Nurse among NBA Coach of the Year finalists

Aaron Rose

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse was named one of three finalists for the NBA's Coach of the Year award Saturday.

The 53-year-old Nurse joined Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer and Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan as finalists.

Nurse is widely considered the favorite to win the award, despite finishing third in the NBA Coaches Association Coach of the Year award, behind Budenholzer and Donovan.

"Those guys obviously did a great job," Nurse said of Budenholzer and Donovan last week after finding out they topped him for the Coaches Association award. "You can't argue with the Bucks' record and how great OKC did after everybody expected lower expectations for them, so those guys are very deserving."

Voting for the award is only supposed to include pre-COVID-19 information only and the Raptors were on pace for a 59 win season before the pandemic, topping last year's record of 58-14 with Kawhi Leonard. Toronto did it all while battling injuries all season, forcing Nurse to deploy 15 different starting lineups throughout the year.

The argument in favour of Budenholzer is the Milwaukee Bucks were one of the NBA's truly great teams this season. They combined one of the best defenses in NBA history with a lethal offense, all the while limiting their starters' minutes throughout the season.

For Donovan, the Thunder were one of the most surprising teams this season. Vegas set their over/under at just 31 wins this year and they far surpassed that, winning 40 games before the pandemic with a 51-win pace.