The Toronto Raptors just did the expected this week, relieving Dwane Casey from head coaching duties. It’s a bitter pill to swallow since Casey had been instrumental in the Raptors’ rise to relevance in the East the past four seasons. However, after three straight playoff losses at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (the last two were sweeps), it becomes clear the Raps need to find a new direction onward.

Factors that led to Casey’s firing

Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada reported that it was indeed a tough decision to make for team president Masai Ujiri. Ultimately, he and the front-office execs decided to drop the ax on Casey because they felt the coach failed to make proper in-game adjustments in critical situations and draw plays outside the system he’s been running over the last four years.

The Raptors’ 2017-18 season team did have the most productive bench in the league throughout the regular-season, but Grange’s report revealed the idea of empowering the second unit wasn’t Casey’s brainchild. In fact, assistant coach Nick Nurse contributed the majority of the input to make it work.

Moreover, another factor that led to Casey’s dismissal was his lack of determination to push DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry out of their comfort zone. The front-office wasn’t also pleased that he hadn’t put pressure on DeRozan despite his defensive lapses. Grange noted that Toronto wants some feistiness from its next coach when it comes to making his players accountable, especially the stars.

Grange listed down the potential candidates for the vacant coaching job in the article below:

Exploring a Kawhi trade option

ESPN released on Friday an article featuring opinions from their NBA experts in an attempt to find the best Raptors trades with DeMar DeRozan serving as the centerpiece of the package.

From Kevin Pelton’s three-team trade with the Jazz and Hornets to Jeremias Engelmann’s Andrew Wiggins homecoming proposal [VIDEO] to Bobby Marks’ assets-collecting coup with the Mavs, all of these scenarios are certainly intriguing.

However, the trade proposal that stood out the most was Andre Snelling’s DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard blockbuster. In this particular trade, the Raptors get a bona fide superstar in Leonard and Rudy Gay while the Spurs receive DeRozan, rookie wing OG Anunoby and forward Pascal Siakam.

Snelling believed Leonard would finally give the Raptors a capable one-on-one defender to LeBron and an efficient scorer when healthy. Gay, who actually played for the Raptors several years ago, would act as filler in this case. As for the Spurs, they get DeRozan’s scoring ability and a potential two-way project in Anunoby. Many NBA scouts are raving about Anunoby’s upside, with some even comparing him to a young, unpolished Leonard during the star’s early days with the Spurs. Siakam is also a nice young big with length and mobility to play various positions.

The ball is in Raptors’ court

While Casey is the most accomplished coach in Raptors’ history, his firing is something that is needed in order for the Raptors to try a different approach. No matter who will be their next coach, Toronto is expected to be there vying for the top-4 spots in the Eastern Conference. The question now is how long will they embrace mediocrity?

Even if LeBron takes his talent to the West coast, the Raptors will still be facing a daunting task of toppling far talented teams like the Boston Celtics and the surging Philadelphia 76ers. [VIDEO]

The Raptors without a doubt need a superstar player to get over the hump, and there are only a handful of players who can go one-on-one with their Kryptonite. Leonard apparently tops the list.