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.

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