Raptors at the quarter pole - are we getting anywhere?

Dec 14, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng (9) is defended by Toronto Raptors small forward John Salmons (25) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors have just completed one-fourth of their NBA season, and sit seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 9-13 record. How does that look compared to expectations, and what is my forecast?

In my pre-season prognostication post (I love alliteration!), I called the Raps to win 42 games. Of course, that was several months prior to the banishment of Rudy Gay. While the arrival of four veteran players from Sacramento could not have been foreseen (though Rudy’s failure might have), I’m not backing off my number, despite an imminent tough stretch.

When the Raps’ schedule was released, analysts were quick to note the  nasty nature of the first 33 games. While the team has played 11 each of home and away games, the next segment is heavily weighted towards being on the road. What’s worse is the quality of the opponents. Toronto goes to Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio in 4 nights just before Christmas. Those teams possess a Combined Home Record [CHR] of 31-4. In early January we visit Miami and Indiana – CHR: 21-2.

By the time the Raps face Detroit on January 8 at the Air Canada Centre, our current status of 4 games under .500 may look like happy times. However, the Raps play in the woeful East, where playoff hopes are never extinguished, and a late-season push is a reasonable expectation. The month of March has but two near-certain defeats, as we face the Weathermen (sorry – the Thunder and Heat). Otherwise, we’ve lots of home games against the likes of the Kings and Celtics. April is also benign: home and home against the Bucks and Knicks, a team I’d love to skunk.

Given the hapless state of the Atlantic Division, where every team is under water (see how I’m trying to brighten your Monday!), Toronto finishing at 42-40 could bring a Division championship. While that may be a prize for the fastest turtle, it still means a seeding of no worse than fourth for the playoffs, so we don’t have to face the Beasts of the East until the later rounds.

What does this mean for all you “Tank for Wiggins” fans? Nothing, at least not yet. Masai Ujiri bought himself some precious time with the Sac-to deal, in addition to enormous salary cap flexibility. Should the Raps still be afloat by January’s end, he can stop dialing other GMs with trade proposals. They can call him, hopefully in increasing desperation and with ever-improving offers. Conversely, if we’re all but done, he still has sufficient time to unload Kyle Lowry and others (not DeMar, please) before the trade deadline of February 20.

What do you think, Rapture Nation? Am I dreaming in Technicolour? Comment, please.

Brian Boake is Senior 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.

Remember, for the best deals on Toronto Raptors tickets for any game on the 2013-14 NBA schedule, visit our friends at TiqIQ.com.

Tags: Indiana Pacers Miami Heat New York Knicks Toronto Raptors

  • Dinos Charitopoulos

    Hello Brian,
    The “Weathermen” LOL!!!
    I believe that the current Raptors streak, taking into consideration the eastern conference status, confused alot of “Tankerlovers” and people from the Raptors management.

    I believe that this season (at least until now), you must play hard to…fail. And If you play good (not very good), playoffs with a good seeding is also a high possible outcome.
    So, the “tankerhaters” have the possibility of watching Raptors games even after April, 16th.

    So, even if the current streak is a confusing one for the T-lovers, (T is not Toronto is the T word that Masai doensnt want to hear lol), the whole season is confusing for both Lovers and Haters.

    We all want to watch Raptors Playoffs games, and right now this current roster could give us this opportunity. But, what’s next?

    I don’t want to live only with future thoughts (or past ones), I want to live the present. So I’d prefer to watch this current roster play as it is, at least until the trade deadline. If we see that we’re landing to “no man’s land” then, pull the trigger. But right now?
    Unless somebody gives us a special asset, we should not trade anybody.

    And If someone has to be traded, then Masai could choose one from Lowry (if he wants to live), Daye (I doubt than any team would like to have him), Fields (this is a BAD contract), Hayes even Hansbrough (I still cannot understand how this guy finished at UNC as the all time leading scorer in Tar Heel and ACC history!!!)

    Do not trade DeMar, Ross, not even Amir (every team needs a hard worker, cause that’s what he is, nothing more) or Jonas ( I’m still not “buying” all this hype for him, but I’m waiting to watch him develop).

    Right now, I’m just enjoying watching Raptors games…I hope it stays the same. I want wins, I want playoffs.

    Enough with this Tanking for Wiggins theory cause nobody assures me that Wiggins will play for the Raptors, and every season I listen to this “Rebuilding” words and tank whistles…and what happens at the end of the day? Nothing. We just suck.

    If Masai is a Magician, and he knows that he will pick Wiggins from now, why don’t he do his magic during the Draft Day and trade DeMar or Amir or somebody (Jonas?) for Wiggins???

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Dinos:
      I think you’ve just won the prize for Longest Comment in the history of this blog. You should be writing for us. I’m serious about this – look at yesterday’s call for writers post.
      I’m glad you like “the Weathermen”. It just came to me as I was typing the team names.
      Your analysis of who should be dumped is sound, particularly your comment about Landry Fields. If you have any idea of how we can get rid of him, share it, please.
      You’re right to be stressing the word “confusion”; it’s indisputably an odd time, but like you I’d rather be winning than losing. I don’t know much, but I do know that you don’t break up a winning squad. Let’s see if this group is still respectable through the tough sledding to come.

      Thanks for commenting, and send in your application!

  • Rowdy101

    You hit the nail on head with “1/4 pole”. It’s a long season. Tanking for a lottery pick is not an answer, nor is it a sound business practice. Good teams manage around their good players and rebuild quietly.

    The trick with the Raptors is to find that key piece, and in my mind, they’re still looking for it. The supporting cast is there, and it is quickly becoming a great supporting cast that can win some games on their own. To beat the big guys, though, you have to have the go-to guy. Who is that piece? Right now, with DeRozan on the team, the piece needs to be a star PG. Rondo? James Harden? A Derrick Rose playalike?….. You’re not going to get these guys by trading up with Lowry.

    Keep Lowry, build the team, and wait patiently for the free agent to show up without losing your key pieces.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Rowdy:
      It certainly is a long season. Don’t get too high, or too low. I’m glad you concur about the pitfalls of tanking. Why anyone would think it’s somehow an easy or always-successful strategy is beyond me.
      Could the go-to guy you’re talking about already be wearing our colours? Is Terrence Ross a half-season away from being a beast?
      The Raps have a “supporting cast”, to use your term, and they don’t have one guy who dominates the ball. This could work.
      Thanks for commenting.

      • Rowdy101

        Ross? Wouldn’t that be nice. Haven’t seen enough of him to tell.

        • Newmarket_Brian

          Hi Rowdy:
          You’ll have your chance in the next half-dozen games or so. Ross will be starting for at least that long, I suspect. If he can maintain some consistency on offense, and defend well, he may be a permanent fixture on the wing.
          Stay in touch.