Former Toronto Raptors critical to the Eastern Conference playoffs

The Toronto Raptors might be sitting out the postseason this year, but familiar faces are at the center of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors did not qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs this year.

In fact, a truly abysmal end to the season means they didn't even come close to the Play-In Tournament. They finished 25-57 by the end of the year, the sixth-worst record in the NBA and a full 11 games back of 10th-place Atlanta. There has been no playoff basketball north of the border this year.

With that being true, the Toronto Raptors are very much at the center of the NBA playoffs, and especially the Eastern Conference bracket. Former Raptors are spread throughout the various teams that have been competing and it is impossible to tell the story of the postseason without seeing the imprint of the Raptors on it.

The Toronto Raptors have left their mark on the playoffs

The best series of the First Round of the playoffs was the New York Knicks vs the Philadelphia 76ers. Philly was seeded seventh due to an extended absence from reigning MVP Joel Embiid and it set up a showdown between two similarly talented teams.

Those teams were also flush with former Raptors. The 76ers went to war with veteran point guard (and all-time Raptor) Kyle Lowry in the rotation and with former head coach Nick Nurse roaming the sideline. On the other side, the Knicks started longtime Toronto wing OG Anunoby and used Precious Achiuwa at times, another pair of ex-Raptors.

The Knicks won and are advancing to the Second Round of the playoffs, where they will face the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers' best player in the opening round against the Milwaukee Bucks was Pascal Siakam, sneakily one of the best Raptors of all time and owner of each of their last two All-NBA selections. Neither New York nor Indiana would likely still be alive if it weren't for the former Raptors on their teams.

Given the makeup of both rosters, it is quite likely that Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby guard one another for much of the time when the Knicks and Pacers face off. The narrative element of the two longtime teammates facing off on new teams is picture-perfect.

The Raptors swung the balance of the Eastern Conference despite not being an on-court threat this season, trading key players to East rivals who are now battling deep into the postseason. Other former Raptors are still playing at a high level even if they are not still alive, names like Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas. Of the five only VanVleet missed the postseason.

The favorites to win the title are relatively sparse on former Raptors, so the Toronto nostalgia could begin to run out. Even so, either the Knicks (and OG Anunoby) or the Pacers (with Pascal Siakam) are guaranteed to make the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors hope they can reload and get back into the mix before too long and insert some present Raptors into the playoff race.

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