The Raptors’ firing of Dwane Casey triggered immediate speculation about who might replace the most successful coach in franchise history. Here are five candidates who quickly spring to mind:
Ujiri and Casey have butted heads at times, just as Casey and star point guard Kyle Lowry did, a callback to Casey’s old boss George Karl clashing with the great Gary Payton in their Seattle days. It’s natural for a general manager and his head coach to get into it at times. At some point, though, Ujiri decided that a new direction was needed, which was his prerogative and not necessarily the wrong call, as long as he doesn’t stop there.
All indications are he won’t. If all three of Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are back next fall, this corner would be surprised. The market will be tested and if somebody wants one of the team’s bad contracts with a reasonable sweetener, that will be looked at as well.
With the Raptors losing in the second round of the playoffs, preparations for next season are already beginning. Conversations are starting about whether there might be a coaching change, or which players will be heading out the door (if any), or which free agents can be brought back. It’s happening.
This might seem early, but technically, since the Raptors’ season is done, they are now free to trade with any other eliminated team, which is most of the league at this point. Pre-draft trades are rare, but not exceedingly so, as long-time Raptors fans can attest to — for example, the Reggie Evans for Jason Kapono deal happened in early June.
“Most of the guys on the bench are young and hungry, and I know that these playoffs will be in the back of our minds all summer,” Fred VanVleet said as the team cleared their lockers out Tuesday.
And hungry they should be. Coming off a two-round playoff run in which a number of young players got their first taste of the post-season – the five youths in the 10-man rotation had played a combined 65 playoff minutes before this year – the knowledge of where each player most needs to focus should be instructive.