New Hope For the New Year

With the Raptors closing out the 2012 calendar year with seven wins in eight games, fans are letting excitement and renewed hope creep back in, perhaps more so than you’d expect for an 11-20 squad that hasn’t beaten any real good teams in that stretch.

But considering where the Raptors were just a couple of weeks ago and where the bar was set for this season (most fans simply hoped for a team that could potentially sneak into the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed), basketball fans in Toronto may have legitimate cause for that aforementioned excitement.

With the Celtics blown out in Sacramento on Sunday evening, the Raptors head into 2013 just 3.5 games behind eighth place Boston, and while I doubt it will be Boston that Toronto is really chasing in the end (I still see the Celtics finishing higher than eighth), that’s still a feat in itself when you consider that the Raps were as many as 8.5 games back as recently as mid-December.

Another major cause for this newfound optimism among Raptors diehards is that the toughest stretch of the schedule appears to be behind them. Sure, 28 out of 51 remaining games are against teams that currently boast winning records, but 29 of those 51 games are at home, where the Raptors have looked very good against weak competition and competitive against elite competition. In addition, Toronto will only have to deal with nine back-to-backs over the final three-and-a-half months/51 games of the season after playing in nine back-to-backs through the first two months/31 games of 2012-13.

For an indication of how a lighter and more home-heavy schedule might affect things for the Raptors and teams around them in the standings, consider John Hollinger’s (formerly of ESPN, now with the Grizzlies organization) ESPN playoff odds.

Using Hollinger’s designed power rankings (based on various advanced stats), the remainder of the schedule is played out 5000 times to get a projection for each team’s final record. After Boston’s latest loss, Hollinger’s system now projects that the Raptors have the best odds at the eighth seed in the East with 37 wins and an overall 44 per cent possibility to qualify for the postseason. To put things in perspective, at their rock bottom point of the season just a few weeks ago, the projections had the Raptors under one per cent.

Of course, these projections are just that – projections – based on nothing more than numbers and simulations that literally change every day, but they do give us another indication that the Raptors have made things very interesting in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference.

At the end of the day, I still think it’s going to take 39-41 wins to get into the playoffs, and even though I originally predicted 39 wins for this Raptors team, I don’t see them winning 28+ games over the final 51 to hit that benchmark. For me, the question is can they just stay in the race and play meaningful basketball into late March and possibly even April, because believe it or not, between their own recent run and other teams above them struggling, the Raptors have somehow got themselves back “in” the race.

The bigger question might be would that be enough for fans whose patience has been tested time and time again? Would 35+ wins, just staying in the race and playing some meaningful games in April be enough to keep fans content that this thing is headed in the right direction, or would it go down as yet another wasted year in Raptors history, just one that looks slightly better than it should because of how horrible the start was? Remember, if the Raps miss out on post-season play this season, it will be the first time in woeful franchise history that the team has missed five years in a row.

Before any of those questions can actually be answered though, the calendar must be flipped, the team must keep rolling along (mush easier said than done), the matter of Andrea Bargnani must be addressed and the 51 remaining games actually played, beginning with a matchup against the Trail Blazers at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

For now, I’ll simply wish fellow Raptors fans a happy new year.

This might just be a fun ride after all, and Lord knows our “tortured fan” souls deserve at least that.

Comments (15)

  1. the raps have a chance to get better in the new year with bargnani on the trade block we can aquire 1 or 2 pieces to help us out, with valenciunas out we desperately need size and rebounding.

  2. I still find it funny that Hollinger was hired by the Grizzlies. While I always thouht he was a decent analyst, I never felt he was all that intuitive about basketball, and really only thought what his stats told him. That’s probably a valuable guy to have in the organization, but I don’t know if you’d want him making decisions.

    Personally, I think the Raptors have a decent chance to play around .500 ball the rest of the way, which would give them somewhere between 35 and 38 wins for the season. I don’t see that good enough to get in the playoffs.

    And while it’s nice to see the Raptors do well, my big fear is a playoff appearance (or close to one) would end up saving Colangelo’s job, and that’s not in the team’s best interest.

    For anyone that cares to read it, I’m starting a three part series of why Colangelo needs to be fired…

  3. Well Joe, they have a nice home stand in which i think they can probably win 4 of the 6, bringing their record to 15-23….

    If they win at least 55% of the 51 games (28-23), they will end the season at 39-43…..not enough to make the playoffs…they will need to end the season on a 30-21 run…..

    Playing a favourable home stretch along with an easier schedule, and playing defense they way they are playing, also getting a good return for Andrea, they might be able to pull it off…

  4. Happy New Year Joseph/Oliver and to all the regular commenters.

    Winning 7 of 8 is nice (even though it will probably lead to BC staying on for another year) but it would be even nicer if the Raptors can kick off the new year with a Bargnani trade.

  5. A very happy new year to all the RaptorBlog readers!

  6. Is finishing 8th and getting obliterated by Miami or New York really the goal? I’d almost rather miss the playoffs just to get the draft pick loss from the Lowry trade out of the way.

    Really I just want them to stink horribly next year and end up with Andrew Wiggins.

    • That seems like the closest route to a championship contending team.

    • Agreed. Finishing just out of the playoffs, improving as a team, individuals improving their game, and getting that pick out of the way is the best option for this team this season. They are too young to do any damage in the playoffs, even though it’s scary that they’re actually not that far out of the 8th spot right now.

      We are too good to finish bottom next year and land Wiggins, so stinking next year wouldn’t do much good. Best shot at ever getting Wiggins would be he gets drafted somewhere and after his rookie contract decides to take his talents to T-Dot as a free agent. We simply won’t finish bad enough to draft him next year.

  7. I’d like the team to pull an MLSE special and finish 9th, give up the traded pick, trade or amensty Bargnani, and move on with rebuilding.

  8. I hope this team thinks about the decisions it makes it the coming years; management needs a shake up because contracts given to players on this team are ridiculous. Look at Mayo in Dallas compared to Fields, you can say Fields is injured but comparing their respective contracts it’s no comparison which team is getting more bang for their buck. I will continue to cheer for the Raptors but I just wish they were smart enough to build a competitive team for years to come.

  9. Colangelo’s objectives for the team this year was to see growth and improvement from the young players, and challenge for a play-off spot. DeRozen and Davis and Ross have all shown some of the growth, and Hollingers data is showing at least a possibilitly of the second happening.

    Forget about losing to improve drafting position, not in the DNA of Casey or Colangeo, and forget about trading Bargnani unless it improves the team by aquiring the correct players, if and when he is able to play again, which is currently an unknown.

    • Unfortunately, as long as Colangelo is in charge, the best this team will do is strive for mediocrity. He’s more interested in keeping his job than actually contending for a title.

  10. Happily accept where we are in standings, our record notwithstanding.
    Playoff hopes are slim, due to horrendous start, but would be alright with giving up an 8-12 pick to OKC just to get it out of the way, which seems more probable.
    Optimism comes from the young talent that we have in Ross, Valanciunas, Davis and DeRozan who we have at reasonable contracts for next few seasons.

  11. People gotta chill with these stupid predictions… just take this 1 gm at a time.
    And yes Barngani and his primo pasto sauce needs to get traded ASAP, trade him for nothing, its better for this team.

    And also stop talking about future draft picks, it creates a negative/pessimistic attitude on everything

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *