Nick Nurse (99.2 percent) — Nurse nearly ruined this article last year by signing a contract extension like four seconds before it went live. Luckily, nobody thought the reigning Coach of the Year was leaving. Fast-forward through Nurse’s toughest season in the NBA and there’s no less confidence in the temperature of his seat. It’s not that Nurse’s 2020-21 was without room for criticism, but he embraced the second-half shift to development, fostered growth from prospects and, save for some highly publicized headbutts with Pascal Siakam, always seemed to have the room together. Nothing is ever certain, hence a few voters checking in at nine instead of 10. The real question is: When do Lowry and Fred VanVleet push for Nurse’s job as co-player coaches?
OG Anunoby (98.3 percent) — We have a new top untouchable after Siakam held down the most secure player spot each of the last two years. With a contract extension kicking in for August and significant offensive growth this year, it’s hard to see the Raptors parting with Anunoby for, well, anything. Normally I’d say “for a superstar,” but the Raptors avoided including him in the Leonard package and Anunoby is filling out his profile as an elite complementary piece. The two-way and positional versatility is just so easy to build with — and at a very reasonable price. Nobody went lower than a nine here. I thought about pushing the scale to 11 for an unofficial Raptors Twitter vote.
Fred VanVleet (97.5 percent) — Like Anunoby, VanVleet received nothing lower than the “anything can happen” nine. In terms of leadership, spirit and culture, the team has been transitioning from Lowry’s to VanVleet’s for some time now. Siakam remains the team’s No. 1 option, but it was VanVleet also taking on Lowry’s mantle as the Raptor who was most driving team performance when on the court, something advanced metrics narrowed in on. Dealing VanVleet would probably have to be part of a larger shakeup; he’s too central to the team’s identity now and moving forward.
Bobby Webster (97.5 percent) — We don’t know the exact terms of his preseason extension other than that he received a WMF Hybrid Espresso machine as a signing bonus and was allowed to have a personal barber on retainer*. (*These things may not be true.) With uncertainty around Ujiri’s future, Webster locks in as either Ujiri’s continuing lieutenant, taking on more and more of the day-to-day, or as his successor. There were scores as low as eight for Webster, perhaps a vote that Ujiri staying could see Webster poached for a president role elsewhere, but that seems a scenario for future years, if at all.
Siakam: I don’t know if it was a crocodile or alligator by my house—it’s by the lake. I don’t know what it was, but it just looked strange.
Nurse: He probably saw the same one that I saw. Pascal lives in the same neighbourhood I live in and there’s a pretty big one that if you walk down the street it’s usually swimming across the pond there.
Siakam: I think there’s a lot of those things happening here and, yeah, that’s pretty funny.
Nurse: There’s a golf course not too far away and I think we saw four of them when we last played golf. I’ve only managed to get out on the course twice this year, but I haven’t done a lot other than that. I haven’t been out to eat or I haven’t caught the Blue Jays play. You always wonder if they’re around where you are and I was taking the boys for a walk in the wagon and I was like, “Holy smokes, that pond is across the street!” So, it isn’t a million miles away from where we are. And I did find this out, actually this morning, that if an alligator’s chasing you, you’re supposed to run zig-zag and they give up chasing you really quickly. For some reason, they can’t figure that out, but they can really run fast straight ahead. But if you go zig-zag they’ll quit chasing you. So that’s a useful tip. A unique and useful tip. And I asked the three guys I was talking to today and I said, “Have any of you had to do it?” And one of them said, “I have had to, one time, run zig-zag.” And the other two did not.
Siakam: That’s Florida for you, it’s pretty crazy, it’s fun, the weather’s nice. I’m enjoying it.
In a week with high intensity, play-in basketball (at least in the West), the Raptors still managed to make some noise (at least up North it did).
Kyle Lowry and Masai Ujiri had lots to say, yet gave away nothing at all. What will their futures hold? On the court, the East play-ins turned out as the seedings dictated they would. We recorded on Friday evening and assumed the same would play out in the West [insert grimace emoji]. In any case, we handed out some awards and boldly predicted each playoff matchup until a redemption story landed as NBA champion! Enjoy the latest episode of That’s A Rap!
The Toronto Raptors’ biggest fan has received basketball’s highest honour.
Superfan Nav Bhatia was honoured by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this week as one of its inaugural members in the newly built SuperFan Gallery.
Bhatia is synonymous with Raptors basketball and has famously attended every home game since the team joined the NBA in 1995. The franchise even awarded him a championship ring after they won the title in 2019.
Bhatia has always been one to share his unique basketball journey with Raptors fans everywhere. He has bought thousands of tickets to give away to children and has donated almost all of his vast collection of merchandise to underprivileged kids.
Here are some photos of Bhatia through the years to celebrate his honour with the Hall of Fame.