It’s easy to make the playoffs in the NBA, probably too easy. Over half the 30 teams in the league are admitted entrance to postseason play, and in most ordinary years there’s a handful of teams with legit championship-level talent. The Toronto Raptors have had as much difficulty as any franchise to find consistency, with only six playoff appearances in 19 seasons.
What the Raptors have been able to accomplish this season has been a revelation by all accounts. In the thin Eastern Conference, Toronto might actually advance past the first round of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. They’re pretty much locked into a top four seed, so they’ll hold home court advantage – something the Air Canada Centre crowd yearns for.
Also in sight is an Atlantic Division championship banner, but the Brooklyn Nets have played well enough the entire post-All Star break schedule to remain in contention for the division title. John Hollinger of ESPN gives Toronto an 18% chance of winning the Eastern Conference, although current odds have Brooklyn at 14:1 and Toronto 35:1 to win the conference.
With Indiana currently in all sorts of disarray, all roads to the NBA Finals go through Miami in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Miami doesn’t win the Eastern Conference, given how weak the conference has been throughout the year and the inferior talent on every roster in the East when compared to Miami. But Brooklyn, Chicago, and Toronto have gone 33-13, 33-14, and 31-17 since the calendar flipped to 2014.
All things considered, a top four seed in the conference, a potential division title, and 45+ wins are all accomplishments to be proud of when the direction of the franchise was completely uncertain back in October. A first round playoff series win would be tremendous progress for the current group of players on the roster.
I think the Raps could give Indiana a run for their money if the two ended up squaring off in the second round of the playoffs. Indiana simply cannot score at the moment; it’s quite staggering to watch. Of course, before looking ahead to round two, Toronto has to take care of business against either Brooklyn, Chicago, Washington, or Charlotte.
I’ll outline a comprehensive preview of the opponent of the Raptors when it’s official, but as of now Raptors fans should be confident in their team this postseason. The East is a complete crapshoot other than Miami, and as we saw last year – they aren’t invincible and can be pushed to the limit against top tier defenses and quality post play. Now, while the Raptors may not quite be ready to take out Miami, any playoff basketball experience is good experience.