The Raptors are not known for their playoff destruction of teams, instead they are known to make things more difficult come late April.
Case in point, their current series against the Milwaukee bucks. Already struggling to have a one win in the series, the Raptors played their worst game of the season in game three. They were blitz, crushed, mangled, and destroyed in a 104-77 defeat. It is amazing because that statline is flattering as by the start of the fourth quarter, the Raptors had 46 points. Their offense was woeful and their defense was not the usual stalwart that it has been ever since the Ibaka trade.
Because that loss for the Raptors was so demoralizing, this is a loss that many do not think the Raptors can recover from and if they do it shows so much character and intestinal fortitude. Many Raptors' fans are asking tough but necessary questions.
Questions like: Do we Resign Kyle Lowry to a max deal or close to that?
What do we do about Serge?
How do we unload DeMarre Carroll’s contrac? etc. Here is the thing, there is one question that the Raptor fans should ask themselves going forward and that is what do we think of Dwane Casey?
Side note: I extremely dislike when fans say we. You are a fan, not part of the ownership group.
This question may or may not be a surprise as a vocal minority has been calling for Dwane Casey’s job for almost 2 years, however, firing Dwane Casey may be unfair.
On one hand, Casey inherited a Raptors team that was going nowhere fast. Need it be reminded in Casey’s first year, the Raptors had Andrea Bargnani as the 1st option and Kyle Lowry before his injury led the raptors in every major statistical category. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who were average at best, under Casey's watch became bonafide all-stars. Also, he has created a culture where winning is not only possible but expected, three straight Atlantic division banners and an eastern conference finals appearence was all under Casey’s watch.
On the other hand, his offensive playset is broken and predictable. The team has only had one playoff run where they lived up to or exceeded expectations. Also, it’s arguable that he plays his stars to the ground as Kyle Lowry has never gone to a Toronto playoff run fully healthy. In addition to all that, it is accepted that a championship in the next two years is extremely unrealistic. Thus, there is also a lot of evidence to suggest the Casey is probably not the coach going forward to win a championship.
The answer to the question of should Casey get fired -- because he may not ever win the Raptors’ franchise a championship -- is not simple. The problem with the ‘Fire Casey’ rhetoric which a small but vocal contingent of the Raptors' faithful have been spewing, is it assumes that Casey is a throwaway. It assumes Casey is making the raptors worse. It also assumes there are many coaches available that can come in and make the Raptors better than Casey ever could.
By the way, ‘better than Casey ever could’ means that the theoretical next head coach of the Toronto Raptors would have to go to a NBA finals or win the NBA championship because that is the next step.
Fact is, Dwane Casey is a good coach. He is a coach that often times has a great ability to get the most out of his players. He is also a coach that gets his team to play defense and that is extremely difficult. Finally, while his offensive playset looks broken at times, since the 2013-2014 season, Casey’s Raptors have been in the top 10 in offensive rating every year. Therefore, right away the Raptors are at a standstill.
Even if Masai Ujiri and ‘the fam’ decide that they want to move forward without Casey, they do not have a lot of options. However, with the emergence of a quote that was said a month and a half ago from basketball expert, Adrian Cheddie, a lot of hardcore Raptors basketball fans think the coach of the future is right under the Raptors nose.
That’s right many hardcore basketball fans are positioning former NBA all-star and current NBA D-League Head Coach of the Year Jerry Stackhouse as the coach for the Raptors’ future. As a person who spent the entire D-League season following the Raptors 905, the Raptors NBA D-League team, I can tell you it is good that Stackhouse is getting some shine. Simply put, he is a great coach and deserves some recognition. In the 2016-2017 NBA D-League season, 905 were first in the entire D-League with a record of 39-11 and finished with the best road record in D-League history with a record of 21-4. Also, he has have gone a perfect 4-0 in the D-League playoffs and is two wins away from getting the 905 an NBA D-League Championship in only his first year of being a head coach and second year of the 905’s existence. To sum it up, Jerry Stackhouse deserves some credit and at the very least a head coaching job interview from an NBA team.
So that begs another question, where is the most likely scenario for the 905 bench boss? Well the most likely scenario is he goes to the Raptors. The Raptors 905 is the Raptors affiliate team and if Casey’s Raptors flame out in the playoffs then Stackhouse could be looked at as a replacement.
Here is where the trouble comes in. Judging from Stackhouse’s first year of coaching, he is basically another Casey. Like Casey, Stackhouse is a great coach who can motivate. He is a coach that gets his team to play hard and never quit, however, he will not make the current Raptors group better on offense. That is basically Dwane Casey’s modus operandi. This becomes even more evident when using the Fan-I Graph to look at the 905’s basic stats this season.
Raptors 905 stats:
Points Per Game: 14th
Rebounds Per Game: 3rd
Assists Per Game: 8th
Opponents Point Per Game: 1st
Offensive Rating: 5th
Defensive Rating: 1st
Now let us compare that to the Raptors stars.
Toronto Raptors stats:
Point Per Game: 10th
Rebounds Per Game: 18th
Assists Per Game: 30th
Opponents Points Per Game: 8th
Offensive Rating: 6th
Defensive Rating: 11th
Judging from the numbers, the 905 under Stackhouse look more willing to play defensively. It should be of note that the 905 had the luxury of having the NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year in Edy Tavares and defensive stopper, Bruno Caboclo. Both did develop into being two-way players under Stackhouse. Still it is a luxury to have a 7’3 guy who can guard pick and rolls in Tavares as well as having a guy with Bruno’s ability in the D-League. Again, rebounds are a luxury oriented stat in the NBA and NBA D-League levels. With that being said, the Raptors do struggle at times with being fundamentally sound with their rebounding, however those two are not the problems. The issue that most Raptors' fans have is the Raptors are too predictable offensively.
Stackhouse does not look like he can fix that problem for the Raptors without sacrificing offensive production. Casey’s Raptors are arguably better than Stackhouse’s Raptors 905 offensively. While the assists numbers are troubling, assists does not necessarily translate into offensive production. There is only one ball, so possessions and efficiency is what makes a team better per game offensively, not necessarily assists. Every other team in the league was better than the Raptors in assists but only five other teams were better than the Raptors in offensive rating and only nine other teams scored more points per game. Also it should be of note that the Raptors were missing all-star point guard Kyle Lowry for a large portion of the season, thus the Raptors could have been even better on offense.
Now Stackhouse is definitely a great coach. Stackhouse has shown the ability to develop players really well. Case in point, Edy Tavares is now on the Cleveland Cavaliers due to being miles better than when he started this season. This cannot be taken into account because Casey is not in a position where he can afford to develop in the regular season. Fact is when looking at the numbers Stackhouse will do what Casey do: Make a team really good with defensive accountability, give a motivation to win and keep the team mentality in synch. That is good, really good, and even great, but that does not mean that firing Dwane Casey and replacing him with Jerry Stackhouse will make the Raptors sure fire contenders every year.