Who the Toronto Raptors should be cheering for/against

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Obviously, the Toronto Raptors would like to win the rest of their games this season. But who else should Toronto be cheering for the rest of the way?

With 23 games remaining, there is still plenty to watch for the rest of the Toronto Raptors season. How will Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin be integrated into the team? Can Toronto earn the number one seed? What will the final rotations look like? The Raptors have plenty of questions and not much time to answer them.

The rest of the league is just as interesting. Battles for the seeding in both conferences, as well as a race for the eighth playoff spot (Even if it’s not an exciting race. It is technically a race at the bottom of the East).

Every game and every team in some small way impacts the Toronto Raptors. So who should you be cheering for the rest of the season? We broke down the top teams to watch and how they impact the Toronto Raptors.

Cheering for: Indiana Pacers

The Toronto Raptors regular season goal still should be to win the first overall seed. However, while still possible, the chances of earning homecourt advantage are slim.

Toronto currently sits two games back in the loss column of the Milwaukee Bucks. After winning the season series 3-1, Milwaukee also holds the tiebreaker. While the standings say the Raptors are technically only one game back, from a practical perspective it’s closer to three.

But it might not be so bad to be the second overall seed. At the moment, the conference aligns:

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Philadelphia 76ers

That means if the playoffs started today, Toronto would only be required to play one of the Eastern Conference’s top-four teams. That’s a nice break.

Of course, the playoffs don’t start today, and with Victor Oladipo out, it’s very possible that either or both the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics surpass the Pacers before the season is over.

However, with less than 25 games remaining, it’s far from certain. Raptor fans should be cheering for the Pacers whenever possible in order to open the easiest path out of the Eastern Conference.

Cheering Against: Eastern Conference contenders primarily the Bucks

This should be pretty obvious. Other than the scenario laid out above, the best case scenario for the Raptors is to earn homecourt advantage against all three elite conference opponents.

In order to do that, Toronto will need to catch Milwaukee Bucks and fend off the Pacers, 76ers, and Celtics second. The latter should be relatively easy. The first part…. not so much.

Cheering against: Los Angeles Clippers

It’s no secret, the Los Angeles Clippers are currently the Raptors biggest threat to steal Kawhi Leonard. Making the playoffs without Tobias Harris would be a positive indictment of their talented young core. If they perform well in the playoffs, that’s even more of an endorsement.

L.A. keeps their draft pick if they miss the playoffs, and a couple of games at the end of the season shouldn’t matter. However, sometimes perception is reality. If the Clippers make the playoffs, the perception of their team will be much different.

Cheering for: Kings, Grizzlies, Knicks

That’s a weird three teams to cheer for. Is it for Mike Conley? Have Kings fans suffered long enough? No. Instead, all three teams’ success has consequences towards Eastern Conference contenders future draft picks.

The Boston Celtics have the Memphis Grizzlies pick top-eight protected. If the pick conveys this year in the late lottery (still possible), it likely has less value than if it rolls over for next season.

The Boston Celtics also have the  Sacramento Kings pick, unless it is pick #1, then it goes to the Philadelphia 76ers. Either way, Toronto will want that pick to be as low as possible.

The Knicks, surprisingly, don’t owe their pick to anyone. However, with two max cap spaces, not only are the Knicks a threat next season if Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto, they’re a threat to steal him themselves.

Next. Kyle Lowry is the NBA's most unconventional star. dark

Raptor games are obviously the most important thing to watch the rest of the season. Still, keep an eye on the standings. Much more is going on south of the border.