It’s all gone pear-shaped for Dwane Casey.

He came into the organization with such great herald – fresh off winning a championship with the Mavericks and pounding the rock and whatnot – but he’s run out of goodwill and the Raptors faithful have turned on him. Watching an inefficient iso-heavy wing offense night-in and night-out while its potential franchise center toils away on the bench will corrupt the most well-intentioned of fanbases.

But hey, I am not here to bury Casey (because let’s face it, he’s already a dead man walking). I’m here to provide a qualitative look at one of Casey’s biggest weaknesses: his inability to draw up a decent play coming out of a timeout.

Again, with the help of video editing wizard Louvens Remy (who helped out on my piece on Demar Derozan’s passing game), we went back and looked at five games worth (BOS, ATL, MIL, MIA, CHA) of timeout plays, totalling 18. The results are summarized in the chart below:

outcomes pie

As you can see, the results weren’t pretty. Sure, the ‘small sample size” caveat need be heeded, but the problem isn’t even with the results, it’s a problem with process.

By in large, the biggest challenge when it comes to evaluating coaching is parsing out direction (coaching aspect) and execution (player aspect) from the results. A coach could draw up the most beautiful play, filled with complex down-screens and pick-and-rolls, but if the players can’t execute, it goes down as a missed shot on the coach’s ledger. Unfortunately, this is not the¬†case with Dwane Casey.

The vast majority of Casey’s plays coming off time-outs are not plays; they’re just schemes to get the ball into the hands of either Demar Derozan or Rudy Gay. From therein, ¬†anything goes (usually a smattering of long jumpers). There might be the occasional ball-screen, but for the most part, Casey is just aiming to get the ball into Demar and Rudy’s hands (examples below):

And hey, that’s not overly egregious. Lots of teams elect to run sets to ensure that the ball ends up in the hands of their best players (they aren’t our best players), but it’s a problem because both Demar and Rudy are shooting less than 44% from the field (both shooting under league average in TS% as well). This isn’t what you want out of your main play-makers:


Take this play from last week’s stinker against the Bobcats. With the game on the line, you’d think Casey would pull out his ace in the hole and trot out the best play in his playbook, but his plan is simply to give the ball to Gay and allow him isolate. Keep in mind that Gay was only shooting 38% at the time, so it wasn’t like he was on fire or anything. Gay is smothered by MKG, and the play disintegrates. The second option on this play ends up being Lowry driving into the lane, but Lowry wisely elects not to shoot over Biyombo. Finally, with almost no time left on the clock, Lowry kicks it to Demar who is met by two defenders and surprise surprise, he doesn’t hit that super-tough floater.

Or, this play against the Heat. What does this play try to accomplish? The Raptors take forever to get into the set (and no, it’s not a good idea to burn the clock because there’s an 8 second differential between shot-clock and the game-clock), and when they do, it’s just to swing it to Derozan in the corner. Sure, the Heat do a great job of containing the pick-and-roll with JV and Lowry, but the second option is Demar vs Allen and Wade? Really?

The problem goes beyond running simplistic plays to get the ball into the wrong hands; where is the movement? Where is the off-ball motion? Where is the cutting? Down screens? Pin-downs? Anything?

Nope. There’s only the occasional high screen from Jonas or Amir, before they roll into the paint empty-handed and broken-hearted while Demar and Gay launch jumpers from the basketball no-fly zone (16-23 feet). Seriously, why even carry a clipboard if you’re just going to draw up these middle-school worthy plays?

Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to compare him to an offensive genius in Rick Adelman, but look at the plays he ran while he was in charge of the Houston Rockets. Have we EVER seen anything like this in Toronto? (btw, pour one out for Outkast. Get back together for the good of humanity!)

Granted, Adelman has a roster full of offensive savants. I mean, Chuck Hayes and Chase Budinger??! Samuel Dalembert!? And who is that little pitbull wearing number 7? He’s running some beautiful sets in this video…wait, could that be…no it can’t…OMG IT’S KYLE LOWRY! Who knew he could actually run a play??

The overarching trend with Dwane Casey’s timeout plays, and his entire offense in general, is that the goal is to simply get the ball to his wing players, and allow them to create, which is a deeply flawed strategy for this current roster. That strategy works for teams like Miami, or Indiana, when you can hand the ball to Lebron or George and watch them go to work, but T-Mac and Vince Carter aren’t walking out that door – there is no one on this roster who is qualified to do that. So why not run a little more pick-and-roll with the bigs (only 4% of plays result in a pick+roll where the big shoots the ball)? Why not run some of these sets for Steve Novak (when he’s healthy)? Why does every play have to end with us fans face-palming in disbelief?

Look, it’s early in the season, and Masai Ujiri is clearly more patient than any of us, but if Dwane Casey keeps screwing up with with these godawful plays coming out of timeouts, this may very well be his last chance to coach an NBA team. He doesn’t have the greatest of rosters, but he at least has enough lego pieces in this offense to build something other than brick city.

Once again, big ups to my man Louvens Remy for his help with this project. He’s a video production wizard, so if his screen capture magic has so captivated you, drop him a line over on twitter, or visit his website. Thanks again, Louie.

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25 Responses to “Silver Linings: There Aren’t Any in Dwane Casey’s Playbook”

    • DDayLewis

      As far as I know, there aren’t any stats on this stuff. Louvens and I went through play by play info, then tracked down those plays on video to chart the outcomes for this post.

    • Louvens Remy

      A lot of what I’ve seen is that, most teams do a good job with misdirection, pick and roll, motion and spacing. Eventually they want to get it into their best player’s hands but if you don’t have an elite talent like Westbrook, Rose, Durant, Lebron, Curry (elite shooter.opens up the floor for driving lanes), Parker, Anthony Davis who are efficient and can get to the rim at will, then there is no need to give Gay or DD the ball 24 ft from the basket and have them operate after having either over dribbled or held on to the ball for far too long. The Raps do try and swing the ball but its only after DD or Gay have had their ISO ball snuffed out by defenders by a double team from over dribbling. The logical answer would be to run more pick and roll with JV and to space the floor a lot better and incorporate way more screens so that they get shots either in the midrange or right at the hoop with JV. They need to go back and look at the 2004 Pistons or last years Chicago Bulls for teams that were not great at shooting the ball from distance but always managed to shoot fairly efficiently despite a lack of elite scorers. Somehow the Raps have 2 guys who can score but manage to do a very poor job at executing out of the timeout or side out of bounds play.

      • Tim W.

        I don’t understand why some coaches allow so much ISO ball. It’s not an effective or consistent way to score, especially in the playoffs. And it bogs an offense down because everyone ends up standing around and watching. The best offenses have usually been pass-based offenses. Even the triangle is about passing and moving.

        • arsenalist

          You’re right more or less, there are exceptions like Jordan etc., when they can basically take the game over because they’re so much superior to whoever’s guarding them.

    • robertparrish00

      You can count the actual plays the raps do in a game on one hand. I think everything else would be called an offensive scheme. aka get this player the ball in an iso. Even in isolation they don’t clear the side, which would kind of make it a play.

      Side note: did anyone else see the Boston-Miami final play? That was awesome. Always nice to see plays done to perfection.

  1. Tim W.

    Even Miami, with their two stellar ball handling scorers, run sets to get the ball to their scorers in much better position. That was the main problem with Cleveland, when LeBron was there. It was a similar offense as the Raptors. Get the ball to LeBron and stand around. Spoelstra actually runs an offense for them.

  2. DanH

    On the Dwane Casey criticism note, here’s one about his use of Jonas.

    Fun facts about usage in the first half of a game versus 2nd half of a game:

    1) Jonas Valanciunas – 1st half: 6.1 FGA, 15.3 MPG. 2nd half: 2.0 FGA, 10.0 MPG.

    2) Toronto Raptors – 1st half: 106.2 ORTG (5th overall). 2nd half: 101.1 ORTG (18th overall).

    3) Toronto Raptors – 1st half: 95.2 DRTG (10th overall). 2nd half: 106.8 DRTG (23rd overall).

    • Louvens Remy

      I like Casey, I feel he is a decent human. But my god, it’s criminal what he does with this offense. In a league with 30 teams, about 10 of them have pretty decent offensive sets and schemes and 6 do it at an elite level. I know its all about personnel, but couldn’t you even try to steal a little something from the good teams and try to incorporate those plays into your system or are the players really that bad at executing.

      Just looking at what my man Dan H just posted above makes me shake my head and mutter: “Casey. Goddamn Casey.”

    • Nilanka15

      Coincidentally, I watched it last night. A bit of a feel-good-story-of-the-year, chick flick, but I didn’t think it was terrible.

  3. Roarque

    If the republic has decided to lobby for the removal of Dwane Casey perhaps I could suggest that a Plan B might be to not fire him until he’s had the opportunity to instill a defensive system on the team members who will remain behind. Or better still, why not give Dwane the rest of the season to hammer his principles home? According to what I’m readng here he is already doing an admirable job of coaching the offence to lose so directly or indirectly he’s getting it done – tanking is happening now . MU will no doubt trade away Rudy and Kyle and regretfully at least one other important asset in order to get back a first round pick for 2014 but the remaining team will benefit from tutoring by the best defensive coach in the NBA.
    My $.02.

    • GoingBig

      The idea to keep Casey for after a Rudy/DD/Lowry trade would make good sense except that hits a Casey weakness – he has shown no interest in player development with zero patience. Bill Bayno had been brought in for player development.

  4. Pong

    I’m no DC apologist, but i feel like this whole ‘raptors’ offense sucks’ issue is a matter of expectations. DC was known for his defense, the same defense that helped the Mavs win a ring. He wasn’t brought in because he’s some sort of offensive wizard. And the last time i checked, our team is doing pretty well in that regard. As a matter of fact it looks like we’re currently 4th in points allowed: And if the expectation was for him to make our team better defensively, it looks like he’s been doing his job.

    Offensively, yes DC definitely needs help and he should take the blame since he’s head coach. But he’s relatively inexperienced (as a head coach) and he’s learning along the way. That’s why MU hired Nick Nurse to help him out. It’s only been something like 7 games, but I believe he can develop on the offensive end as the season matures. He’s had Calderon for half his tenure here in Toronto so now that he’s gone, there’s definitely a lot of learning to be done on DC’s end (Calderon makes everyone, player or coach, good on the offensive end).

  5. mountio

    Entertaining post .. appreciate the little extra touch of the title / graphics.
    This certainly backs up what seems to be abundantly obvious – Casey is awful at offensive execution. We were joking in the chat room last game that a successful inbounds play in a key situation for the raps is to avoid the 5 second call or a turnover. The scary this is, I kind of believe that.
    Anyways – i have seen some semblance of an offense this year – i little more motion, some flex cuts, etc – even some decent inside out ball. But, that seems to last for the first few plays in the 1st quarter and then we get back to iso ball again. That 100% needs to be on the coach. We clearly have the schemes (even if they arent amazing) – but he cant keep the players on task

  6. albertan_10

    Could you do a pie chart that shows what’s average in the league or even to a good coach?

  7. JM

    I agree entirely with your point, tonight’s game was a prime example of slobs being drawn up in crunch time to put Rudy Gay in isolation situations to win or tie the game. It’s hard to watch these simple inefficient plays for inefficient players being consistently run (albeit it worked once). It would be interesting to see the plays run in crunch time by Casey pre and post Gay. I think Gay has become a bit of a cop out for the coaching staff in crunch time, to give the ball to him and make something happen

  8. steve

    George Karl our GM`s experienced winning and widely respected coach in Denver is waiting and available!

  9. Muggsy

    Someone please forward this article to Dwane Casey or better yet Masai Ujiri.

    Stumbled upon this article after the disaster in the las 23.8 seconds in the Nets vs Raptors game on Nov. 26th.

    Poor clock management

    1) going for the steal instead of fouling right away (let about 14 of the 24 seconds slip by for no reason). How often does this work on a backcourt inbound? Especially with the Raptors. Analytics please!

    2) Rudy Gay milking the clock some more after getting ball instead of attacking right away. Giving us no chance to get foul and get the ball back if we missed the shot or even enough time to put up another shot if we missed and got the rebound.

    Poor Play Design

    Casey, “Give it to Rudy and let him go 1 v 5”.

    Rozan, “I am feeling hot, coach, I’ve been shooting well all night”

    Players, “That’s right coach. Demar’s kept us in the game.

    Casey, “Analytics suggest that if Rudy keeps shooting he’ll eventually get it in. So let’s stick with Rudy”

    Gay, “…”

    Players, “Should we at least set him a pick coach?”

    Casey, “No just get out of his way! But if the double team comes, just pass it to Amir in the corner.”

    Johnson, “…What…?”

    “That’s right boys, they’ll never see it coming! And Steve, I want you to crash those boards and go for the tip in. Any questions?”

    Players “…”


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