Toronto Raptors fans are still reeling after an epic second half collapse against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. Many in Raptor Nation are gutted, angry, and fed up after the dinos’ fourth straight loss. Fans are looking to point the finger at someone. Dwane Casey, that means you. But realistically speaking who could be brought in to effectively replace Casey?
Lionel Hollins is one name that many are throwing around currently. Just one season ago Hollins was let go by the Memphis Grizzlies after a four year stint. Yet Hollins led the Grizz to a franchise record 56 regular season wins and its first Western Conference finals appearance last season. It was quite an impressive run considering that Hollins was able to develop a Grizzly roster which featured young and unestablished players at the time, such as Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol while also simultaneously incorporating veteran additions such as Tony Allen and Zach Randolph into the rotation as they arrived.
Hollins’ fiery coaching style, which emphasizes a defensive mentality and an inside-out approach on offense, are two things the Raptors could definitely benefit from. Hollins could build off the respectable defensive framework that Casey has already established for the squad while working out the Raptors’ offensive kinks. As mentioned, Hollins’ offensive philosophy in Memphis was much more post centric as the offense ran through Gasol and Randolph. This philosophy could potentially work wonders in Toronto. Big man, Jonas Valanciunas, would be much more involved within Hollins’ offensive construct, furthering his confidence, engagement and development in the process. It would also take away from the disgusting isolation play that plagues the Raptors’ current offensive schemes like a disease (the second half of the Warriors game was yet another great example of this). Instead of one-on-one sets, the dinos would play inside-out with movement and cutters — staples of Hollins offensive principles.
Sounds great, right?
Well not so fast because any knowledgeable observer of the game will be quick to point out that Hollins had two legitimate All-Stars in Memphis in Randolph and Gasol, respectively. In contrast, in Toronto, Hollins would have his offense run through an unproven project in Valanciunas. That’s a lot of responsibility for an unproven 21 year old. Fair enough, but Hollins was also able to develop Gasol into an All-Star in a short period of time. What’s to say the same future wouldn’t hold true for the raw yet talented Valanciunas under Hollins’ guidance? If the Raptors wish to be competitive in the East and make the playoffs, running the offense through Valanciunas would help as it would allow for more movement, shots closer to the rim, and get away from isolation basketball. Equally as true is that if the Raptors want to eventually tank and develop the young players, running the offense through Valanciunas would also definitely help. Valanciunas could develop further as an overall player, improving upon his read and react abilities in the low-post (i.e. passing out of double teams), face-up game, and his back-to-the basket game, respectively.
So why not Hollins in T.O then?
There’s one big reason for that. While in Memphis Hollins took a strong liking to Gay’s game (uh-oh). Hollins had coached Gay for the entire duration of Gay’s career before he was traded away and viewed Gay as an integral part of the Grizzlies’ success. So much so that Hollins, like Casey, consistently encouraged an isolation heavy offense while Gay was in Memphis. If Hollins encouraged this style of play when he had Randolph and Gasol down low, lord knows what it would be like with Valanciunas as the only offensive post threat in T.O. If Hollins’ admiration for Gay doesn’t scare off Raptor fans then nothing will. The last thing the team needs at this point is another coach who is enthralled with the idea of more iso-ball.
Although many Raptor fans may feel embarrassed by the Raptors’ latest debacle and want Casey’s head on a stick, it just isn’t that simple. Certainly, it seems inevitable that Casey will eventually be let go by Masai Ujiri. Yet regardless, the Raps still need to take their time in making their next move the right move. Sorry Raptor fans, but there is no quick fix in this instance. Hollins isn’t the answer.