Looking ahead at the next 40 games, the playoffs and what if scenarios.
The two game win streak is either making me hallucinating or we truly have a team that can compete with anyone in the NBA. In my delirious, happy state I started dreaming big dreams (like winning the lottery one day and taking up fishing as a full time job). A week ago I would not have bothered looking at the schedule but continued to watch the Raptors on a per game basis as many have suggested to avoid feeling crushed with impending doom. Now things are different. The Raptors are riding a two win streak and more importantly they look like a team that can compete with anyone. They are making defensive stops and scoring at key moments down the stretch. They are showing veteran presence in key moments during the game. This win streak has filled me with hope. In the two game span their points-allowed stat moved them up from 29th to 26th. If they continue at the current pace on the defensive end (and average an Opponents Point Allowed below 94points/game) this will put them at the top 8 in the league. This alone does not guarantee success since they would have to bring up their own scoring as well above the current 95points/game. The number that really makes a difference on the W/L column in the next 40 games is the point differential. If they can bring the difference to +3 points from the current -5.6 they are among the top 8 teams in the league. Here are the other seven (with Atlanta currently sitting at +2.8 point differential):
1 Oklahoma City
2 L.A. Clippers
3 San Antonio
4 New York
Based on this point differential I looked at the next 40 games and tried to break them down (assuming there are no additional injuries and also assuming that neither Bargnani nor Lowry are with the team from this point forward. Here is the best case scenario for the next 40 games:
1st 10 – 7-3 (wins-loses)
2nd 10 - 5-5
3rd 10 - 6-4
4th 10 - 8-2
This would give the Raptors a 26-14 record within the next 40 games and a winning percentage of .650 (similar records to Atlanta and Golden State teams which are comparable to the Raptors this year). This record combined with the current record this would give us 32 wins and 33 loses with a dozen games or so left to play. The last stretch of games is against some good teams this year and they can go either way. They would have to finish at .500 or above, to have any chance in getting to the playoffs this season.
I think that if the Raptors continue to show improvement without Bargnani and Lowry they should trade them both to the Lakers for Gasol. If that trade is not in the cards I would trade for Ilyasova or Ryan Anderson, who the Raptors should have acquired in the off-season instead of Fields. Both would add scoring punch off the bench in the Power Forward position.