Dwane Casey isn’t an elite coach in the NBA, but he also isn’t one of the worst coaches in the league. How do you even measure a coach?
Trusting young players isn’t Dwane Casey’s forte. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have become better players under Casey. It’s unclear how much of their success should be attributed to Dwane, but his system has focused Lowry and DeRozan heavily over the years. Terrence Ross never got better under Casey, but he’s been pretty awful under Frank Vogel in Orlando. Jonas Valanciunas has been roughly the same player over the years and doesn’t have the trust from coach Casey. Bebe went from being unclear if he was an NBA talent to becoming an NBA talent with Dwane. Delon Wright has become a good backup with Casey’s guidance. Jakob Poeltl has developed quickly and hopefully now has the trust of Casey. Dwane Casey messed with Norman Powell’s minutes last year by playing him 5 minutes one game and 30+ the next. Powell now has a defined role this season and works extremely hard, so it will surely come together for him at some point this season. Fred VanVleet was undrafted last year and has found his way into the rotation this season thanks to Casey giving him the opportunity in the preseason. Finally, OG Anunoby has looked great, but it’s hard to know how much credit Casey deserves for the rookie as he probably shouldn’t have fallen in the draft.
Dwane Casey’s rotations are sometimes a little odd, but they aren’t awful. Would I like to see Jakob Poeltl be ahead of Bebe in the rotation? Absolutely, but in the greater scheme of things that’s probably a small grievance. In previous seasons did it make sense when Patrick Patterson would come off the bench? No, but he would tend to play the bulk of the power forward minutes so it didn’t really matter. This season the Raptors rotation consists of 12 guys which is a big rotation. It’s still early in the season so I wouldn’t be concerned about that too much. Plus, with a bigger rotation, you have the ability to showcase more players which could give some of the Raptors bench players that might not be in the rotation come playoff time more trade value now. Dwane Casey’s rotations aren’t perfect, but unless you are nitpicking it’s hard to complain unless you are me on Twitter.
Game Planning & Preparation
This is a tough category to evaluate. During the regular season, Dwane Casey’s game planning has been okay, but not great. In the Pelicans game, Casey did a good job game planning against DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. However, it seemed like the Raptors had no strategy for stopping Jrue Holiday. It ended up being an either or game that the Raptors won thanks to DeMar DeRozan. When it comes to playoff preparation Casey has been awful. Year after year the Raptors have gotten shelled in-game ones. When it continues to happen it raises major red flags. If you were just to look at the regular season Casey is fine in this category, but once you factor in playoff track record he gets a massive downgrade.
This category varies a lot because of recency bias. You see one good timeout or bad time and you want to draw conclusions. This year we saw Gregg Popovich outplay Casey with a late 4th quarter timeout. It’s hard to fault Casey in losing a chess match to the master. Plus, that game had a lot of questionable calls. In 2015-2016 the Raptors were the best team out of timeouts. Last year they were ranked 20th. This season the Raptors are about average. Overall Dwane Casey seems to be average in knowing how to use timeouts.
For the first few games of this season, Casey was sticking with the hot hand. The next few he seemed to reward players off playing well in a previous game. Bebe, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet are guys that have been rewarded for having 2-3 good games apiece. Bebe’s value comes from blocking shots. When he is not blocking shots, he doesn’t have much value for the most part. It’s almost impossible to predict when those good games are going to come from him, so it’s baffling to see Bebe eclipse Poeltl in the rotation. Since the Raptors are the thinnest at power forward Pascal Siakam should have a role on this team. Additionally, Norman Powell and CJ Miles have been inconsistent this season so giving VanVleet the opportunity to play beside Wright makes sense. Speaking of Norman Powell, it took Dwane Casey going down 2-1 to the Bucks to figure out Powell should be in the starting lineup. After Norman was inserted into the starting lineup the Raptors closed out the Bucks winning three straight. Casey has been pretty slow on the trigger adapting to situations. In the second Bulls game this season, Casey was slow on the trigger to put the starters back when Bobby Portis was feasting. Does Casey understand matchups? It’s hard to know. In previous seasons, Casey hasn’t trusted Jonas Valanciunas to close games whether the Raptors need scoring and rebounding or not. If the Raptors need a defensive stop it’s very understandable that Valanciunas could be better off sitting on the bench, but if the Raptors need scoring and rebounding Valanciunas is the Raptors best option at center. We see games, where the Raptors get killed on the glass and Casey is committed to running Bebe or Ibaka at center over Valanciunas or Poeltl. If you need rebounding play a good rebounder. Dwane Casey eventually figures out what adjustments need to be made, but it’s often too late.
Results must be broken down into regular season and playoffs.
The amount of regular season wins Dwane Casey has delivered in the previous four seasons is incredible. In fact, the Raptors have the best-combined record in the East over those years. Dwane Casey is the best regular season coach in Raptors history.
2013-14 Brooklyn Nets round series: This series was super competitive, and it came down to Kyle Lowry missing the final shot in game seven. Even though the Raptors were the favorite it’s hard to put all the blame on Dwane Casey.
Series Grade: B-
2014-15 Washington Wizards round one Series: There was no reason why the Raptors should have gotten swept in this series especially against Randy Wittman. There seemed to be little to no preparation for this series and the team mentally checked out.
Series Grade: F
2015-16 Indiana Pacers round one series: Paul George and George Hill locked down DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in this series. Dwane Casey didn’t know how to get the rest of the team involved. Jonas Valaniunas was the Raptors most consistent player in this series. Norman Powell sparked a comeback in game 5 with a transition bucket. The series concluded by the Raptors winning ugly, but Frank Vogel blew game five by keeping his starters on the bench too long. The Raptors outscored the Pacers 25-9 in the 4th to win 102-99. The Pacers were a far less talented team than the Raptors and if Vogel doesn’t make that mistake the Raptors likely lose the series and Dwane Casey gets fired. Even with the Vogel mistake, it should not have taken seven games for the Raptors to win this series.
Series Grade: C+
2015-16 Miami Heat round one series: Dwane Casey coached better in this series, but he oddly disappeared Norman Powell after he played well in the previous Pacers series. Jonas Valanciunas was cooking Hassan Whiteside until they both got injured. Also, Dwyane Wade somehow became a three-point specialist in this series. At the end of the day, the Raptors took care of business in a convincing game seven win. If you are the better team you better win and I guess Dwane Casey did that in this series.
Series Grade: B
2015-16 Cleveland Cavs ECF series: With Jonas Valanciunas hurt it was hard to be confident going into this series. The Raptors managed to take two games off LeBron James which is a plus, but the losses were ugly. The Raptors weren’t going to win this series no matter who their coach was so it’s hard to fault Dwane Casey for this one. The following year the Celtics were only able to take one game off the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals so I guess the Raptors did well?
Series Grade: B+
2016-17 Milwaukee Bucks round one series: Dwane Casey was getting outcoached by Jason Kidd through three games going down 2-1 to the Bucks. It was hard to imagine the Raptors winning the series at that point and probably triggered any PTSD you had from previous Raptors playoff series. In game four Casey finally put Norman Powell into the starting lineup and the Raptors won three straight. The Raptors won in six games which was good, but Casey was slow on the trigger to make that change.
Series Grade: B
2016-17 Cleveland Cavs round two series: Raptors got clown in four games and I say clowned because several members of the Cavs were poking fun at the Raptors. After having something difficulty with the Bucks it the previous series it was clear this series would be tough, but getting swept is unacceptable. Looking back on the series it would seem that Patrick Patterson was playing injured, but ultimately Dwane Casey shoulders the blame on this one for being unable to muster a single win.
Series Grade: D-
Dwane Casey has been a great regular season coach in terms of record, but when it comes to the playoffs he has severely been outmatched. It’s easy to name the elite coaches and the bad coaches in the NBA. Dwane Casey doesn’t fit in either camp which likely makes him an average coach.
Overall Grade: B
Dwane Casey has become unpopular with the Raptors fan base over the years likely due to impatience from multiple playoff blunders. If the Raptors disappoint in the playoffs this year there is a good chance Casey will be replaced. It’s unclear whether someone like Jerry Stackhouse would be a better head coach. Stackhouse was very respected as a player and coached the Raptors 905 to a D-League title last year. However, he has no NBA head coaching experience. There’s a good chance Jerry will be a good NBA coach, but how long will it take him to figure it out? The Raptors three-year window becomes two after this season. Would Jerry Stackhouse be able to get the Raptors over the hump and into the finals in two years?