After refusing to talk playoffs for the longest time, I’ll admit that even I was fooled into false hope after the late February win over the Knicks and subsuquent Bucks loss which brought the Raptors to within four games of the top eight in the Eastern Conferences. I quickly came to my senses, however, with back-to-back losses against the Wizards and Cavs.
But while talk of playoff games in 2013 evaporated weeks ago, there is still a portion of this fan base that seems to assume that this exact same roster will magically turn into a playoff team in 2014. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.
On paper, a team consisting of Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and a developing pair of sophomores in Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross should contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and if they stay healthy over the course of a whole season, I don’t doubt that they can. But even so, the most realistic outcome if this team returns for Toronto and stays healthy is probably a team that hovers around .500 for the majority of the season and finishes in a dog fight for the eighth and final playoff spot. The fact that they were virtually a .500 team for months following the 4-19 start and for the first six weeks after the Rudy Gay trade only solidifies that argument.
If they address the need for a backup point guard and another competent big man while actually getting something of value out of a possible Andrea Bargnani trade/amnesty, then sure, I can envision this team making some noise in the East next season. But there are 14 other teams in the Conference with their own off-season agendas and the Raptors are capped out, so assuming that the pieces will all magically fall into place for Toronto is about as safe as assuming that this team left untouched will become a playoff team simply by flipping the calendar, which in turn is about as safe as assuming that once they got back in the race this season, they would beat teams like the Wizards, Cavs and Bobcats, and we all know how that turned out.
Yes, there is a smidgeon of hope for the future thanks to some of the young talent assembled here (mostly Valanciunas) and there is the possibility that a productive off-season will make 2013-14 a season worth investing in for Raptors fans, but as presently constructed, they’re still far from a playoff shoe-in.
Believing anything to the contrary is letting this management group and ownership get off a little too easy, if you ask me.