistons.

With Griffin apparently headed to Milwaukee, one more head coaching candidate is off the table for those four other teams, but that seems unlikely to have a significant impact on those searches.

Griffin hadn’t been linked to the openings in Phoenix or Philadelphia and wasn’t a finalist in Detroit. Toronto interviewed him, but it would have been a surprise if the Raptors took the exact approach they did during their last coaching search, promoting an assistant who worked under the coach they just fired.

The resolution of the Bucks’ hunt for a head coach could still have a domino effect on the remaining searches, however. Just before word broke that the team had chosen Griffin, a report indicated that Nick Nurse had removed his name from consideration.

Nurse is reportedly a finalist in Phoenix and has interviewed in Philadelphia as well. Did he pull out of the Bucks’ search because he knew he wasn’t their first choice or because he recognizes he has a legitimate chance to land one of those other jobs and wants to pursue it?

Besides Nurse, there are four other finalists for the Suns: Frank Vogel, Doc Rivers, Jordi Fernandez, and Kevin Young. Vogel has spoken to the Sixers, while Fernandez and Young are among the Raptors’ reported candidates.

The Pistons reportedly have three finalists: Kevin Ollie, Charles Lee, and Jarron Collins. However, the team has been eyeing that trio for weeks without any indication that a decision is imminent. Is Detroit simply satisfied to take its time and do as much homework as possible on its finalists, or could that search open up to more finalists before the club makes a call?

For what it’s worth, while Lee has interviewed for other jobs – including Toronto’s – Ollie and Collins don’t seem to be under serious consideration elsewhere.

With several searches linked in one way or the other, it will be interesting to see how many other teams follow the Bucks’ lead and make a decision in the coming days. In the meantime, we want to get your thoughts on how these coaching searches will resolve.

Who do you expect to become the next head coach in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Detroit? Is Nurse a lock for one of those jobs after pulling out of the Bucks’ search? Will we get any truly outside-the-box choices?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your predictions and thoughts.

Community Shootaround: Coach’s Challenge

According to Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report (Twitter links), the league’s competition committee is in “serious discussions” about a tweak to coaching challenges next season, which would award a second, final challenge if the first is successful. The NBA is considering a test run during Summer League, Haynes adds.

The coach’s challenge has been around since the start of the 2019/20 season, per the NBA, and allows a head coach to “trigger one instant replay review per game of a called foul, called out-of-bounds violation, or called goaltending or basket interference violation. … In order to overturn a call on the floor, there must be clear and conclusive visual evidence that the call was incorrect.”

On one hand, I’m always in favor of the game being called more accurately, and it makes total sense that a successful challenge should lead to — at the very least — another challenge.

However, I do wish foul calls would be immediately reviewed by the replay center instead of the in-game crew chief, since the long delays make for a poor viewing experience. The replay center referee already determines out-of-bounds, goaltending and basket interference challenges, why not fouls as well?

We want to know what you think. Assuming the change is approved, how it might impact games next season? Would it be a positive development, perhaps leading to coaches who use an early challenge that’s likely to be overturned instead of frequently saving it until the fourth quarter? Head to the comments section and share your thoughts on this topic.

Community Shootaround: Celtics’ Offseason

The Celtics completely unraveled in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Miami on Sunday night. Coming into the series as the clear favorite, the Celtics would now surprise people by avoiding a sweep after getting completely outplayed and outcoached by the Heat in the series.

Barring a miraculous turnaround, the Celtics will soon face some hard offseason decision rather than making the Finals for the second straight year. Most notably, they have to figure out what to do about their coaching situation and whether to break up their All-Star duo.

Joe Mazzulla had the interim tag removed and received a contract extension in mid-February. The young coach handled himself well during the regular season after getting thrown into the fire following Ime Udoka‘s suspension. He also guided the Celtics past the first two rounds, but has looked overmatched trying to match wits with Miami’s Erik Spoelstra.

Another hot topic of discussion will be Jaylen Brown‘s future. His contract expires after next season and it may behoove the Celtics’ front office to explore trade possibilities for the star wing, who has played poorly in the series.

They’ll also have to decide what to do with Grant Williams, who will be a restricted free agent after being in and out of the rotation this postseason. What price are they willing to match for him, considering their other salary obligations?

Jayson Tatum, Malcolm Brogdon, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Derrick White are all under contract through at least the 2024/25 season. Tatum isn’t going anywhere, but the Celtics might look to deal one of those veterans to shake up the rotation and fix the issues that have been exposed by the Heat.

That brings up to our topic of the day: What changes should the Celtics make this offseason?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Blazers’ Lottery Pick

The Trail Blazers had some lottery luck, moving up to the No. 3 spot in the draft order on Tuesday.

That presents an interesting dilemma for Portland, which still seems desperate to quickly build a contender around Damian Lillard. The Blazers could use the pick as bait to acquire an All-Star level player or they could simply hold onto it and draft the best available player.

We all know what will the Spurs will do with the top pick – select potential superstar Victor Wembanyama. The Hornets hold the second slot and there’s no clear-cut selection after the French big man. If the Hornets go by need, they’d most likely take forward Brandon Miller rather than point guard Scoot Henderson, considering their best young player is LaMelo Ball.

Miller would also seem like a better fit for the Trail Blazers, since they already have a floor leader. There are other players worthy of consideration at the third spot, including Amen Thompson, Ausar Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Jarace Walker and Anthony Black.

Miller could immediately fill a void in the frontcourt if he’s still on the board at No. 3, as the Blazers’ small forward spot was in flux this season. Power forward Jerami Grant is headed to free agency and while Portland’s front office has stated it wants to re-sign Grant, there’s no guarantee he’ll be back.

Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons are signed through the 2025/26 season, though the Blazers must determine whether they’re truly part of the long term plan. Portland also has to decide whether to extend qualifying offers to Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish.

All of those personnel moves must be factored into their decision whether to trade the pick to get Lillard a proven star sidekick, or draft a player ready to make an impact.

Even though the free agent market isn’t dazzling, a lot of top talents such as Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Karl-Anthony Towns and Pascal Siakam could be on the trading block.

That brings us to today’s topic: Should the Trail Blazers keep the No. 3 overall pick in the draft or trade the pick as part of a package to get a proven veteran star?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Sixers’ Decisions

It all came crashing down on the Sixers on Sunday afternoon.

They positioned themselves to reach the Eastern Conference Finals by taking a 3-2 lead over the Celtics in their second-round series. Philadelphia failed to close out Boston at home, then got humiliated with a second-half flop on the Celtics’ home floor on Sunday afternoon.

Coach Doc Rivers is in a familiar place, failing to get his team to over the hump in the postseason. Rivers couldn’t get the Clippers to take the next step and that pattern has repeated in Philadelphia.

Joel Embiid achieved the highest individual honor this season, capturing his first Most Valuable Player, but he was a no-show in Game 7. He went 5-for-18 from the field and finished with 15 points in 38 minutes. Embiid also committed four turnovers, one fewer than the team’s other star.

James Harden had a couple of huge games in the series but he fizzled out with two chances to close out the series. He scored 13 points in Game 6 and nine in Game 7 while committing a combined 10 turnovers in the two games.

Harden holds a player option on his contract and there has been plenty of speculation that he’s eyeing a return to Houston for the next chapter of his career. Tobias Harris will make over $39MM in the final year of his contract next season.

Tyrese Maxey will be eligible for a rookie scale extension and will certainly be looking for big money, if not a max deal. The Sixers will have a lot of decisions to make regarding their bench as well, including whether to pursue some of their own free agents such as Paul Reed and Georges Niang.

That leads us to our topic of the day: Should the Sixers fire Doc Rivers after their latest postseason disappointment? Should top exec Daryl Morey go as well? Should they try to re-sign Harden if he opts out? How should they retool their roster to finally reach the Finals with Embiid in his prime?

Please take to the comments to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Open Head Coach Jobs

The Rockets completed their head coaching search a week-and-a-half ago, hiring Ime Udoka to replace Stephen Silas. However, there are still three NBA teams still in the market for new coaches.

[RELATED: 2023 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Interestingly, those three clubs – the Bucks, Pistons, and Raptors – are at very different stages in terms of their development, so even if they consider some of the same candidates, they’ll likely have very different expectations for their new hires, especially in the short term.

Milwaukee won a title in 2021 and expected to make it back to the NBA Finals in each of the last two seasons. The fact that they only won a single playoff series during that stretch is why Mike Budenholzer is out of work — his replacement will be expected to make deeper postseason runs with a roster headed by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

While the Bucks’ roster has championship upside, the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement will limit the front office’s flexibility going forward and could hamstring the team’s ability to make additional upgrades. It also may force management to make difficult decisions on upcoming contracts for key contributors on the wrong side of 30, including Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.

Detroit is on the opposite side of the spectrum, having won no more than 23 games in a season in any of the last four years. There are some promising young pieces here – including Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and whichever player the team drafts in the top five next month – but the Pistons are all about unrealized potential.

No one on the roster has made an All-Star team, and the next step for the club will be contending for a play-in spot, not a championship. So while a new head coach will be expected to help Detroit take a step forward right away, there won’t be any immediate expectations of winning playoff series.

The Raptors are somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. The team’s 41-41 record this past season was a disappointment, given the presence of former All-Stars like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, along with 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and three-and-D standout OG Anunoby. But the roster probably lacks the star power and depth necessary to legitimate vie for a championship.

Toronto traded away its 2024 first-round pick with minimal (top-six) protection, so the team won’t want to take a step back next season, even if it makes some significant roster changes. The new head coach will be expected to get the Raptors back to the postseason and not just to make a quick exit.

We want to know what you think: which of the NBA’s three current head coaching vacancies do you view as the most and least appealing jobs? What sort of candidates do you think would be good fits in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Toronto?

Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Timberwolves’ Offseason

After trading away several first-round picks (including center Walker Kessler, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting) to acquire Rudy Gobert last summer , the Timberwolves don’t have many ways to improve the roster going forward. They only have one draft pick in 2023, at No. 53 overall.

With huge contracts committed to Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, the only realistic pathway to drastically reshape the roster would seemingly be to trade Towns. The problem is he was limited to 29 regular season games after a severe calf strain, and he struggled in the playoffs for the second straight year, posting 10 assists against 18 turnovers while shooting 25% on threes in Minnesota’s first-round loss to Denver.

The Wolves still seem intent on keeping the two big men together, with head coach Chris Finch expressing optimism about the pairing after Game 5. Let’s say they retain both players and build out the roster with their limited available resources. There are plenty of other important decisions to be made this summer.

For starters, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (RFA), Austin Rivers, Nathan Knight ($1,997,238 team option), Luka Garza (two-way) and Matt Ryan (two-way) are all possible free agents, while Mike Conley, Taurean Prince and Jordan McLaughlin have either partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed contracts for 2023/24.

Of that large group, Conley and Prince are likely to return, as both were important contributors. But Conley will be 36 years old when next season starts and is on an expiring contract, so finding a long-term solution at point guard will be a priority.

The Wolves have talked about wanting to re-sign or extend Reid, but he may be looking for a bigger opportunity in his first free agency foray. Alexander-Walker has expressed a desire to be back after providing impressive defense down the stretch.

The future of everyone else mentioned is very much up in the air. And with lucrative rookie scale extensions for Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels likely to be signed this offseason, the cap sheet for ’24/25 and beyond is looking pretty messy.

We want to know what you think. What should the Timberwolves do this offseason to build around Edwards? Which of their free agents should they re-sign, and which should they let go? Head to the comments section to share your thoughts.

Community Shootaround: Is NBA MVP Race Over?

Sixers center Joel Embiid had one of his best games of the season on Tuesday night in a 103-101 victory over Boston, scoring over half of his team’s points and keeping Philadelphia’s hopes alive for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.

Embiid’s final line included 52 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists on 20-of-25 shooting. He was a plus-17 in nearly 39 minutes. The 76ers were outscored by 15 points in the nine-plus minutes he didn’t play.

In the view of head coach Doc Rivers, it was a convincing closing argument from Embiid in what has been a hotly contested battle for this season’s Most Valuable Player award.

“We did so many things wrong, but what we did right was Joel Embiid,” Rivers said after the game, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “The MVP race is over.”

Teammate James Harden – who had a double-double of his own in the victory, with 20 points and 10 assists – also believes Embiid has done enough this season to lock up his first MVP award.

“Joel should win it,” Harden said. “He’s been in contention for it the last few years. He led the league in scoring last year. It looks like he’s going to lead the league in scoring this year. We’re the third seed in the East. He’s been consistent all year.”

Embiid certainly has a compelling case for MVP honors. His 33.3 points per game lead the NBA, as Harden observes. He’s chipping in 10.2 RPG, 1.7 BPG, and has matched a career high with 4.2 APG. His .547 FG% is a career best, as is his .859 FT% on 11.8 attempts per game. He’s the anchor of Philadelphia’s defense and the team is 11.2 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court than when he’s not.

It’s not just Embiid’s coaches and teammates who are endorsing his MVP candidacy either. Plenty of players around the NBA have made the case for the Sixers star, including former MVP Stephen Curry, who told Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report this week that Embiid would get his vote.

Of course, as has been the case all season, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are posting superlative numbers of their own and they’re doing so for the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences (though it’s worth noting that Embiid’s Sixers have the same record as Jokic’s Nuggets).

Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-high 31.1 PPG to go along with 11.8 RPG and 5.7 APG while making a strong case for All-Defensive recognition. Jokic, the advanced metric darling, is nearly averaging a triple-double (24.8 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 9.8 APG) and the difference between the Nuggets’ performance when he’s on the court (+12.8 net rating) and when he’s not (-11.5) is stunning.

Still, a recent straw poll conducted by Bontemps had Embiid holding a slight lead over Jokic. The Nuggets star, battling a right calf issue, has only played 24 minutes since the results of that poll were published, while Embiid has scored 105 more points across three games and has added another signature outing to his résumé.

Additionally, while media members may claim that voter fatigue isn’t a factor in their picks, the fact that Jokic and Antetokounmpo have won two MVPs apiece while Embiid has yet to win one may help tip the tip the scales in his favor — especially since there’s a sense he has been a worthy candidate for each of the last few seasons.

That brings us to today’s Community Shootaround question: Is Rivers right that the MVP race over? Has Embiid clinched it? Or is still a two- or three-man race as we enter the final five days of the season?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!