Perhaps this question should have been asked three games ago, but it’s Wednesday, which means we here at HQ are in an inquisitive mood. The Raptors are without Kyle Lowry, and will continue to be without him for at least 4-5 weeks. Because we are pessimists (a.k.a. Raptors fans), let’s use the five week timetable. Lowry had surgery yesterday on February 28, which means he’ll be back on, say, April 4th. Toronto could theoretically play four games with him then — but not before the 18 games without.
How do you think they’ll do during that stretch? It is a question that torments us.
The Raptors currently stand at 36-24, with 22 games to go. And, according to NBA math wizard Ed Kupfer, they’ve got the third easiest schedule the rest of the way. (At least I think that’s how I’m supposed to read the graph below.)
NBA 2016-17 Summary of Opponent strength, until today and for rest of the season (HCA adjusted). pic.twitter.com/z6Wh1pkEjq— Ed Küpfer (@EdKupfer) March 1, 2017
Of those potential 18 games without Lowry, it’s an even 50/50 split between home and road games. (The final three of four games are on the road, however.) The Raptors also get to see a bunch of their old friends multiple times — Indiana, Miami, Chicago, Washington, and a lone season capping trip out to Cleveland. Some of these games will mean a lot. (Not least of which, the home-and-home beginning tonight against the Wizards.)
There are reasons for optimism here. The Raptors recently restocked their team through trades for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. You know this. They also happen to be incredibly deep at the point guard position with Cory Joseph, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet. None of these three is Lowry, but still, imagine trying to talk yourself into Brandon Jennings or Norris Cole at this juncture. Yikes.
It feels extremely unlikely for the Raptors to slide out of the playoff picture entirely — not with a relatively deep team and DeMar DeRozan scoring at career-best rates. But a small trip down the standings could happen. We know the ideal position for the Raptors — second or third, a potential second round meeting against the Celtics, a rematch against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Final. This is how we want things to go. This is optimal.
But without Lowry, who knows? Thus, the question. Head to the poll.