The firing of Mike Brown in Laker Land today got me thinking about the premature panicking coming from Raptors fans right now, or at least from a lot of the Raps fans on my twitter timeline.

Obviously in Toronto, Dwane Casey’s job isn’t on the line, and a 1-4 start for a team expected to finish either just in or just out of the playoffs is a lot different than a 1-4 start for a team with championship or bust expectations, but from what I can gather, panic is slowly creeping in here.

My moment of panic came, like so many others’, when Kyle Lowry crumpled to the floor in Oklahoma City screaming in pain, but once it was determined that the injury was a low ankle sprain instead of a dreaded high ankle sprain or break of some sort, my hope for the season quickly returned.

As frustrating as the opening effort and overall game in Dallas was, I don’t think anyone can say that 1-4 is far off from where they expected this Raptors team to be after five games. I predicted that they’d be 2-3, because I thought the Raptors could take their home opener against a Granger-less Pacers team, but once that game was lost, 1-4 seemed to make the most sense.

In fact, I’d argue that the only reason a 1-4 record seems so disappointing right now is because of how close the Raptors came to stealing a few more of those games. The fact that Toronto had the opener in their pocket before a late collapse, the fact that Andrea Bargnani was a missed wide open jumper away from tying the game in Brooklyn in the final minutes and the fact that the Raptors could have stolen the game in Dallas had they decided to show up even five minutes earlier provides a tease of a much better record.

Take away the 20-point loss to the Thunder and the 19-point win over the Timberwolves, and you’re left with three losses (two of them on the road) by a combined 14 points. I’m not going to say that the Raptors “deserve” a better record or could be 4-1 after five games, because “what ifs” don’t amount to anything in the standings, but at the very least, how close the Raps have been to grabbing a few more wins should remind you that it’s still too early to be panicking.

For the most part, this team has been what I thought they’d be this season en route to about a 39-win campaign. Remember that I predicted a ninth place finish in the Eastern Conference and a 19th place finish overall. Well if you look at NBA point-differential right now, the Raptors’ differential of -3.0 ranks seventh in the East and, what do you know, 19th overall.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see basic point-differential as some sort of future telling super stat (the Knicks are NOT the best team in basketball right now, as their +19.3 differential would initially indicate), but it does give a better indication of overall performance early in a season than strictly wins and losses, as does looking at strength of schedule.

Basketball Prospectus’ 2012-2013 preview had this to say about it:

differential tends to predict future records slightly better than actual wins and losses because of the role of randomness in the outcome of close games and the predictive value of winning in lopsided fashion.

Digging deeper, basketball research website NBAstuffer.com uses a statistic short-termed “ACH” to analyze “Achievement Level In Terms of Wins.” The metric is designed to weed out teams who are overachieving (and will likely come back to earth) and to reveal under-performing teams who should have more wins (who will likely pick up their pace). The Spurs (4-1), Bucks (2-1) and Kings (2-3) are at the top of the list of overachievers, while near the bottom of the list, the Raptors sit 29th with an “ACH” rating of -0.215.

According to ACH, the only team whose record is more negatively skewed from what it should be is the clearly underachieving Lakers.

At various levels, the numbers suggest that the Raptors are a better team than their 1-4 record indicates, and while that obviously doesn’t mean anything if the team can’t start producing actual victories as opposed to moral and statistical ones, it is a small comfort for already worried fans.

For me, a big indicator will be the next couple of games against the 76ers on Saturday night and the Jazz on Monday. Neither team is a pushover by any stretch of the imagination, and when everyone’s healthy on both sides, Philly and Utah are probably both better basketball teams than the Raptors. But considering the 1-4 start and a little bit of desperation setting in with two home games on the calendar before heading out to Indiana and Boston, these are two games the Raptors have to look at as opportunities to build some positivity and momentum.

If they can take both contests at the ACC and head out to Indiana with a 3-4 record, I’ll be pretty confident that this is exactly the team I envisioned. If they split the two games, I’m sure we’ll all still have plenty of questions. If they lose both and head into another difficult stretch at 1-6, then I’ll be ready to panic over what could quickly become a disastrous and inescapable start to the season.

Suffice to say, these next couple of games will be big. For now, though, things aren’t as bad as they seem, especially if Lowry returns sooner than expected.

Comments (18)

  1. I agree. It’s not like the season is well underway and the Raptors are way out of the playoff picture. It’s 5 games in, with games that could have been won.

    I heard a rumour that Alan Anderson may be taking Fields’ place in the starting lineup. Hopefully all it will take for Fields and the Raptors to get going is a small lineup adjustment. However, if the poor play continues I would definitely expect some trades coming, or possibly even a GM firing.

  2. I don’t get it. Why would raptors fan panic. It’s not like we are the defending champs/contender(s). The playoffs would be nice, but this is definitely not a do or die season.

  3. I don’t really see much panic from the fans because most were smart enough to keep expectations realistic. I just think most people expect to see some panic from the organization that basically forced itself to make it a playoffs or bust type of season with how they handled their offseason.

  4. I feel really uneasy about the team simply because we don’t even have a draft pick to look forward to if we don’t make the playoffs. Yes I understand its top 3 protected, but we know that Orlando will win the lottery (Star player leaving) so unless we get 2,3 it will be a sad season. I am not saying the lowry trade wasn’t worth the pick, c’mon this guy is the most fun raptor to watch since pre-grumpy Vince. But please make the playoffs!

  5. I think it’s entirely fair to hit the panic button on this group. The talent simply isn’t there and it’s completely unfair to ponder what combination might lead to success.

    They will almost certainly overachieve (realistically anything more than 20 wins is overachieving) , it’ll be interesting. But most of the coverage of this team is painfully bad. If you spend 4 minutes watching, it’s simply not fair to ridicule or really even discuss with any curiosity the slow starts, or Bargnani’s Bargnaniness, Fields not being ‘right’ (what incentive does he actually have to be right?).

    Toronto needs 1) a GM good at drafting and 2) draft picks. The Raptors have neither but as always the team is rarely good but always interesting.

    • @ H…

      Fields “incentive” should be pride and the fact he can’t stand losing at this point. You can see it in his face, he neither is happy – in due time, he’ll improve and this slow star will all be forgotten.
      “Toronto needs a GM good at drafting”
      ….Seriously!??!
      Every GM is gonna make some bad picks, they will role the dice and either win or lose or the draft the best available talent. Most take what is best available at their spot, the player that best fits into their current situation (on a per team basis). Considering that, I do not see where Colangelo has been a bad drafter! His only questionable pick, was Bargs (his first pick) and that is even debatable…only players that could be argued to be better in that draft is Aldridge and Roy. Aldridge (IMO) is slightly better, slightly better numbers (not by much), and he does play tougher – although, he is known to take nights off frequently, that is his knock. Roy, was a great player for about 3 years, and that was his knock in that draft, bad knee’s!
      Raps didn’t have a pick in 2007, traded their 17th pick in 2008 to try and win (made the play-offs that year). 2009, they took Demar, there is no one that was dfarted below Demar that is better then him. You might make small cases for Collison, Jennings and Lawson (all PG’s), but in 2009 we had Calderon (second year into a 10 million a-year-clip contract)and Jarret Jack, we were healthy at that spot for the next few years. We needed a SG or Center. Still I personally like DD over any of those other guys. FYI, Collison and Lawson were never considered lottery picks (so, unless Colangelo has 20/20 futuristic vision) those players were never considered by any lottery team, let alone BC and the Raps. FYI’2 – Thabeet, Flynn, Jordan Hill all busts were drafted before DD – Tyreke Evans (the #2 pick) is no better of a player then Demar who was the 9th pick and didn’t get an extension like Demar. 2010 he had the 13th pick in a weak draft, still managed to grab Ed Davis – there isn’t one. player drafted below Davis that is better at this stage in their career. IMO, once Big Val gets going, Davis and his rebounding plus “put-back” ability is better suited for Val’s game. Davis has the best (rebounding per minutes played) then anyone in his draft class. 2011, Big Vals drafted – killer pick, this year its Ross and the jury is out on him. 5 games in, doesn’t look lost, playing only garbage minutes and (we all know now he is Casey’s pick anyways) but if Casey wants him, Casey gets him – BC trusts Casey… and so do I.

      • @Youngjames :

        Question for you tho. You say Ross is Casey’s pick. I still have that question burning inside.. why on hell giving an extention to DD which I personnaly like, but draft another potential SG starter??

        DD leach all Ross minutes which is normal. But I still can’t see how this pick is valuable for the Raps if we decided to keep Derozan.

        Neither of both are tall or tough enough to be a starting SF which we needed and still need badly.

    • Criticize Colangelo for giving too much money to role players, or for the fact that none of his “big” trades have panned out in Toronto, but the guys is definitely an above-average drafter. That is not his weak point.

      It’s not panic time because this is not a win-now team. This is a team that still needs a couple years of development, another decent pick or two, and a significant trade to add talent (right now at the SF spot). We knew all this going into this season. What’s changed? They’re 1-4 when they should be 2-3? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Apocalypse now!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Joseph, without knowing exactly what the problem is, would you say its time for viewers to crack each others heads open and feast on the goo inside?

  7. The Raps, shouldn’t have “stolen” the game form Dallas – they should have won, flat out! ANY team in the NBA plays another team who is down 3 starters shouldn’t lose. That one is totally on the Raps, they should have won.

  8. There shouldn’t be any panic for the Raptors, or Dwayne Casey. The Raps have had a tough schedule to begin their season. This team just needs more time to gel as a unit.

    Hopefully Fields gets his act together soon and starts playing like he did in NY.

  9. Youngjames:

    Colangelo is one of the worst GM’s in the league. Bill Simmons and just about every semi-independent NBA journalist have a long history of mocking his bullshit. He’s Jerry Colangelo’s son, that’s his claim to fame. His power base is something that might matter in medieval Europe but is mostly ridiculous in 2012 because basketball is not an aristocracy. He was embraced in Toronto because he’s better than Babcock. That is a very, very low bar.

    If you need a longform explanation of any of this you can read some of the ugly facts in Toronto Life (not that the magazine isn’t anything but a shadow of its former self etc. etc. etc.)

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