Casey Back as Raptors' Coach But Was This the Right Move for Toronto?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors made it official today, Dwane Casey will return as head coach of the basketball club. But was this the right decision for the franchise going forward?

So much for down time and a chance to rehash the Toronto Raptors' first playoff series in six seasons.

No sooner did I get home from job number two last night to take a catch-up nap, but news broke that the Raps had come to an agreement with head coach Dwane Casey on a new three-year deal.

This morning it was made official and afterwards, Casey and Raptors' GM Masai Ujiri spoke to the media about the new deal, as well as the season that was, the upcoming free-agency period, and various other topics.

But we'll address those tomorrow.

Right now let's talk about the immediate issue, Casey's re-signing, since my guess is that not everyone is 100 per cent on board.  Was the quick re-up the right move?  After all, there would likely be a number of other qualified coaches on the open market this summer (Mark Jackson being the latest) some, perhaps better able to take this club to the next level.

And really, I think that's the crux of the matter in the eyes of most fans.  No one's dismissing the job Casey did, but like Sam Mitchell before him, was Casey the best option in terms of guiding this club beyond the first round of the playoffs?

If you're in the camp that is already shaking their head in disagreement, the next piece then is who would be a preferred option?  Most of the more renowned strategists in the NBA are already under contract, and if you're going to throw out names like Stan Van Gundy, it can't be in a vacuum.  One must remember that any coaching change that's made by necessity disrupts the club and its current chemistry, granted, an amorphous concept, but one that I would say this season was proven to be a reality just by listening to the players' exit interviews with the media yesterday.

So to me, if you're going to replace Casey, you need to be sure you're getting a serious upgrade and unfortunately Tom Thibodeau, Greg Popovich and Rick Carlisle aren't walking through that door.

In fact, I've always held the belief that for the most part, most NBA coaches are interchangeable and only a few outliers really impact a team's winning percentage to a huge degree.  (And there's a fair amount of research that backs this up.)

Casey's Raptors' tenure offers us a pretty solid piece of evidence regarding this as well:

Casey Season 1 - Team devoid of elite talent but featuring Casey-esque players willing to fight, play defence and grind it out each and every game over achieves.

Casey Season 2 - Team gets a talent upgrade, especially post Rudy Gay trade, but of the ill-fitting variety and a style that conflicts with the coach's philosophies. Casey's group flops.

Casey Season 3 - More balance across the roster and removal of ill-fitting pieces (read Bargnani, Gay) and club overachieves again grabbing a top 3 playoff spot.

Give Casey the right tools to work with, and the results should come, which this brings me to the next reason why I'm happy with the decision to bring Casey back.

From a PR perspective, re-signing Casey at the first chance sends a strong message to the team's other free-agents, especially team MVP Kyle Lowry, that the Raptors are going to do everything in their power to keep a club that was so successful this season, intact.

It also sends a message to potential free agents.  "We're keeping a big part of the culture that made us so successful this season, we don't play around.  Come be part of this."

Etc, etc.

The other side of the coin is that it's hard to see what the downside to this move is.  The club gets back a very competent coach who is still improving as a bench head, they send a signal to their team and the rest of the league that they're reloading for another run, and with only three years on the books, the third year being a team option, it's hardly Lawrence Frank.

From the Globe & Mail's Cathal Kelly, the contract breaks down as follows:

Contract_casey_medium

So at worst, things crash and burn next season and the club has to fire Casey with a year still left on the deal.

This franchise has forced much worse financial hurdles, and this to me is a pretty clear-cut case of the pros outweighing the cons.

I'm more concerned with what the club does next in terms of its roster, starting with the upcoming NBA Draft.

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