The Toronto Raptors have been pretty good with regards to getting some of their top assistants jobs as an NBA coach, but that doesn’t always mean that the assistants will take that opportunity and run with it. Nate Bjorkgren, one of the most qualified assistants Nick Nurse pumped out, fell on his face with the Indiana Pacers.
While fired head coach Nate McMillan has the Hawks making a deep run into the postseason, Bjorkgren oversaw a sharp regression in Indiana. The decline in winning percentage mixed with reports that he didn’t really gel with some of the players on this team, ultimately did him in.
Nurse has been an outspoken supporter of Bjorkgren, even going so far as to question some of the assertions made in the initial reports about Bjorkgren’s struggles in Indiana. Nurse might be trying to throw his old friend a bone here by trying to restart his coaching career as an assistant under him.
Nurse, currently in charge of Team Canada, brought Bjorkgren back onto his staff as a part of their attempts to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo. Could this lead to a potential return to the Raptors’ bench.
Will Nate Bjorkgren return to the Toronto Raptors?
For all his faults that showed up in Indiana, Bjorkgren proved that he is a masterful designer of offense, as his philosophy change made Indiana one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league. 3 players (Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon) averaged 20 points per game in his offense.
The Raptors lost not only Bjorkgren in the offseason, but Chris Finch, who left to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves, in the middle of the year. While Nurse’s system was still in place, losing that much talent on offense could be a problem for any team, as the lack of consistency ended up being a killer.
While some other recently fired coaches, including Portland’s Terry Stotts, might make for another solid offensive-minded sounding board, Bjorkgren is familiar with large chunks of this roster and the philosophy Nurse is trying to instill. He could build up his reputation in the pros again by going to Toronto.
Bjorkgren might not be head coach material, at least at this juncture. Having said that, his time in Indiana shouldn’t obscure the fact that at the end of the day, he knows how to help his players put the ball in the basket. That trait should make him a very valued commodity on Nurse’s bench.