How important is the first seed for the Toronto Raptors?

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors are currently sitting in 2nd place; only a few games behind the Milwaukee Bucks. Do the Raptors need a first seed finish or are the standings meaningless?

Wake up Toronto Raptor fans, its that time of the year again. With the season nearly finished, teams are slowly settling into their current seed, mapping out their playoff runs. In Toronto’s case, they continue to trail Milwaukee at the moment and by the looks of it, will finish behind them.

Does a second place finish point towards disappointment?

A simple question with a simple answer: NO!

Although another conference title would be a nice little victory for the season, it’s not something worth prioritizing over strategic planning. Allow me to explain:

Whether they admit it or not, in the 2013-14 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets purposely dropped to the 6th seed just to play Toronto in the first round. The Raptors put up a formidable fight but ultimately dropped the series in-game 7 despite being the 3rd seed.

Brooklyn didn’t go on to win a chip but they dropped a seed to better their chances of advancing to the next round. Toronto would be wise to apply this same logic to their current situation.

The plan moving forward

After selling their soul in the DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard trade, the Raptors have never been in a better position. It’s now or possibly never. That being said, a finals appearance is easier said than done. This is why the Toronto Raptors must plan out their playoff run.

If the playoffs started today, the Toronto Raptors would avoid facing one of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia Sixers until the Eastern Conference finals. Allowing the rest of the Eastern Conference elite teams battle it out and thin the herd themselves, would give the Raptors the path of least resistance. Dealing with the rest of the Eastern conference is a better deal, one the Raptors should strongly consider taking.

Victor Oladipo going down has made the Indiana Pacers a desirable opponent compared to the rest of the upper Eastern conference. Of course, the current standings might get switched around in many ways but Toronto’s priority should be landing favorable matchups. If this means sacrificing the first seed then so be it.

This doesn’t mean the Toronto Raptors should start tanking. They must keep in mind that they are only a few games ahead of the Golden State Warriors and if they do meet in the finals, home-court advantage will be necessary to bring down the NBA giants.

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Lastly, finishing in the first seed does not guarantee success. Let’s not forget the Toronto Raptors had their most recent successful playoff run when they finished in the 3rd seed, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015-16. The goal is to go one better this year, first seed or not.