Casey still peeved Raptors young guns didn’t make Rising Stars cut

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey joins Prime Time Sports to talk about representing the Raptors at the NBA All-Star Game, fighting for first place in the Eastern Conference and more.

Dwane Casey made a little franchise history Sunday when he became the first Toronto Raptors coach to ever get to man the sidelines at the all-star game.

He acknowledges it’s a great honour and he’s proud to be heading to Los Angeles with his all-star backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

However, Casey’s still a little peeved it’ll just be him, his coaching staff and his star backcourt participating during all-star weekend.

On the Friday night of the all-star festivities the annual Rising Stars game is played, pitting the NBA’s brightest first- or second-year American-born players against the league’s best international (non-American) rookie or sophomores.

No Raptors made the cut, despite boasting a group of young players that feature heavily on the third-best bench unit in the Association, according to net rating.

“We’ve got a group of them. We’ve got a group of international players in Jakob [Poeltl] and Pascal [Siakam], and then Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright are two young U.S. guys,” Casey said on Prime Time Sports Monday evening. “They could’ve had their pick of any four of those young men to play in the game and elected not to so believe me I’m gonna let them know about it.”

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Casey has a legitimate gripe here.

Of the 20 players that made the Rising Stars game, eight of them aren’t in the top-20 of win shares (a catch-all stat that estimates the number of wins a player contributes to his team) among first- and second-year players this season. The Raptors have three in Poeltl (3.0), VanVleet (2.5) and Siakam (2.2), while rookie starter OG Anunoby is just on the outside looking in at No. 21 (2.1) coming into Monday’s action.

No, the Raptors young players don’t put up huge numbers like some of the other guys who made the Rising Stars cut, but they’ve been a major reason why Toronto is 33-15 at the moment and second in the Eastern Conference. Something Casey believes should’ve counted for a lot more.

“They have earned every minute they’ve got. It’s not like we drafted these guys and then all at once we just put them in there and [said], ‘OK, go get it,’” Casey said. “They started working last summer. So they worked their butts off all last summer, last fall, all training camp, through exhibition and the fruit is there right now. …

“I’m very proud of them, they’re not a finished product, we’re not a finished product, and that’s why I know that there’s no other group in the league that’s worked harder than those young guys to contribute to us fighting for a conference title.”

The NBA’s Rising Stars game goes Feb. 16, sans, according to Casey, some key players.

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