Nick Nurse just doesn’t want the mistakes.
At this point in the season, the Toronto Raptors have tried just about everyone in their rotation. You name him, he’s probably played at least 20 minutes in one game this season. Even Matt Thomas, Henry Ellenson, and former Raptor Alex Len have all topped the 20-minute mark in at least one game this season. And Nurse has seen enough.
Starting Friday, Nurse said he’s going to pick two backup guards/wings to come off the bench and stick with them for the next few games. When he said it prior to playing the Utah Jazz on Friday, it was unclear exactly what he was going to be looking for.
“I’m picking the guys tonight that I think are giving us the best chance to win,” he said.
Between Thomas, Terence Davis, Stanley Johnson, Patrick McCaw and DeAndre’ Bembry the Raptors have just about every type of basketball player. Some are high upside players but are extremely mistake prone, others are defensively stout with offensive question marks and some are the opposite, offensively talented players with major defensive flaws.
In the end, Nurse went with two of the players he’s seen the least of this season: Malachi Flynn and Paul Watson Jr.
It’s clear from the decision that Nurse is just looking for consistency at both ends of the court. He doesn’t need flashiness, firepower, or size, he’s just looking for someone he can throw out there and not have to worry about making too many mistakes.
On Friday night, it went OK. Watson drew four quick fouls which wasn’t great, and the two combined for just four points, but there performances were largely unmemorable and at this point that’s all Nurse is asking for.
“I think they both didn’t stick out, [didn’t] really making any mistakes,” he said. “Just there’s one turnover there but I don’t really remember that one from Paul. Probably more of a team turnover or something like that or a rebounding hit or something like that. But no, they were good. I liked them, I liked them both tonight.”
That’s what Nurse said he’s liked about Watson over the past few games. Since the Raptors COVID-19 issues began just over two weeks ago, Watson has averaged 20 minutes per game. In those approximately 140 minutes, the Raptors are plus-11 when he’s on the court, the most of anyone to have played in all seven games.
“It means he’s impacting the game pretty positively,” Nurse said last week. “We’re gonna need a little bit more shot-making probably out of him than he’s given us in the last few games. I think he’s doing everything else well, playing hard, defending, and rebounding, but when he gets those rhythm 3s he’s gonna have to step in and make a good share of them.”
In Flynn, the Raptors are giving minutes to their stable rookie guard. It’s going to be a learning curve for the 22-year-old out of San Diego State, but he’s relatively mature for his age and has shown an ability to minimize mistakes on both sides of the ball.
“I still think he’s learning how to play the game of basketball right now,” Kyle Lowry said. “The game is still different. He played well in the G League but the big club is a little bit different. The more repetitions he gets the better he will be.”
That’s supposedly what’s in store for the two. Over the next handful of games Nurse said he’s going to run them out there and let them try to prove themselves without constantly having to look over their shoulder to see who is coming next. They likely won’t wow anyone with high-impact production, but if they can be invisible and avoid any costly mistakes, that’ll go a long way to earning Nurse’s trust.