Dwane Casey did a phenomenal job with the Toronto Raptors this season, elevating them to first place in the Eastern Conference. He would get my vote for NBA Coach of the Year. Despite that, rumors persist that he will be fired after the season. Frankly, that’s ludicrous.
Casey did remarkable work this season, getting a ton from a decent Raptors roster. He empowered the team’s young players, fed its stars and got more from Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka than many thought possible at this point in their careers. But Casey’s fatal flaw is that he can’t get his team past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m not sure that’s a hanging offense.
LeBron and the Cavs are on the verge of sweeping the Raptors, and that would be an unceremonious exit for Toronto. But you can hardly blame Casey for his team’s failure to beat the best player in the world. No one has gotten past LeBron in the East over the past seven years.
Casey took the Raptors to the conference finals in 2016, where they lost to the Cavs. Last year they went to the conference semifinals where they lost to the Cavs. And this year they’re back in the conference semis where they’re posed to…lose to the Cavs. So yeah, I get the frustration in Toronto, but I’m not sure Casey can be blamed here.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry aren’t getting any younger, and Toronto needs to make something happen while they’re both still in their primes. But is dumping Casey really going to change where the team stands in the East? Let’s say LeBron leaves Cleveland this offseason and heads to the Western Conference, would that even really change things? The Raptors would still be heavy underdogs to the Boston Celtics to win the East whether Casey was there or not.
Casey is well-respected around the league and has won the Atlantic Division in four of the last five seasons. He led the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins this season, topping the previous record of 56 he led them to in 2016. I’m truly not sure anyone could do better in Toronto than he has done.
The problem in Toronto isn’t Dwane Casey. The problem is LeBron James. And James may be changing his address in a few months. The East may be wide open next year and while the Raptors won’t be preseason favorites, they may not have to face the greatest player of this generation.