With the recent moves the Toronto Raptors have made this off-season it is clear the team is committed to staying competitive now, while also setting up for the future. One thing still remains that will keep the Raptors in the position of middle tier team, Dwayne Casey. Coach Casey is an excellent defensive coach & arguably the best coach the franchise has had. However his inability to make in game adjustments or motivate his players is as clear as water.
With all due respect to coach Casey, this is an article pointing out why the franchise should move on from him.
The first press conference after this season ended, Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri stated that the team needed to reset and have a style and culture change. He did not point out exactly what the team needed to do but from a fans perspective it was pretty clear that the Iso, one on one, let’s ride Demar and Lowry style of play was not going to work. Especially seeing the success the Golden State Warriors have had with a more free flowing, team orientated playing style. This starts with the coach who implements the game-plan and focus for the team.
This point has been validated even more with the recent departure of Demarre Carroll who stated the current style of play caused a rift in the locker room. It will be hard for fans and players to buy into a culture change when the head of the former focus of “Pound the Rock” is still leading the charge.
Pace and Space
In the NBA today is dominated by smaller lineups focusing on speed, spacing and scoring. Majority of teams have moved away from the old model of a dominate big man, or one star taking over games like the Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant days. However the Raptors seem to be stuck in the old model. Jonas Valanciunas is and old school center that clogs up the lane and can’t guard multiple positions. Demar Derozan dominates the ball in isolation sets, and is limited in his perimeter shooting. This is not a formula for long term success but this is also a formula Coach Casey has been riding the past 4 seasons. It seems like it would be difficult for him to abandon what he knows and what has worked for him. Maybe another coach could come in and implement a new style of play the players can buy into…It has worked in the past.
While it would seem unthinkable to replace a coach who has brought the most success to the franchise in the midst of the team still being good, it wouldn’t be the first time and while it doesn’t always work out, (Bulls replacing Tom Thibodeau hasn’t brought more success) the examples of it working has been great. Back during the Miami Heat’s 2005-06 championship season current coach Stan Van-Gundy resigned from his job & legendary Pat Riley took over. Coach Riley stepped in and made changes that resulted in the Heat’s first NBA championship. In 2014 the Warriors decided to move on from head coach Mark Jackson, (who helped build the roster and develop their current stars) they brought in Steve Kerr who implemented his own style of play that has brought them 2 championships in 3 years.
Sometimes change at the top is needed to re-energize the team and players. The Raptors and Masai need to figure out if that is the move they need to make in order for their current roster to take the next step. It is something I have been stating since the loss to the Brooklyn Nets 4 years ago. Maybe it’s about time to pull that trigger and not waste another season being mediocre.