The past few seasons we've done a bit of an arbitrary exercise in win prediction for the Toronto Raptors: We've taken their regular season schedule, and gave it the once over, attempting to predict the number of wins based on the degree of difficulty of various match-ups.
These of course were simply face-value estimations but in 2011-12 we predicted 21 wins based on said schedule and the team in actuality won 23, and last year we guesstimated 37 with the team winning 34. Maybe minus the Rudy Gay trade we would have been bang on considering we predicted a 10 and 21 mark going into 2013 and the team hit that nearly on the head, playing their first game in January with a record of 11 wins and 20 losses.
Not too shabby so we're going to take another crack at it this year with yes, another daunting first few months for the Dinos.
Again this season the team has one game in October, a home-opener versus the Boston Celtics.
This isn't the Celtics of old however so for once, I'm putting a W in the win column versus the "Rondo and Big-Three-less" C's.
Record prediction for October- 1 and 0.
After getting the season off on the right foot, the Dinos travel to ATL to kick off their November schedule and play six of their next eight on the road. Good times. These roadies include match-ups with mediocre clubs like Atlanta and Milwaukee, but then quickly the ante is upped as the Raps face clubs like the Grizzlies and new-look Rockets.
Even the home games in between are no easy tasks with the defending NBA Champs, the Miami Heat, coming to town November 5, and the Utah Jazz, who always seem to give the Raps troubles, visiting on November 9, a rare Saturday evening game.
The Bulls, the Blazers, the Nets and the Heat again, fill out the latter part of the November schedule so this first month will indeed be a good test of the slightly reshaped Raptors' roster. I don't think the team fares well here though, and I'm predicting a rough start.
Record prediction for November- 5 and 9.
December has traditionally meant West Coast road trips for the Toronto Raptors and this year is no different. The team treks first to Golden State to take on the Warriors on December 3, following that up with matches versus the Suns and Lakers, and then later in the month heads to Dallas, and then Oklahoma City and San Antonio back-to-back. The club gets a break over Christmas, and then finishes the road swing by heading back to New York to take on the Knicks.
Road dates with the Chicago Bulls twice in December, and home games versus San Antonio and New York don't exactly do much to buoy one's spirits and just like in years past, I think December decides the fate of the club's season. If the team can escape with a .500 record, all good (unless of course you're riding that tank hard out of the gate) but even with a weaker than usual early West Coast swing, I don't see that happening.
Record prediction for December- 4 and 10.
Toronto faces potential lottery clubs like Philadelphia, Boston, Orlando, Charlotte and Minnesota in January so the schedule certainly improves on paper.
But the big question at this point is whether it will even matter considering what could be another dismal November and December, not to mention any changes new GM Masai Ujiri makes based on the previous months' results.
Record prediction for January- 9 and 8.
19 and 27.
Again. For the second straight season this is the record I've got the Toronto Raptors entering the month of February with. It's hard to say where the other Eastern Conference clubs will be record-wise, but if indeed Toronto is this far back, they've got a lot of work to do if they want to make a playoff run.
February isn't a complete write-off thanks to matches versus clubs like Utah, Sacramento and Portland to start the month, and games versus the Wizards, Magic and Cavs dominate the post-All-Star break period.
Suffice to say that if the club is looking to get back in the mix for the playoffs, this is the month to do it.
Record prediction for February- 7 and 5.
In the past, the latter part of the schedule has traditionally been "home-heavy" months for the Raps as their schedule is typically front-loaded with away games.
This year is no exception with the Raps enjoying 11 of 15 games at the ACC from February 10 to March 16, and 13 of their final 24 in Toronto.
Again, matches versus clubs like Phoenix, Boston (twice), Orlando and Cleveland make March look promising but again, it may be a moot point depending on November and December.
If the Raps manage to make a playoff push though in February, the schedule certainly offers up opportunities for them to keep that going in March.
Record prediction for March- 8 and 8.
If the club's record follows my prognostications to any degree, it will be heading into the final month of the season with a record of 34 and 40.
This would mean the Raptors at worst, tie last season's mark for wins but would likely represent an improvement when all is said and done. With clubs like Philly, Milwaukee, Detroit on the docket, not to mention an elderly Knicks squad that might be resting its entire roster for their April matches, the Raps could even push towards that 40 win barrier, one they haven't approached in a number of seasons.
However with matches against Houston and Indiana to start April, I don't see it happening and in the end, I'm expecting a .500 April to end the season.
Record prediction for April- 4 and 4.
Final 2013-14 Record - 38 and 44
38 and 44 would represent a four-win improvement over last season, not an impossibility considering factors like growth from Jonas Valanciunas, an upgraded bench and Dwane Casey getting a full year with folks like Rudy Gay. Remember, the club blew a number of closely contested matches early last season so could have potentially closed in on that number of wins as it was.
However 38 wins doesn't mean playoffs in my books. While teams like Philly and Boston may have taken big steps back, the bulk of the East's lesser foes like the Bobcats, Wizards and Cavs have upgraded their cores and again this season I get the feeling that each and every match will be a dogfight for Toronto.
Which of course leaves some very interesting decisions for Masai Ujiri to make.
It's only August, but before we even get two full months into the season, it wouldn't surprise me to see him start to shake things up.