The Toronto Raptors start a 4 game road trip in Dallas on Friday night and Head Coach Dwane Casey has been less than subtle about lowering expectations for his team in the post Rudy Gay era. This season has become overtly about developing the young guys and building for the future.
“We are still in the building process,” said Casey before the last game. “It is about Terrence Ross, growing him, getting him better. DeMar DeRozan is still a work-in-progress. Jonas Valanciunas is still a work-in-progress. We are still building – still in the improvement process of getting these guys better until further notice.”
The Raptors are starting Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. A lineup that includes 2 second year players who are still figuring out the NBA game and averages 24-years-old. After Wednesday’s overtime loss to similarly young Bobcats team at home, Casey continued to emphasize the need for tempered expectations.
“I love the challenge of coaching young players. I enjoy that,” Casey said. “I enjoy winning more, but I understand where we are and what we are about in the process of our program.”
Casey’s words are sweet music to the ears of the Raptors Tank Nation, but are a reminder of recent seasons past where the Raptors played hard and fell short as veterans watched from the bench while young players were ‘developed’.
This group probably has too much talent and pride to grab a top lottery pick in June and solid NBA sources are confirming President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri isn’t done tweaking his roster for future considerations. Both DeRozan and Lowry are being shopped and it looks like Ujiri is primarily interested in first round draft picks and young prospects. Raptors Tank Nation dreams of a shot at Andrew Wiggins may be coming true.
The Dallas Mavericks headed in a different direction this summer. Where Ujiri cautiously added young players he could easily dispose of during or after this season, President of Basketball Operations Donn Nelson added veterans Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis on multi-year contracts and built a team that could win now.
Veterans Calderon, Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Samuel Dalembert have started most of the games for Dallas this season. Dalembert splitting minutes with former Spurs big man DeJuan Blair. While no one expects the Mavericks to contend for the Western Conference Finals, this team is 15-10 and could be a tough out in the postseason.
The Mavericks are favored to defeat the Raptors at the American Airlines Center, but Toronto has played up to their competition most nights. This contest should still be close. Lowry has played very well over the past month and DeRozan leads the Raptors in scoring and has multiple 30 point games already. The bench players Toronto received from Sacramento in the Gay trade have made the Raptors a better team in many respects.