The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and a franchise-record 59 wins were not enough to save Dwane Casey's job, as the Toronto Raptors have decided to fire their head coach following another early playoff exit.
The Raptors beat the Wizards in the first round, but then got swept by the Cavaliers in the second round. Though Casey has had tremendous success with Toronto in the regular season, the postseason has been a different story and often because of LeBron James.
The Raptors have been bounced in the playoffs by the LeBron-led Cavs in each of the past three years. Cleveland has marched to the NBA Finals in three straight seasons, dispatching the Raptors and other Eastern Conference powers along the way. They may be headed towards their fourth straight Finals and for James that would mean eight in a row.
Getting swept certainly did Casey no favors. The disastrous end of their playoff run raised questions about whether the Raptors are getting further and not closer to beating James. They are seeking a playoff breakthrough and the current path isn't going to cut it.
It seems unlikely, however, that coaching is the problem. James is an all-time great and to beat him in the playoffs generally requires multiple top-shelf superstars. Though DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are All-Stars, and though they now have one of the deepest benches in basketball behind them, clearly the Raptors do not have enough.
A coach alone is not going to make the difference between a sweep and a series win against a player as good as James. That is not how the NBA usually works. They only have so much control over the game.
The Raptors' GM Masai Ujiri said just this week that Toronto is not going to undergo a rebuild. They won 59 games, so that is understandable. But clearly they need to make some significant roster changes if they are going to achieve their playoff goals.
As for Casey's future, there are four current head coaching vacancies. The two best openings are in Milwaukee and Detroit with the Bucks job being the better of the two because of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The other two jobs are Orlando and Atlanta, which have a long way to go to regain relevancy.
Coaching Antetokounmpo would give Casey a player who might someday soon be capable of outdoing James in a playoff series. DeRozan and Lowry could never reach that level during his tenure.
When it comes to the Raptors, maybe ex-Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer would make sense. He's a good coach, but it's not like he has had great success against James and the Cavs, either.
There have been many good teams that just could not solve James. The Raptors are one of them and Casey has become the latest to lose his job because of it.
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