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ESPN’s Early Projections have the Raptors at 51 wins for the 2016-17 season

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Would you believe this total is actually fair and good and nice to the Raptors?

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Let it not be said that the Raptors are teetering on the brink of something good, maybe great. Sure, they’re not going to win the title next year — not with the hydra-headed Warriors in the west and Goliath Lebron in the east — but they may be about to embark on a multi-year mission of sustained success. Could you have envisioned that back in say, 1997? Or 2005? Or 2011?

Over at ESPN yesterday, the brainiacs in the computer department put down their first round of early projections for the Eastern Conference. We’re talking total wins and standing. More often than not for the Raptors, this has usually meant the first slap to the face in a year full of slaps to the face. We’re talking win totals in the 20s. But lo, things are different now.

T-2. Toronto Raptors

Proj. record: 51-31

Last season: 56-26

The Raptors' frontcourt lost depth this offseason, as both Bismack Biyombo (82 games played last season) and Luis Scola (76 games) signed elsewhere, to be replaced by Jared Sullinger and rookie Jakob Poeltl. If the Raptors do win their projected 51 games next season, it would still be the second-most wins in a season in franchise history.

Fifty-one wins. Gaze up that number and be astounded.

Now, the assessment offered there is not entirely unfair. The team is put in a deadlock with the improved Boston Celtics, but a few steps ahead of the modestly upgraded Pistons and Pacers. This has a ring of accuracy to it. No doubt though, the loss of Biyombo hurts. While it remains to be seen whether his absence will cost the team five wins (with Scola’s production easy enough to replace), a total of 51 does not feel too out of line.

The frank truth of the situation though is this: somehow, amazingly, we Raptors fans may actually be a tad disappointed with the outcome (51 gotdang wins). I don’t mean this in the usual “they’ve slighted us again!” vibe we usually carry around with us. I mean it in the legitimate “shoot, it’s tough to stay on top” sentiment of the most seasoned of winners. We’re gunning for success these days!

Barring disaster, the Raptors will enter next season on the longest sustained bout of success they’ve ever had. They may clear 50 wins for the second time in a row. They most certainly will make the playoffs — for the fourth consecutive time, a franchise record. And they’ll again be considered one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, capable of running through one or two rounds of the post-season. Not title contenders, no, but a good and solid and well-run organization.

That’s not nothing.

So what do you guys think of the win total?