Raptors' playoff odds have gone up 15% since start of February
For much of this season, the Toronto Raptors looked very much like a team in search of its identity.
With expectations to build on last year’s 48-win campaign, the Raptors looked to be capable of being one of the Eastern Conference’s top playoff contenders this year.
But failing to win even three consecutive games in the first 41 games of their schedule, Toronto wasn’t exactly the team to beat for much of this season.
Sitting at 23-29 on January 31, the Raptors looked lifeless on some nights and oh-so-close on others, and saw themselves on the outside of the NBA play-in picture looking in.
Many fans were calling for trades, a breakup of the team’s core, and even a full tank for the rest of the season to have better odds in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes as part of this year’s NBA draft lottery.
February has painted a different story, with the team going 5-2 on the month to date.
After a trade deadline where the team ended up as shock buyers, Raptors president Masai Ujiri preached patience.
The acquisition of Jakob Poeltl on the day of the NBA trade deadline seems to have already solved a few of Toronto’s matchup and spacing issues, as the 7’1″ veteran centre picked up a 30-point performance in his third game with the team on February 14.
“Growth is not linear. It’s been a really rough stretch, but these guys, we believe in them, and we think the growth sometimes takes a while,” Ujiri said on February 9. “I look at it that we needed to give them a chance with a big rim protector out there to see what this team does.”
And it appears that the early return of that patience is, well, getting noticed when it comes to Toronto’s playoff odds for this season.
Per FiveThirtyEight, the Raptors’ odds of making the playoffs have jumped from 30% to 45% over the past three weeks. The site projects Toronto finishing with a 40-42 record, which would tie them with the Washington Wizards for ninth place in the East. In this scenario, they’d need to win two play-in games (potentially both on the road) in order to qualify for the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Sitting at 10th in the Eastern Conference as of today, Toronto is two games up on 11th-placed Chicago, while they are four-and-a-half-back of the sixth-placed New York Knicks.
Make no mistake, the Raptors are far from perfect as they come out of this past weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities, returning to action Thursday night at home against New Orleans.
There are still plenty of questions to be asked about the team’s ceiling both in the short- and long-term future.
But they’re trending in a clear direction, and perhaps that’s a better path to be taking than the murkiness that clouded this team for much of the first half of the season.
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