On the eve of the 2011-12 campaign last year, I made a prediction for the Raptors’ season based on an actual game by game prediction after thoroughly examining the schedule. I won’t pretend that it guarantees a more accurate projection, but it’s probably at least a bit more interesting (and possibly contentious) for you, and is definitely a lot more interesting for me than just pulling a number of wins I “feel” out of thin air.

In coming to these conclusions, I tried to take the schedule as seriously possible, looking at how back to backs might work for and against the Raptors, as well as taking into account how tough certain teams are at home, what the opposing team’s schedule looks like around the game in question, etc.

Last year, I predicted a 20-46 record, three off of Toronto’s eventualĀ 23-43 finish. So what do I see in store for the new look Raptors this year? Take the jump to find out…

Oct. 31 vs. Pacers – W (I like the Raptors’ chances with a great home crowd, and was convinced to mark them down for a W with today’s news regarding Danny Granger)

Nov. 3 @ Brooklyn – L

Nov. 4 vs. Timberwolves – W

Nov. 6 @ Oklahoma City – L

Nov. 7 @ Dallas – L

Nov. 10 vs. 76ers – W

Nov. 12 vs. Jazz – W

Nov. 13 @ Indiana – L

Nov. 17 @ Boston – L

Nov. 18 vs. Magic – W

Nov. 20 @ Philadelphia – L

Nov. 21 @ Charlotte – W

Nov. 23 @ Detroit – L

Nov. 25 vs. Spurs – L

Nov. 27 @ Houston – L

Nov. 28 @ Memphis – L

Nov. 30 vs. Suns – W

Projected October/November Record: 7-10

Dec. 3 @ Denver – L

Dec. 5 @ Sacramento – W

Dec. 7 @ Utah – L

Dec. 9 @ L.A. Clippers – L

Dec. 10 @ Portland – L

Dec. 12 vs. Nets – W

Dec. 14 vs. Mavericks – W

Dec. 16. vs Rockets – W

Dec. 18 @ Cleveland – L

Dec. 19 vs. Pistons – W

Dec. 21 vs. Magic – W

Dec. 26 @ San Antonio – L

Dec. 28 @ New Orleans – L

Dec. 29 @ Orlando – W

Projected December Record: 7-7

Jan. 2 vs. Trail Blazers – W

Jan. 4 vs. Kings – W

Jan. 6 vs. Thunder – L

Jan. 9 vs. 76ers – L

Jan. 11 vs. Bobcats – W

Jan. 13 vs. Bucks – W

Jan. 15 @ Brooklyn – L

Jan. 16 vs. Bulls – W

Jan. 18 @ Philadelphia – L

Jan. 20 vs. Lakers – L

Jan. 23 @ Miami – L

Jan. 24 @ Orlando – W

Jan. 26 vs. Cavaliers – W

Jan. 28 vs. Warriors – W

Jan. 30 @ Atlanta – L

Projected January Record: 8-7

Feb. 1 vs. Clippers – L

Feb. 3 vs. Heat – L

Feb. 6 vs. Celtics – W

Feb. 8 @ Indiana – L

Feb. 10 vs. Hornets – W

Feb. 12 vs. Nuggets – L

Feb. 13 @ New York – L

Feb. 19 @ Washington – W

Feb. 20 vs. Grizzlies – L

Feb. 22 vs. Knicks – W

Feb. 25 vs. Wizards – W

Feb. 27 @ Cleveland – W

Projected February Record: 6-6

Mar. 1 vs. Pacers – W

Mar. 2 @ Milwaukee – L

Mar. 4 @ Golden State – L

Mar. 6 @ Phoenix – W

Mar. 8 @ L.A. Lakers – L

Mar. 10 vs. Cavaliers – W

Mar. 13 @ Boston – L

Mar. 15 vs. Bobcats – W

Mar. 17 vs. Heat – L

Mar. 20 @ Charlotte – W

Mar. 22 vs. Knicks – W

Mar. 23 @ New York – L

Mar. 27 vs. Hawks – L

Mar. 29 @ Detroit – L

Mar. 31 @ Washington – W

Projected March Record: 7-8

Apr. 1 vs. Pistons – W

Apr. 3 vs. Wizards – W

Apr. 5 @ Minnesota – L

Apr. 6 @ Milwaukee – L

Apr. 9 @ Chicago – L

Apr. 12 vs. Bulls – L

Apr. 14 vs. Nets – W

Apr. 16 @ Atlanta – L

Apr. 17 vs. Celtics – W

Projected April Record: 4-5

***

Projected Home Record: 30-11

Projected Away Record: 9-32

My home and away record projections are incredibly skewed, just as they were last year, so I caution you not to put too much stock in the specific home/away records, and look more at the overall record, as I’m fairly certain this team won’t win 30 home games or lose 30 road games, but I’m also pretty confident they’ll be in the overall 39-win range I predicted.

Overall Record: 39-43

Projected Finish: 5th in Atlantic, 9th in East, 19th overall

***

My prediction has the Raptors narrowly missing the playoffs, while forfeiting a pick likely in the late lottery (12th pick range) to the Rockets Thunder in the Kyle Lowry trade. If Lowry establishes himself as the point guard of the future this franchise has been looking for (which I expect him to do) and if the Raptors can eventually lock him up long term, giving up a draft pick in the 10-14 range would look like a steal. In addition, we wouldn’t have to worry about the light protection of the traded pick going forward if we gave it up in Year One, which is a lot more plausible than giving it up in Year Six after five consecutive postseason trips.

One thing to definitely take note of is how difficult the Raptors’ schedule is to start the season. The matchups alone include some tough tasks, but looking beyond just the teams Toronto will be playing in the early portion of the schedule, what concerns me is the fact that 15 of the Raptors’ first 22 games will be played away from home, in addition to playing six back-to-backs in November alone. To put that in perspective, the Raptors will only play 10 more back-to-backs over the remaining four and a half months of the season after playing six in a span of 25 days.

Add it all up, and you quickly realize that coming out of November 7-10 might even be optimistic. To compound that, the Raptors will follow up that brutal stretch by starting December with their longest road trip of the season – five games out West against the Nuggets, Kings, Jazz, Clippers and Blazers over the span of eight nights. The longest homestand of the season will be a six-gamer held between January 2-13.

You’ll also notice that I haven’t projected a winning streak or losing streak longer than four games, another indication of how close to a .500 team I see this roster.

They’re far from a bullet proof playoff contender, and things can quickly veer off course if the Raps are struck by injuries. If one or both of Andrea Bargnani or Kyle Lowry miss significant time this season, you’re suddenly looking at a team very capable of losing more than 50 games and finishing closer to 12th or 13th in the Eastern Conference instead of ninth.

But looking at things today, on the eve of the 18th season in franchise history, the Raptors are heading into 2012-13 seemingly healthy, while teams ahead of them in the East (Knicks, Pacers, 76ers) are being struck with injuries to significant players. Just as the Raptors can free fall with some bad luck, I can also see a best case scenario where a couple of teams above them fall, and the Raptors ride health and relative luck to 43 or 44 wins in a battle for the sixth to eighth seeds.

I certainly wouldn’t bet on it (stick to the 37-40 win range and the 8th to 10th range in the East), but Lady Luck’s gotta be on our side once and a while, doesn’t she?