Tag: Dwane Casey

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey gestures while watching the Raptors and the Boston Celtics in Toronto

Report: Raptors to keep Dwane Casey as coach


New Raptors head of all things basketball Massai Ujiri has not been shy about making changes — gone is VP of basketball operations Ed Stefanski, some other front office people and a number of scouts. Ujiri wants his people in place.

What is not changing is the coach.

Despite a rough season last year, Dwane Casey will be back at the helm of the Raptors, reports the Toronto Sun.

Casey, according to league sources, has already spoken at length with Ujiri and (Raptors CEO Tim) Leiweke and would seem safe from any purge. He has a year left on his contract.

However, it looks like Casey’s staff is going to get an overhaul. A lot of assistant coaches.

Casey enters the season as a lame duck under new management, but one that likely can save his job if Toronto makes the playoffs. And that’s a reasonable goal.

In Casey’s first season with the Raptors (2011-12) the team showed some real development. Yes, they won just 23 games but they were actually a middle-of-the-pack NBA defense that made teams work for wins. They played hard. They just didn’t have enough healthy talent to score regularly, so it was a heavy dose of DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa.

But this past season things flipped — they became an average offensive team but regressed on defense. They won 34 games and had the mid-season of Rudy Gay to deal with, but the team didn’t defend and hustle quite the same way.

Giving Casey a third season makes some sense — if he can get them to defend well again, plus find ways to use Gay more efficiently on offense, the Raptors can step up into playoff contention in the East. That may be the goal Casey needs to meet to get a new contract.

NBA Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

Raptors Bargnani reacts to a missed basket against the Nets during their NBA basketball game in Toronto

We wrap up PBT’s Atlantic Division previews this week by going north of the border. Next week we head to the Midwest and the Central Division.

Last season: Sure, a 23-43 record isn’t good. But it really wasn’t that bad. Seriously. Sure, the Toronto offense was dreadful and would have been the worst in the league had it not been for the Bobcats setting historic records for futility. It was frustrating for Raptors fans because Toronto has talent — Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan can score — but it didn’t show up much on that end of the floor (in part because Bargnani missed half the season with injuries).

But here is why there is hope — new coach Dwane Casey got Toronto to play defense. Pretty good defense. They went from the worst defense in the league two years ago to a respectable 12th in the league last season (101.5 points per 100 possessions). And the Raptors played hard, the effort was there every night. They didn’t have much talent but you could see the framework of a solid foundation being built.

Key Departures: Not many. Leandro Barbosa is gone, but they don’t need him anymore. After that the guys going away are people like Rasual Butler. No key players departed this year.

Key Additions: This is why there is hope — Toronto had a good offseason. It’s like they add two lottery picks to go with some nice free agents. After another year in Europe, 2011 No. 5 pick Jonas Valanciunas is coming to Toronto — and Raptor fans are pumped about this one. Last season they lacked a good defensive presence in the paint and Valanciunas is expected to provide that. And a few points would be nice, too. Toronto also has this year’s No. 8 pick, Terrence Ross, plus Quincy Acy coming aboard.

However, the biggest acquisition will be Kyle Lowry, the point guard who played at an All-Star level in Houston last year. Lowry can drive, score, set guys up, do just about everything pretty well. Plus, he’s in a contract year with something to prove. Toronto also added Landry Fields (remember Bryan Collangelo’s attempt to screw up the Knicks with a poison-pill deal — so they couldn’t sign Jeremy Lin — but it backfired and now the Raptors have Fields).  The Raptors also signed John Lucas III.

Three keys to the Raptors season:

1) Just how good is Jonas Valanciunas going to be? Toronto fans are pumped about the young Lithuanian big man — more than one fan in Cleveland screamed “noooo” when they drafted Tristan Thompson in front of Valanciunas. Because Valanciunas has the upside, the potential to be special — he was a defensive force at times in Europe and has dominated age-restricted international tournaments

But I watched him a fair amount during the Olympics and I’m not sold he makes a big impact out of the gate in Toronto. He can play some defense, but he needs to get stronger. His offense was a mess. His coach described his play as the game looking like it was moving too fast for him, and that’s what it looked like. He looked hurried, rushed. He can get over that with time, he can still be very good, but he looked like a project and this season may be a lot of work without a lot of fruit from the garden.

2) Just how much better is the Toronto offense going to be? The Raptors are not going to finish 29th in offensive efficiency this season, not with Kyle Lowry running the show at the point (and Jose Calderon behind him, who played very well last year). With Lowry driving the lane, with DeRozan slashing from the wing and with a healthy Bargnani shooting away from deep the Raptors are going to be better on offense.

The question really is how much better and how can Casey fit all the pieces together? While the Raptors are certainly a deeper squad they are building for the future and that means giving quality minutes to young players — rookies Valanciunas and Ross will both be in the heart of the rotation, Ed Davis is entering his third season, and while DeRozan has been around longer it is just his fourth season and he still plays young at times. Developing chemistry is going to take some time but the Raptors need to find a rotation that both can win and grow a young team.

3) Cut down on the turnovers. While Calderon played well for Toronto last season they had the fifth highest turnover percentage in the league — 14.8 percent of their trips down the court ended in an empty possession, a turnover. Theoretically you can win that way (the Thunder had the highest turnover rate in the league) but you make it a lot harder on yourselves. And while they bring in Kyle Lowry he’s not a guy known for taking care of the ball.

Last season the Raptors were third worst in the league in turnover differential. Their margin for error is not so big that they can keep it that high for another season. They need to take care of the rock.

What one thing should scare Raptors fans? Have you seen the Atlantic division? They play in a division with the Celtics, Knicks, Nets and Sixers — four playoff locks. It’s going to be hard to overcome that group for the next couple years unless the Raptors make some big leaps forward.

How it likely works out: Toronto fans are thinking playoffs. And that’s not out of the question — but everything has to go just right. Valanciunas has to give them a defensive presence they need in the paint from day one. Bargnani needs to play like he did at the start of last season and stay healthy. Lowry needs to play like he did last season. Terrence Ross needs to adjust to the NBA quickly. And so on down the line.

The Raptors likely are in the mix for the eight seed for much of the year, with teams like the Bucks and Cavaliers. They will give Raptors fans hope. But things never go as smoothly as one would hope and most likely the Raptors just miss out on a playoff spot this season and will look at this as a building year.

Prediction: 38-44, finishing like the ninth or 10th seed in the East. The Raptors are building something good but it’s going to take a couple more years to get all the way there.

Gregg Popovich named NBA Coach of the Year

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair, Gregg Popovich

The announcement came Tuesday afternoon with a press conference to follow where Gregg Popovich will be uncomfortable answering media questions.

Spurs headman Gregg Popovich has been named NBA Coach of the Year. Mike Monroe of the Express-News was first with the report but the league has now confirmed it.

And it’s a good call. When the Spurs were winning titles last decade they were a great defensive team that had enough offense to beat you, but as his core aged the role players shifted that formula no longer worked. So in the past couple years Popovich has helped the Spurs evolve into an offensive powerhouse — they play at a faster tempo, they move the ball and guys work off the ball, the steps are taken to get guys the ball where they can succeed (Tim Ducan where he can drive or go to the bank, Matt Bonner spacing the floor, Tony Parker off picks and getting to make decisions). Popovich has been a master at putting guys in places where they can succeed and he has been at his peak with that the past couple years.

There were other guys who had great years. Second place in the voting went to the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau, who did a better job this season than last when he won the award — he was without Derrick Rose much of the year, not to mention Rip Hamilton and he got role players to win the East. Frank Vogel got as much out of the Pacers roster as could be expected and he came in third. Lionel Hollins of Memphis finished fourth and Doc Rivers of the Celtics fifth in the voting.

You can’t really be unhappy with Popovich as the call. He earned it this year, he has earned a bunch more as a lifetime achievement award. This is a good call.