How about this.
If the Eastern Conference Playoffs started today, the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors would all be taking part.
The Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets would be sitting on the sidelines.
With teams having played only about a quarter of its scheduled 2013-14 games, obviously there's still a ways to go but already, there's some definite patterns emerging which give strong indications that the above statements are quite likely to remain true even after another 50 or so games are played.
For instance the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers are a mess. Even with that many games still left to play, current trending would leave one to believe that neither is going to turn things around.
The same could be said for the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls, and potentially even the Brooklyn Nets, although the Nets have been .500 over their last 10 games.
On the flip side, it's not hard to see teams like Boston and yes, Toronto, continuing their recent surprising play based on a number of factors, and the question inevitably then for these clubs is, "are they winning too many games?"
After all, the prevailing thought regarding them prior to the season's tip-off is that these teams were lottery bound (especially Boston) and that was fine considering the clubs were looking to rebuild in some manner. Unfortunately if that was the mission, Boston, Toronto, perhaps even Atlanta and certainly Phoenix out west, are all currently receiving failing grades.
That's why with respect to our Toronto Raptors, the bulk of fans and media are crying for the club to keep shipping out productive players, in order to turn the "tank" back around.
Toronto's opponent this evening, the Charlotte Bobcats, however are a different matter. The club has spent the last few seasons in the NBA's draft lottery and so far has little to show for it. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo may all become key parts to the Charlotte franchise, but at present, none is exactly lighting the NBA on fire.
Therefore this past offseason the the 'Cats decided that they had had enough of the NBA's basement and signed free-agent big man Al Jefferson to a three-year, $41M deal in hopes that combined with two of their better recent draft picks, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, Jefferson would help carry this club back into the playoffs.
So far so good.
The Bobcats 95 to 87 win over the Sacramento Kings last night (shout out to Rudy Gay's 1 of 6 performance) was their 11th win on the year getting them within three games of .500, and good enough for sixth place in the moribund East, only a couple games out of reach of the third place Atlanta Hawks. The Bobcats are still one of the league's worst offensive clubs, but they're making up for that on defense, posting the fourth-best defensive efficiency mark currently in the NBA.
I'm not sure that will be enough though for a win tonight.
The Bobcats may have been a huge thorn in the Raptors' sides the past few seasons (Toronto has only 4 wins against Charlotte in their last 9 match-ups) but on paper seem to have the advantage tonight thanks to their re-tooled roster. Toronto's offence has been humming along averaging 104 points per game post-Rudy Gay and the offence has climbed up to 19th in terms of efficiency. And while the defence hasn't been as good, the club is still keeping opponents in check at key times and considering the Bobcats' offensive struggles this season...
In fact the Raptors are one of only four Eastern Conference teams presently to sport a positive Points For/Points Against differential (you can probably guess the other three considering they're the top clubs in the East currently) and barring some more end-of-game insanity by coach Dwane Casey, I think this will be the Raptors' fourth win in their last five games.
The question, and our lone key for this game and likely a number of other upcoming contests - is another win really in this club's best long-term interest?