If I were to sugar-coat the Raptors’ recent play, I would end up with the world’s largest Sour Patch Kid. In layman’s terms, the Raptors are losing an abundance of games against teams that are either just on the precipice of making the playoffs, or are out of the playoff race entirely. The team’s failure begs the question of who to blame for the insurmountable hole the Raptors have dug for themselves, and are now nestled restlessly within.
Is Dwane Casey, the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, to blame? Let’s find out.
Dwane Casey’s History with the Toronto Raptors
Firstly, I’d like to unabashedly declare my stance on Dwane Casey: he shouldn’t be coaching the Raptors. If they had lost to Indiana in the first round of the playoffs last year, he would’ve been fired. I sincerely believe that. Dwane Casey spent much of the playoffs struggling to defend Paul George, while James Johnson, one of his better perimeter defenders, was sitting on the bench. Needless to say, if Solomon Hill’s shot release wasn’t slower than that of shooting a musket, the Raptors would be in a very different position right now. Likely, they would be in a Dwane-less position.
Now that I’ve made my feelings on Coach Casey abundantly clear, let’s talk about his offensive and defensive schemes. The Raptors anchored a historic offense early in the season, but Kyle Lowry can’t shoot 44% from three forever. Terrence Ross was hitting one of his hot streaks, and DeMar DeRozan was shooting significantly better as well. The Raptors’ offense has never relied on assists – instead, it relies heavily on isolation. When potent, Casey’s offense is otherworldly; when his stars cool off, it’s lackluster. Unfortunately, the latter has been happening of late. However, hopefully the Raptors begin to surge (no pun intended) with the addition of Serge Ibaka and more minutes for the explosive Norman Powell.
Coming from heading up the defense of a championship Dallas Mavericks team, Dwane was supposed to be a defensive-minded coach. Yet, his Raptors squads have been anything but. Even when the Raptors were a winning team, Dwane relied on his offense to bolster his deflating defense. In the most successful stretch of this season, the Raptors’ defense was just middle-of-the-pack, in terms of efficiency. As Bear Bryant once said, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships”. He may have been talking about a different sport entirely (he was), but that adage applies here. The Raptors need to up their defense in order to have a shot at dethroning the Cavaliers for Eastern Conference champion.
Dwane Casey may have the most polarizing offense in the league. When it’s working, it’s pulverizing; when it’s not, it’s pathetic. However, even when his team was hosting one of the most efficient offenses in history, the Raptors’ defense was bad enough to drag the rest of the team’s success factors down to earth. As well, his last-minute play calls are among the most questionable in NBA coaching history. If the addition of Serge Ibaka does not result in more Wins, the Raptors should move on from Coach Casey.
The Raptors are in win-now mode: they can’t afford to be hindered by their coach.