It’s a bizarre time in Toronto right now. You had the high of the regular season, getting the No. 1 seed in the East, beating the Wizards to advance to the conference semifinals only to get swept by LeBron again. On top of that you had Dwane Casey win Coach of the Year, as voted by his peers this morning and yesterday the report came out that the Raptors are close to firing him. Here’s the thing though.
The Raptors are screwed either way. You can’t just magically trade Demar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry and get better. Also, what is better? They’ve won 50 games the last 3 years and at least 48 games the last 5. They’ve made the conference semifinals the last three years with a trip to the conference finals in there. However, they just can’t beat LeBron. Does firing Casey change that? No. Which is why I don’t really understand this thought process. Unless you’re dramatically concerned about losing Jerry Stackhouse to another franchise and want to promote him from the G League, this is the only move that makes sense. The only other coach that’s out there right now that would be an upgrade right away is Budenholzer and I think he ends up in Milwaukee.
But, let’s get back to the roster. Saying go ahead and trade DeRozan and/or Lowry is easy to do, but the question is for what? The Raptors are unlike other teams where they already have pieces around them. You have guys like Poeltl, Wright, VanVleet (if resigned), Anunoby and Powell. Those are all younger guys that you have in the rotation. You can’t just trade for pieces unless that piece is a for sure top-5 draft pick and you’re set on blowing the whole thing up and building around that. I don’t necessarily agree with that thought process here. The other side is I’ve heard a lot of just trade one of them for Kawhi. Who says the Spurs want one of them? Plus, Kawhi is an upgrade meaning you have to throw in other pieces in order to get him, even with Kawhi set to be a free agent next year. Let’s also not forget that there’s no guarantee Kawhi resigns with the Raptors. Do you really want to go all in on one year with Kawhi, Lowry and pieces?
Then there’s the money situation. This is where Toronto is really in trouble. They have their money tied up in Lowry/DeRozan/Valanciunas/Powell/Miles/Ibaka. Those six players are making about $114.5 million next year combined. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room to go out and sign anyone and then you have to get creative in trade pieces to make money work. It also means you have to decide what you want to do with Fred VanVleet this offseason. VanVleet was one of the best bench players in the league this year and could absolutely be a starter on a decent amount of teams. That means he’s going to get paid this offseason, more than the $1.3 million he made this past season. So what’s Toronto going to do here? How high do the Raptors want to get into the luxury tax and have their cap space be?
Again, the Raptors have had a successful 3-5 year run here. They were just never title contenders, which is okay. The problem is what do they do going forward? They acted in the front office as if they were to compete for a title and now they have an untradeable contract in Ibaka and a traditional center making $16.5 million. Personally, I think they just stand pat, maybe make a few small moves and put out there that DeRozan is on the block. However, firing Casey seems like a logical step to ‘win’ the fans over, especially if you hire someone like Stackhouse.