NBA Playoffs: Are Toronto Raptors contenders or Impossible Dreamers?

Let’s take a look at the Toronto Raptors postseason chances. Our team has a 19-32 record, which leaves us 7 games out of the eighth and final playoff berth, currently occupied by the Milwaukee Bucks. How many wins do we need between now and Game 82 for the Raps to play post-season games for the first time since 2008?

Thankfully, we play in the NBA’s Eastern Conference; if we were out West, we’d be also-rans for sure. The Raps play the bulk of their games against East opponents, which will be a huge help in our quest. I postulate that a record of 40-42 will be sufficient. That means the Bucks will need to end at 39-43 (or another team—the Celtics, perhaps—must collapse, which is tough to envision). Milwaukee is only 1 game above .500, so they won’t need an epic fold to fall behind the Raps.

Can the Raptors roll up a 21-10 record the rest of the way? That’s a tall order, to put it mildly. A glance at the schedule shows 15 home games, leaving 16 as visitors. The Raps are 6-19 away from the Air Canada Centre, which means they need to become road warriors immediately.

What about the quality of opponents we must face? We haven’t seen the New York Knicks so far, but we will four times during this final third of the season. Those guys are rolling along at 32-17 , so gaining a split would be huge. We have all four to play against Washington, who have been better lately, but should still be beatable. We have a pair each against Charlotte, Cleveland and Detroit; the Bobcats are weak, but the Cavaliers have come alive, with 6 wins in their last 10 games. The Pistons, led by point guard Jose Calderon (I don’t like writing that), will feel the loss of rookie Andre Drummond greatly, and should be beatable.

Feb 9, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Jose Calderon (8) shoots as Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings (3) looks on during the first quarter at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

We have to endure one 4-game road trip in early March, including games against Golden State and the Lakers, so we must grab wins in Phoenix and Milwaukee. Fast-forward to the final 6 games in April – another must-win in Milwaukee, a home-and-home series against Chicago, then the Nets, at Atlanta, and Fan Appreciation Day versus Boston. I can think of easier matches to close the year with.

Time to fish or cut bait. Can the Raps become one of the NBA’s best teams from this point on? So many things will need to go right: no more injuries, the rapid integration of Rudy Gay, a return to relevance for Andrea Bargnani, the sudden maturation of Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, Alan Anderson’s rediscovery of his shooting touch…that’s a lot of wishes coming true. We would also welcome a turn of good luck, and some decent officiating.

I put the playoff odds at 15%, which is a puncher’s chance, and no more.

Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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