With the news coming out that the Brooklyn Nets have lost Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season, what does that mean for the Toronto Raptors?
Not for the first time this season, a recent injury will impact the Toronto Raptors in a big way. However, for what feels like the first time in a while, this injury isn’t coming from within the Raptors building. It’s external and it’s a big blow for the Brooklyn Nets.
Since Kyrie Irving signed with the Nets from the Boston Celtics, he’s only featured in 20 of the Nets 54 games so far this season, averaging 27.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game, shooting 48-percent from the field and 39-percent from three. In short, he’s been dynamite when he steps foot on the court.
Problem is, for the Nets and Irving, he hasn’t stepped foot on the court all too much recently due to a lingering shoulder injury that has already kept him out of 34 games this season. Now, Shams Charania of the Atheltic reported yesterday that Irving has elected to undergo surgery to correct the ailing injury.
The catch is, this: the shoulder surgery will likely keep him out of action for the remainder of the season, putting a huge dent into the Nets investment. The Nets are paying Kevin Durant and Irving $253,667,450 over the next four seasons, should Durant opt-in during his final season, and a combined $68,941,000 this season, and now neither of them will step foot on the court for the rest of the year.
That was always the case with Durant, but the Irving news is a bigger blow. As frustrating as that news is for everyone in basketball – Irving is one of the game’s best talents – there will always be a benefactor in this type of situation and the Toronto Raptors can definitely throw themselves into that bracket.
The Nets currently sit 7th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 25-29, four games under .500. There’s no doubt that this season has been a disappointment for them, but there’s still the very real possibility that they could make the playoffs.
They sit a game and a half ahead of the Orlando Magic in the eighth seed and a further four and a half games ahead of the Washington Wizards in the ninth spot. The Wizards have, statistically, a top-half offense in the NBA, but their defense is historically bad and potentially on pace to have the worst defensive rating in NBA history.
While they could make a run for the playoffs in the final stretch, their defense will likely weigh them down. If that’s the case, the final two spots in the Eastern Conference will belong to the Orlando Magic and the Brooklyn Nets.
The Raptors have already played all four of their divisional match-ups against the Nets this season and finished with a 3-1 record in the process. The lone Nets win this season came in the Raptors final game before the All-Star break, ending their historic 15-game winning streak, and they did so without Irving.
As it stands, the Raptors will face off against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, and without Irving, the Raptors would be heavy favourites. Even if the Nets were to have Irving on the court, the Raptors would likely run out winners in the series, but the tie would be a little more troublesome.
Without Irving, though, the Raptors should cruise through the first round.
As good as the top of the Eastern Conference has been this season – the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors own two of the three best records in the NBA – the lower echelons of the playoffs represent some of the poorer teams who could feature in the postseason.
If the Brooklyn Nets really bomb, though, then the Raptors could take on the Orlando Magic, a team that caused them a few problems in the regular season and Game 1 of the first round last season.
And if they fall away completely, then the Raptors could find themselves taking on the Washington Wizards or even the Charlotte Hornets – and both could be considerably easier matchups for the Toronto Raptors.
Long story short, no matter what, the Toronto Raptors stand to benefit from this.
Even though the Raptors won’t see the Nets again this regular season, they could meet in the postseason. If not, then the Nets’ conclusion to the 2019-20 season will no doubt impact the Raptors.