Toronto Raptors’ NBA Playoff drive: Why bother?

I risk getting thumped with a shillelagh  by even bringing up this question, but what the hey…do the Toronto Raptors really want to make the playoffs this season? After all, who’s likely to be waiting for them in the first round but the Miami HEAT, who are led by LeBron James. LBJ is in the throes of one of the greatest NBA seasons ever, leading the league’s PER rankings at 31.6, while ranking third in points at 27.2 and contributing 7 assists PG. The supporting cast, including Dwayne Wade and some Bosh guy, can play a little as well. The HEAT is currently enjoying a 9-game winning streak and leads the NBA’s Eastern Conference with a 38-14 record.

Feb 21, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. The Heat won 86-67. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

If the Raps don’t make the playoffs, we’re back in the draft lottery. Our first-round pick is gone, it being the big prize in the trade with Houston for Kyle Lowry (the Rockets have moved the pick on to Oklahoma City as part of the James Harden trade). Yes, I know the Raps retain the pick if the ping-pong balls are friendly (details here), but if we don’t make the playoffs, we should come close. That means precious few balls available to us. The chances of us actually using the pick therefore can’t be greater than 2%.  In sum, there’s almost no benefit which accrues by not making the playoffs this season.

Back to our first paragraph – what value is there to the Raps in being steamrolled by Miami? To answer this question properly requires a leap of faith. The playoffs are a different, more ferocious beast than the regular season. Game scores drop, as defenses tighten up. The benches get “shorter”; only a few players get the bulk of precious playing time. A number of Raps (Bargnani, Gay, Johnson, Fields, Lucas, Pietrus, Kleiza, Lowry, Gray) have played playoff ball, and can talk to the kids like DeMar, Terrence and Jonas about what it’s like. But words are no substitute for the actual experience the youngsters need to go through – it’s a rite of passage.

The Raps have done well by bouncing back from a disastrous start to the season to push themselves into playoff contention. Our team isn’t simply playing out the string. We fans have no illusions about this being “our” year, but perhaps the season after next will find the Raps as serious championship contenders. If so, the experience of playing postseason games in 2013, even if we get our heads handed to us, will be viewed as a catalyst in making us a stronger, more confident team.

Playoffs or bust, fans!

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.

Topics: 2013 NBA Playoffs, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors

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  • F P Bonsu

    Hello Brian,

    I say playoffs baby!!! BTW, long time reader….. I think the pieces are in place to get there and when they do, I’m not so sure it will be easy for Miami should we face them. Go raps!

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi F P: I’m glad to learn you’re a long time reader (:-)
      I certainly hope you’re right about facing Miami – we’ve got to nail down that elusive playoff spot first. I think we can, because the teams in front of us are struggling mightily. It will be interesting to see whether J.J. Redick can help the Bucks.
      Thanks for commenting, and keep doing so, please.

  • Al_Raptor

    Cool article.. makes sense. Our young guys need playoff experience, and what better way than to compete with the Championship caliber Miami Heat? More importantly, I really want to see my Raps in the playoffs.. I’m a young fan (17yrs) and have not had the opportunity to see the Golden Era of V.C, reaching the Semi-Conference finals and such.

    P.S Really not happy with the treatment Bargnani has been getting..come on Raps fans we need to rally for our players.. he is playing his heart out on D only to be afraid to shoot and miss. Hopefully he has a breakout game soon to regain his confidence, and hopefully ignorant fans will realize how important he is off the bench.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi: Welcome to our blog, young Rap fan! I’m glad you liked the article. Yes, it’s long past time our guys made the post-season.
      The young V.C. was an astonishing sight; by far the most gifted player ever to slip on a Raps jersey. Grab some YouTube videos for proof.
      I agree with you about Andrea. He’s receiving cruel treatment, and it doesn’t help him or our team one iota.
      Thanks for commenting, and drop by again.

  • Greg Hall

    I feel strongly that a playoff appearance is only going to help and strengthen the team even if we are bounced in the first round. As pointed out it would be invaluable experience for both JV and DD moving forward and for further playoff appearances.

    As for the touchy subject of Andrea Bargnani, I can’t say that I blame the fans for their reaction, I’ve been booing him (silently in my head) since his draft choice was announced and ever second since. I think BC underestimated the public feelings toward Andrea and never in his wildest dreams would have predicted this result, I imagine if he could go back to the trade deadline and do it again Andrea would be gone! I believe that might also have been what has sparked the flames of hate towards Andrea, the rumor mill was so rampant about Bargnani and BC saying that he was trying to move him (and Chicago left the deal on the table until the Raptors chose to accept or run out of time) is perhaps the straw that broke the Raptors fans backs. That being said I do not necessarily think that was the best trade option for Andrea, but the winning steak the Raptors achieved without Andrea and what most fans saw as a certainly he would be moved appears to have stung a lot of fans. Again I am not saying I agree with him being booed, but I do understand why.

    This I believe will be the sad truth of the off-season: Andrea Bargnani will be amnestied … why? One simple reason, there is no way the Raptors can dream of getting any worthwhile players for a player that is getting a loud chorus of boos from his home fans every time he touches the ball, and I’m not saying teams won’t jump right away to sign him, but they certainly won’t be giving away any decent assets for him either.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Greg: I can`t argue with anything you`ve said here. But there`s still time for Andrea to re-establish himself with the fans. He needs to make some shots, and play with commitment. If the Raps getting rolling, and he`s contributing, the jeers will turn to cheers.
      Thanks for dropping by.