Just about every team in the grueling 82-game NBA regular season goes through a bit of a funk – last year’s record-setting Golden State Warriors the exception to the rule. The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of their own mini-slump. Has that affected their NBA futures odds at Sports Interaction and should it change your opinion of their playoff chances?
Raptors Pulling Out of Slump
Major League Baseball, the NHL and NBA all have their “dog days” of the season where the players are a bit emotionally and physically spent and going through the motions for weeks. Those regular-season schedules are simply too long. The players on good teams are simply waiting for the stretch run toward the playoffs, which is when they get back into gear. Those on bad teams just want the season to finish.
The NBA’s “dog days” are right after the New Year through the All-Star break. This year’s break has the NBA going dark starting February 17 and beginning the second half on February 23. That week or so off generally recharges players. In addition, February 23 is this year’s trade deadline. After that, playoff locks like the Raptors will start to focus on postseason positioning.
The Raptors enter Wednesday’s game at Minnesota with a 32-21 record but having lost eight of 12. Some of that can be attributed to All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan missing seven games due to an ankle injury. He was back in the lineup Monday in a 118-109 win over the Clippers and looked quite healthy with 31 points. DeRozan has now scored 30 or more points in 21 games this season. The only Raptors player to compile more 30-point games in a season is Vince Carter, who reached 30 points in 25 games in the 1999–2000 season and in 30 games in 2000–01. The Raptors are 3-4 without DeRozan this season.
Toronto also played some good teams in that 12-game stretch, losing in Charlotte, Memphis and Boston as well as home to San Antonio.
Raptors 2016-17 NBA Futures Odds
Barring an injury to LeBron James, the Raptors aren’t going to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers – who were only 7-8 in January themselves — for the Eastern Conference’s top seed. The Cavs are heavy -300 favourites to win the East again. The key for Toronto would be to finish no worse than third in the conference to avoid the Cavs until potentially the East Finals. The surging Washington Wizards are right on Toronto’s heels for that No. 3 spot. The Raptors are 1-0 vs. the Wizards this season and have two games remaining against them.
Ideally, the Raptors would win the Atlantic Division, finish second in the conference standings – like last season — and thus get home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals against most likely the Boston Celtics, but the C’s currently hold a two-game lead in the division. Toronto’s first game out of the All-Star break is home to Boston on February 24 and that could be crucial for tiebreaker purposes as if the Raptors win they would take the season series 3-1. Boston is -185 for the Atlantic title and +650 for the East.
The Celtics seem likely to make a trade acquisition before the deadline. Will Toronto? A backup point guard would be helpful because Kyle Lowry, who set the franchise record for career 3-pointers made Monday, leads the NBA in minutes per game at 37.7. Cory Joseph has fallen out of favour of late.
Getting forward Patrick Patterson healthy from his left knee contusion suffered Feb. 3 would only improve the bench (whether Patterson starts or plays as a reserve). Patterson has missed 11 of the past 20. Toronto has played just one game this season, January 29 vs. Orlando, with all 15 players available.
Toronto Raptors 2017 Playoff Predictions
Toronto loses out to Boston in the quest for a fourth straight Atlantic Division title but holds off Washington for the No. 3 seed. That should mean a first-round playoff series against either Atlanta or Indiana for the Raptors. They win that series but lose to the Celtics in the East semis.