Is Dwane Casey the Right Head Coach for the Toronto Raptors?

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Is Dwane Casey the Right Head Coach for the Toronto Raptors?
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It's easy to question whether head coach Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors is the right man for the job when the team is struggling to put wins on the board like they are now.

Isn't that how this works? When in doubt, just blame the coach.

It's so simple, anyone can do it! 

As of December 9, the Raptors own a record of 7-12. That's good enough for second in the Atlantic Division (seriously) and 10th in the Eastern Conference (that's more like it).  

It was just one season ago where the team was 4-19, so I suppose a lousy 7-12 start is still considered a step in the right direction.

Look, I'm not here to debate with you over the coaching credentials of Casey. I'm not here to convince you that he's good or bad at what he does. 

If you're not a fan of his body of work, that's fine. Frankly, he hasn't given fans of the Raptors much of a reason to have his back in the face of such harsh (yet warranted) criticism. 

His record of 64-103 since first taking over as coach speaks for itself. The fact that Toronto hasn't qualified for the postseason since he arrived speaks for itself.

Is it completely his fault? 

Absolutely not.

This isn't "Pile on Casey" day. He deserves a fair share of the blame, but you're only as good as the hand you're dealt.

Former general manager Bryan Colangelo handed Casey a joker, a two of spades, a four of diamonds and two instructional cards that shouldn't have been in the deck in the first place.

The roster has been in shambles for years and years. From the failed attempt of making current New York Knick Andrea Bargnani the face of the franchise to hoping Rudy Gay could make the team relevant once again, there really hasn't been a lot to be overly optimistic about as far as player personnel is concerned.

However, in the end, it's Casey's job to take all of these parts and use them to forge a winning basketball team on the floor. 

That hasn't happened yet.

So with the team losing as much as it has, does that insinuate that Casey isn't the right coach for the Toronto Raptors?

That's difficult to say. With 2013 NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri taking over the reins, a new philosophy is ready to be brought down from the heavens (or sixth floor of the Air Canada Centre) and cast over his staff, players and anything else within an arm's reach of the team.

It's just going to take some time, that's all. Rome wasn't built in a day. Your 2014-15 Raptors will likely undergo one heck of a facelift and appear leaps and bounds different than it does now.

So where does that leave Casey? Is he a part of those plans? Is he someone Ujiri would consider keeping for the future? He is in the final year of his contract after all. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I truly believe that if he covets his job, he's going to have to learn to bend his will and throw caution to the wind.

In layman's terms, Casey will need to figure out what he wants to do with both Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, two guys whom fans are dying to see more of.

Their minutes are all over the place. It's nauseating. It's like riding a roller coaster after drinking a gallon of milk, and all the track does is turn you upside down over and over again.

Don't believe me? Let's take a look at Valanciunas' minutes from games between November 15 and December 1: 

NBA.com

There's no consistency. How is someone as young and full of potential like Valanciunas supposed to develop when he can't get a read on what his playing time is going to be on any given night?

How about Ross? He's in the same boat, averaging 18.23 minutes on the season. He's 22 years old and the team's first-round pick from two years ago. His averages of 6.2 points on 41 percent shooting don't inspire much confidence, but why not feed him to the lions more often and put him in high-pressure situations?

The Raptors are clearly invested in both of these young prospects, yet the coaching style and/or methodology of Casey appears to be holding them back. 

This season is a wash. If not for the collapse of both the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, no one would even be mumbling the word "playoffs" in the Greater Toronto Area.          

Let's just look at the remainder of this season as an experiment. Let's look at it as a showcase for both Valanciunas and Ross to see what they're made of and if they can really hang when it matters most. Casey needs to understand that getting the most out of those two is what's important. Player development should be at the forefront of his to-do list.

Do you know what's going to make that process a lot smoother?

Trading Rudy Gay.

Casey's infatuation with Gay boggled the mind. His 38.8 percent shooting on 18.6 shots wasn't enough to put the eight-year veteran in the doghouse. Gay was taking opportunities away from other players, disrupting the flow of the offense and rubbing the fanbase the wrong way.

Well, according to Adrien Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Raptors have sent Gay, along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings for John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and and Chuck Hayes.

Ujiri just threw Casey the greatest lifeline of them all. 

No more Gay?

Do you know what this means? Casey basically has no choice but to put more stock in his young guys.

Whether you want to see the forest for the trees, that aforementioned trade was done to not only shed Gay's insane contract, but also to give the Raptors more flexibility as it pertains to signing free agents and landing a high draft pick this summer.      

The team will win some games here and there, but if you're looking at the big picture, you'll understand that qualifying for the postseason in 2014 isn't the end game.

That leaves Casey with all the more reason to give Valanciunas and Ross all of the playing time they can muster. There are no more excuses. He'll either do it or he won't.

I'm not going to pretend to know what Ujiri is thinking 24 hours a day, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that he's secretly pining for that scenario to play itself out.

If it doesn't, he'll find someone who will make sure it does.

I don't think there is enough time in the day for me to discuss some of the more specific blunders Dwane Casey has managed to pull off, whether it be clock management, late-game play-calling or just putting the ball in the hands of the wrong player at the wrong time.

I'm not telling you that Dwane Casey is a bad coach, but I'm also not going to tell you that he's a good one, either.

I'll leave it at this: Dwane Casey is not the right head coach for the Toronto Raptors. That is, until he learns what's best for business. 

 

Follow Featured Columnist/NBA Live Blogger Christopher Walder on Twitter at @WalderSports                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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