Nick Nurse’s latest move is a disturbing head-scratcher for the 76ers

76ers head coach Nick Nurse
76ers head coach Nick Nurse / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

With the Philadelphia 76ers off to an admirable start this season, the hiring of head coach Nick Nurse has clearly been a smart investment. The team may not be lording over the league, but behind his leadership on the sidelines, the team has undeniably been an intimidating machine on the court, especially on offense.

Twenty-one games into the present campaign, the 76ers tout the second-best offensive rating in the association and rank fourth in points per outing, registering 120.9 markers per contest. Clearly, Nurse has been successful so far in maximizing the overflow of offensive talent on the roster.

On the flip side, defense is another story. The team is nowhere near terrible as a point-preventing unit with a middling defensive rating, but as what that descriptor suggests, Philadelphia has been mediocre on that end. From finishing eighth in defensive rating a season ago, the 76ers now sit at 15th.

Why Nick Nurse’s latest move is a disturbing head-scratcher for the 76ers

As the cliché goes, defense wins championships. And as trite as it may be, it remains true. Denver’s title-clinching team last season finished with a below-average defensive rating, but they are the only outlier out of the last 20 champions (oh, and the Nuggets cranked their defense up during the playoffs).

For that very reason, Nick Nurse’s decision not to play Robert Covington in the last couple of games is perplexing considering how bad the 76ers looked on that end against the skidding Washington Wizards and a Trae Young-less Atlanta Hawks. It’s even quite bothersome in account of the fact that the veteran was just coming off a standout two-way performance against the Boston Celtics when the team’s core players sat out due to injury.

Nurse’s precedence in Toronto hints at his proclivity for rangy, malleable forwards who can defend multiple positions and disrupt passing lanes as ideal complements to his adroit defensive schemes. Covington fits the exact archetype, so him being benched is certainly a brow-raiser especially when Marcus Morris Sr., who has seemingly usurped him in the rotation, hasn’t been effective as a stopper, even on the tertiary.

Heck, an argument can even be made for Covington to eat into some of Tobias Harris’ surplus of minutes to strike a better balance both offensively and defensively. Nevertheless, playing him should be a non-negotiable for the Philadelphia 76ers, especially with the team being pretty vulnerable defensively.

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