The Runner Sports

Dwane Casey Is A Good Coach, It’s True!

Since day number one, Toronto Raptors fans have been torn about Dwane Casey, their head coach who began in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. That year, in 66 games, the Raps missed the playoffs with a 23-43 record. They improved slightly the next year, with a 34-48 season showing in Casey’s first 82-game season.

Since that year, Toronto has not missed the playoffs, won fewer than 48 games, or finished lower than the 4th seed in the East. They have been the most consistent team in the conference, and one of the most in the NBA as a whole. Each season, key guys have improved, young players have developed, and the team has built on its genuine chemistry. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have famously become very close, at least partially due to the leadership role Casey has given them.

It began with the 2012-13 season, when the team decided to trade Rudy Gay in an effort to start a rebuild. (Little did they know, every team that trades Rudy Gay gets better.) Instead, the team rallied around Casey, Kyle Lowry, and DeMar DeRozan, winning their second Atlantic Division with 48 wins. That sparked the most consistent run of success in team history, culminating with a 56-win season in 2015-16 and a trip to the conference finals.

The team has also been more popular than ever, with the “We the North” campaign blowing up, DeRozan and Lowry being fixtures on the All-Star team, and the marketing prowess of Global Ambassador, prince of Toronto, Drake.

So why are Raptors fans always debating whether the team should get a new coach or not?

Many people point to their playoff struggles as one recurring team issue. They have advanced from the first round both of the last two seasons, losing to Cleveland both times. Prior to 2016, Toronto had only been to the second round once in franchise history. The Raps struggle to score in the playoffs, and everyone points to their lack of ball movement as the reason for this.

While it’s true their offense went from 112.3 points per 100 possessions in the regular season to 101.3 in the playoffs, their assist numbers were actually slightly better in the playoffs. The drop in offensive efficiency comes more from their stars’ shooting woes in the postseason.

DeMar and Kyle, who carry the team offensively throughout the year, both drop in field goal percentage by more than 3% in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Lowry also struggles from downtown, which is a big part of his game. DeRozan, on the other hand, doesn’t get as many free throws as he does in the regular season, as the whistle gets tighter.

Casey could benefit from developing secondary options on offense, especially with Serge Ibaka on board all year to create some chemistry. The best teams in the playoffs are the ones that are hard to predict. Good defenses who know what is coming will have an easier time stopping it. That’s why the Raptors have struggled against the best teams.

But Raptors fans need to give DC credit for his successes as well. People in Toronto have a hard time hearing that he might be a top-10 coach in the league, and is definitely in the top half of the 30 head coaches right now. He has developed DeRozan and Lowry into better players than anyone could have predicted. Not all of that is his doing, as the assistants and the players themselves have a lot to do with it, but he is a big part of that.

Casey is a likable person off the court too, making a name for himself in the city. He’s been great on the team’s “behind the scenes” show, Open Court. He also showed everyone that he’s just a regular guy who takes the subway to games like anyone else. Fans in Toronto won’t forget that story any time soon.

He has a good relationship with team president, Masai Ujiri, who had this to say after Casey re-signed last summer: “Coach Casey has been a big leader for us, a great teacher, and a great teammate for us to have in this organization.”

Young players have always progressed and improved under Casey, and they’ve played prominent roles in both the regular season and the playoffs. Terrence Ross, Bismack Biyombo, Norman Powell, Jonas Valanciunas; those are just some of the guys who were important for this team early on in their careers. He empowers players who work hard and earn their role.

Casey also adjusts during tough playoff matchups, and has had success when it looks like the Raptors were going to get upset by lesser competition. Last year, when they were down 2-1 to the Milwaukee Bucks, he took Valanciunas out the starting lineup, and the benefits were obvious as the Raptors went on to win in six games. So he isn’t afraid to shake things up when the time is right.

With an interesting year ahead, the Raptors head into it with Casey manning the ship for his 7th season. They have young guys to develop, stars in the prime of their careers, and a fan base that has now grown accustomed to success. If he doesn’t produce results, expect fans to put him back on the hot seat. But the grass is always greener with a different coach, until you realize the one that you have is pretty darn good already.