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Time for the Raptors to Blow it Up? Odds on DeRozan and Lowry’s Future

Kyle Lowry
The Raptors are tied with Golden State for the best record in the NBA. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr)
  • The Raptors’ dream season quickly turned into a nightmare after Toronto was swept by Cleveland in the second round of the NBA Playoffs
  • Will Dwane Casey still be at the helm when the 2018-19 season tips off?
  • Should the Raptors trade DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry for draft picks and young assets?

It’s been a bittersweet week for Dwane Casey, who was named Coach of the Year by the National Basketball Coaches Association two days after being swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It’s the third time in three years that the Cavs have unceremoniously bumped the Raptors from the postseason, and many fans are demanding that Casey be held accountable for his team’s latest collapse.

Casey isn’t the only one on the hot seat. Many Raptors loyalists are also calling for the heads of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka, all of whom folded like cheap deckchairs against Cleveland.

Name Odds of remaining a Raptor Odds of being traded or released
DeMar DeRozan -350 +225
Kyle Lowry -500 +300
Serge Ibaka -700 +400
Dwane Casey +150 -200

Let’s move beyond the numbers and examine each case separately.

DeMar DeRozan

Consider this for a moment: LeBron James came within three points of outscoring DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined in the second round. That speaks to both LeBron’s brilliance as well as to the ineptitude of Toronto’s All-Star tandem.

LeBron James came within three points of outscoring DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined in the second round.

Players are entitled to an off night, but DeRozan, in particular, strung together four of them. The 28-year-old guard averaged just 16.8 points on 43% shooting against the Cavs, and found himself glued to the bench during the fourth quarter of Game 3 as the Raptors mounted a furious comeback without him.

DeRozan was unable – or unwilling – to match Cleveland’s intensity and repeatedly settled for jump shots rather than attacking the rim. His shoddy defense was also frequently exposed as the Cavs consistently exploited him in pick-and-rolls. It’s fair to wonder whether he’ll ever recover from being so thoroughly humbled on national TV.

Given his fall from grace, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors would get fair value for DeRozan if they were to dangle him in a trade. He’s also still owed over $83 million over the next three years and has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain a Raptor for life. The smart money is on DeRozan remaining in Toronto for at least another season.

Kyle Lowry

Lowry was not as passive against the Cavs as DeRozan, but he too disappeared for long stretches of the series. The four-time All-Star averaged just 17.8 points against Cleveland and was held to five points on 2-7 shooting in Toronto’s lopsided Game 4 defeat.

The Raptors would probably be happy to exchange him for a first round pick, but the market for injury-prone 32-year-old point guards isn’t exactly booming. At this point you’d have better luck moving Charles Barkley away from a free buffet than moving Lowry and the $64 million remaining on his contract.

Get used to seeing Lowry pal around with Drake for at least another season.

Serge Ibaka

No one did more to damage their value during the second round than Serge Ibaka, who scored just 11 points combined in Games 1 and 2 against the Cavs. Casey experimented with using the Congolese big man at power forward and center, but he proved equally ineffective at both positions.

It’s bad enough that Ibaka couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn, but he also doomed the Raptors by allowing Kevin Love to rediscover his mojo. His passive defense unlocked Cleveland’s second best player and gave Love the confidence – and freedom – to operate in the paint with impunity.

The Raptors will gladly listen to offers for Ibaka during the offseason, but it’s unlikely many teams will be interested. Like it or not, Raptors fans will have to endure two more seasons of watching him slide into irrelevance.

Dwane Casey

UPDATE: Dwane Casey was fired by the Toronto Raptors at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday morning. 

Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke glowingly of Casey during his season-ending news conference on Wednesday, lauding him for the “unbelievable” job he had done for the organization.

Ujiri deftly deflected questions about whether Casey would be on the bench at the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

Ujiri’s words were encouraging, but they were also notably in the past tense. At no time did he guarantee Casey’s job security, and he deftly deflected questions about whether Casey would be on the bench at the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

“We’re going to go back and look at everything,” Ujiri told reporters. “It’s my responsibility as a leader to do that and we’ll go from there.”

The unfortunate reality for Casey is that it’s far easier to fire a coach than it is to turn over a roster. If anyone on this year’s squad gets the heave-ho it will be the Raptors’ head coach.

You won’t get much value in betting on Casey at +150, but its becoming more and more likely that he’s coached his final game for the Raptors.

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