Toronto has a legitimate shot at making the second round of the playoffs.
Yes, it’s because they are in the Leastern Conference, but there a .500 team (17-17) can lead the Atlantic Division and host a first-round playoff series. Frankly since the addition-by-subtraction Rudy Gay trade the Raptors (winners of six of their last eight) have been the third best team in the East (as Atlanta lost Al Horford).
With that in mind, the tanking is off north of the border. No more riggin’ for Wiggins.
Which means while just a few weeks ago Kyle Lowry seemed a sure bet to be shipped out before the trade deadline, now it’s unlikely. Marc Stein of ESPN has the details.
For the first time, there are certifiable rumbles emanating from Toronto suggesting that the Raptors might well keep point guard Kyle Lowry for the rest of the season. Word is new GM Masai Ujiri continues to resist locking into any sort of firm position — leaving open the possibility of a Lowry deal if the offers suddenly get sweeter — but team officials appear to be growing increasingly comfortable with the idea that it’s better to go for what would be just Toronto’s third playoff berth in 13 seasons rather than try to do the absolute uber-tanking it would take from here for the 17-17 Raps to get into Andrew Wiggins range now.
As PBT’s on D.J. Foster said before, putting a yellow light up on trades and taking a detour from tanking is the smart move for the Raptors — this is a team fans can get behind. DeMar DeRozan has the freedom now to make his plays and has become a fan favorite.
Toronto is really making this run with defense: In their last 10 games they have given up 95.8 points per 100 possessions, third best in the entire NBA (through their first 20 games this season they surrendered 102.7 points per 100). That’s why this is sustainable — hot shooting can come and go but if you defend every night you are in every game. Coach Dwane Casey got the Raptors to defend his first season as coach, but they regressed heavily last season. This season the defense is back and so are the Raptors.
This opportunity to win a division (they are still 3 games up on suddenly hot Brooklyn) and advance in the playoffs maybe fell into their laps, but it’s there for the taking. Toronto needs to grab it for a season, then get on with the rebuilding next summer.