Four months is a long time. So we regain awareness of the title race by watching the nine NBA teams with at least a 1% chance of winning the title, according to our internal playoff odds (aka Zach Kram), plus the 76ers, who defy all math and logic, leading to the reopening of the evening on July 30.
Team: Toronto Raptors
Record: 46-18 (2nd of the Eastern Conference)
Names: 111.3 offensive rating (12th in the NBA), 104.9 defensive rating (2nd), 6.4 clean score (tied for 3rd with, ironically, the Clippers)
Opposing seeds (in calendar order): Lakers, Heat, Magic, Celtics, Grizzlies, Bucks, 76ers, Nuggets
The last time, on the Raptors …
The Raptors entered the season with the same energy as “the ex who says they’re fine” – but it turns out they are we do well. Even with injuries to almost every player in its lineup, Toronto was burning before the season was suspended, recording a ridiculous 21-4 in the team’s last 25 games, including a 15-game winning streak.
Given the circumstances beyond those injuries – you know, how Kawhi Leonard won over the Clippers after winning the title last season – the fact that the Raptors somehow prove to be the second best team in the Is and the third best team in the league by record, is one of the best stories of the season. Even without Kawhi, they couldn’t be refused. Now the question is whether they can win in the playoffs and in this unique bubble situation without him.
How they spent their forties
The Raptors have had an interesting comeback situation since they are an international team. Because they were from Canada, they had to go to Florida two weeks earlier to start their quarantine. It remains to be seen whether this should better prepare them for the long months to come or simply add more time away from their comfort.
Beyond that, however, some players, like Marc Gasol, have used time to slim down:
While Pascal Siakam did … well, not much.
“I have been in quarantine for months in my house,” said Siakam after training in Orlando last weekend. “I haven’t been out of the house for three months.”
Objective of the Sowing Games: do not fall in third place
Beyond staying in good health (we’ll come back to that in a moment), the Raptors’ only job during the eight classification games is to avoid losing the three game lead they have over the Celtics. If they don’t, they’ll have to play Philly, Indiana or Miami in the first round, all of whom are tougher opponents than Magic or Nets as the top seed. In other words, instead of having to beat Is the Celtics and the Sixers, they should beat the two on their way to possibly face the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
The schedule for Toronto’s selection games does the team a disservice. According to the numbers, the Raptors have the most difficult gameplay inside the bubble, facing teams that are currently in the 16-team playoff championship, including the Lakers, Bucks, Sixers and Celtics. It won’t be easy at all, but Toronto also has a decent-sized cushion to work with, so in the event of a disaster, they should be the two seeded ones.
The biggest question about bubbles on the ground: can they stay healthy?
As I mentioned earlier, the only real retarders the Raptors have seen this year have been injuries. The problem? It affected almost everyone on the team. Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Patrick McCaw have all run out of time this season. The advantage? The layoff of almost four months seems to have helped everyone to regain their health. As Fred VanVleet said last weekend after team training in Orlando, “If all goes well, this will probably be the longest period in which we will have a full team. “
Honored player: Pascal Siakam
Siakam has entered Kawhi’s size void this season in a way that has not only met expectations, but exceeded them. He went from the third violin of a title team to a certifiable All-Star who averages nearly 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game, while maintaining an effective field goal percentage above 50 %. Its increased usage has proven that Siakam can take on a greater challenge, which is exactly what the Raptors needed to find after Kawhi.
Lowry may be the heart and soul of the team, and Marc Gasol may be the veteran stabilizer, but Siakam is the shooting star. Despite the fact that Toronto is deep and versatile, Siakam’s performance is the biggest indicator of how the Raptors will do.
On a Wizards scale of 10, where 10 is the best shot in a title, what are the Raptors’ chances of winning the 2020 title?
8. A cut below the real contenders (Bucks, Clippers, Lakers), but the fact that they are right behind them is a victory in itself.