The Philadelphia 76ers start the 2023-2024 season in just a few weeks. In the meantime, familiar faces return amidst familiar off-season drama. Despite Sixers fans lamenting another playoff failure against the Celtics several months ago, a door of hope is still open. Who’s holding the door you ask?
Nick Nurse was hired this summer after Doc Rivers was fired. A new admiral on the Sixers ship in the choppy waters of the Eastern Conference won’t be easy to navigate, even with Nurse’s resume and accolades. So, why are Philly fans still hanging in there with the team that has underachieved the last few seasons? Will Nick Nurse produce as advertised?
There is a strong chance.
Nurse’s focus and ambition from humble beginnings are a foundation for his success. This led him on a journey from Iowa to England and back to the States, serving as head coach for teams like the Birmingham Bullets in the British Basketball League and Iowa Energy in the D-League. His career which has spanned three decades has brought him to Philly, after overachieving in Toronto, winning a championship title with the Raptors in 2019.
Cynics may suggest he struck lightning in a bottle with Kawhi Leonard being the only reason why Nurse won in Toronto. Yet, the subsequent season after winning a ring, he became NBA Coach of the Year and led a Leonard-less Raptors team to a 53-19 record, good for second best in the east.
What else is there to like about Nurse heading in the upcoming Sixers season?
Nick Nurse has cultivated young guards. Whether it was Gary Trent, Jr. or Fred Van Vleet, the former Raptors coach joins the Sixers with experience in this area. He helped turn both players into snipers beyond the arc.
The bottom line is simple: Nurse comes from a system in Toronto that promotes open-court play with a heavy emphasis on 3-point shooting. This is something Sixers guards can benefit from this year.
While covering the Delaware Blue Coats last season for PSN, I witnessed first-hand how Nurse’s system trickled down to their G-League affiliate team, Raptors 905. The offensive strategy that night was to shoot as many threes as possible. This could translate into the Sixers’ offensive flow with several key shooters, including De’Anthony Melton, Danny Green, and Tyrese Maxey.
If Maxey can make another leap this season, Nurse will surely be a part of that process. Like VanVleet after his third NBA season, the dynamic 76ers fourth-year guard is set for a jump. Could Maxey become an NBA All-Star under Nick Nurse? His prior success with guards certainly suggests this notion.