Breaking It Down

Silver Linings: There Aren’t Any in Dwane Casey’s Playbook

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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