Late last night after the Toronto Raptors’ win over the Philadelphia 76ers, news broke that Nick Nurse was yet again losing a lead assistant to another team’s Head Coaching vacancy.
Chris Finch is becoming the new Timberwolves head coach on a full-time basis, not as an interim, sources said. The Timberwolves fired Ryan Saunders tonight after loss to the Knicks in New York. https://t.co/HFVdycuEUv
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 22, 2021
The process couldn’t have been stranger on the Minnesota side, as Saunders had only been fired minutes beforehand. Jon Krawczynski at the Athletic wrote a fantastic piece already detailing the process from the Timerberwolves perspective here.
But for Toronto, there are plenty of effects. Finch was signed as an offensive coordinator, and the team’s offense has improved from 16th last year to 10th this year, per CTG points per possession stats. He spoke before the season about wanting to add more misdirection and using the system to benefit the players. Exactly that has happened, as Toronto has seemed more dynamic in the half-court.
It’s hard to point to an assistant coach as the sole architect of such a shift. More likely is that as Fred VanVleet has grown into an All-Star, an improved pull-up shooter, and a far more dynamic passer, the team has looked better as a result. Perhaps Nurse himself has instituted changes.
Regardless, Finch is gone. It’s extremely unlikely that Toronto’s offense falls of a cliff as a result. But he should still earn some respect for the improvement in Toronto’s offense this season.
That also means Toronto has an assistant coaching vacancy. It’s possible they hire externally, as the Timberwolves did, but my money is on internal promotion. There are plenty of coaches, such as former Raptors 905 Head Coach Jama Mahlalela, who would fit into a lead assistant role. Nurse has now placed two of his assistants in Head Coaching positions around the league, with Nate Bjorkgren in Indiana. Internal promotion and continuing to develop the talent in house would fit with Toronto’s approach to the coaching and front office systems.