The Toronto Raptors have barely gotten out of the starting blocks in the 2023 offseason, and they were already dealt a major kick in the butt when Ime Udoka chose to leave them at the altar. After many expected him to join Toronto as Nick Nurse’s replacement, Udoka bolted for the Houston Rockets.
While there are some doubts about Toronto’s direction, what is inarguable is that they are more well-equipped to win in 2023 than the Rockets, who are currently hoping the ping pong balls give them a shot at Victor Wembanyama. Udoka seemed to want a fresh start instead of inheriting this project.
While his press conference was full of the normal platitudes about the opportunity he has been given and remorse over his past transgressions, Udoka also took a shot at the Raptors. They may have more win-now pieces, but Udoka doesn’t see the appeal in taking that head coaching job.
Udoka said that the idea of starting from scratch with a ton of cap space and oodles of young talent was more appealing than joining a Raptors team that has a “ceiling.” Not only did he put down the attractiveness of the Raptors’ job, but he revealed how the rest of the league views that job.
Ime Udoka wasn’t high on the Toronto Raptors.
Not only are Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Gary Trent Jr. all free agents, but both Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes will need new contracts relatively soon. The lack of financial flexibility and draft capital, paired with the geographical challenges, will make it hard for Udoka to attract talent in Toronto.
Udoka is by no means the only person in the league with this sentiment, which could be part of the reason why it appears to be very hard to get a read on who the top candidates for this position are. Adrian Griffin is the betting favorite, but would Toronto really replace Nurse with a Nurse disciple at this point?
Behind Griffin, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and 76ers coach Sam Cassell have received some buzz. Jerry Stackhouse, a former Raptors assistant and 905 head coach who is currently at Vanderbilt, has been a popular pick on Raptors Twitter, but no rumors have connected him to the job so far.
The Raptors may have thought that their job would attract some of the best and brightest in the league, but it looks like they have some trepidation about committing so much time and energy to a team that might not be able to win a championship with their current core.