The All-Star Break is here! Even though we’re roughly two-thirds of the way through the 2021-22 season, the NBA All-Star Game is still considered the unofficial halfway point of the year.
And, hey, you know what: We made it. We’re here! Give yourself a pat on the back for sticking through these pandemic seasons, and being a basketball fan and a Toronto Raptors fan. Lord knows, it hasn’t been easy.
Since we did indeed make it this far, it only makes sense to look back and reflect on what we thought was going to happen this season. Back in October I put my Raptors thoughts down on paper (so to speak) for SB Nation, and now, I — willingly! — am going to go back and look at just how far off I was back then. Never let it be said that I am afraid to embarrass myself!
Let’s get to it.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
Back in the preview I discussed best, worst, and likely case scenarios for the 2021-22 Raptors. Here’s what I said:
…growth from the core of OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam… seeing VanVleet make the All-Star… Anunoby make All-Defense…
Well, hey, that’s not bad! VanVleet is indeed an All-Star, and his game overall has gone to whole new level. Siakam has been shining bright since mid-December, fully back to his pre-pandemic self.
Anunoby… well, there’s nothing to complain about with OG’s season. And he’s still very good on defense. I was hoping for a bigger leap, and that hasn’t materialized, so an All-Defense nod probably isn’t in the cards. But Anunoby is having a solid season nonetheless (and I suspect he’ll benefit from the break).
I said making the play-in game but losing and not making the playoffs would be the worst. No playoffs, and a worse lottery pick? Ugh. That’s still the worst-case scenario as far as I’m concerned.
Most likely scenario
Hoo boy, I was way off in my “most likely” scenario! Here’s what I said:
Probably exactly what happened last season: missing the play-in game by a few games, resting key players down the stretch to improve the lottery odds.
The only thing “most likely” now is that that prediction will turn out to be horribly wrong. The Raps are six games up on the Washington Wizards, who are currently in 11th place; for the Raps to fall out of the play-in at this point, something absolutely catastrophic would have to happen.
(And yeah, you know what: I’m totally OK with being wrong on this one!)
Plenty of reasons to be excited
In the pre-season I said the biggest reason we had to be excited this season is Scottie Barnes, and Barnes has indeed been great. In a weird way, he’s been less impactful lately, but that’s not because he’s not playing as well, it’s more because Siakam is playing so much better that he’s overshadowing Barnes completely, and because VanVleet and Gary Trent have been sensational in the backcourt.
I didn’t see much beyond Barnes to be excited about back then, but as this whole article can attest, the Raptors are exceeding all of my expectations. They go into the All-Star Break winners of nine of their last 11, and they’re healthy, and we’re seeing the “long and versatile” vision come to life. Sure, we’ve seen some limitations of the approach, and the margin for error remains pretty slim, but you can’t deny the team has been fun to watch in 2022.
And the chase to make the playoffs (or avoid the play-in) should lead to an entertaining final 25 games.
You know nothing, Josh Kern
Well, I guess was a little pessimistic back in October, eh? The betting lines had 35.5 for the raptors’ win total, and I bet the under, predicting them to go 35-47 and miss the play-in, finishing in 11th place.
I hope you chose to ignore me, because at 32-25 as of this writing, the Raptors will definitely exceed 36 wins, and as noted, they should (easily) finish higher than 11th.
OK, let’s reset. This is a much easier exercise with 57 games as foundation for our prediction, and with only 25 games to go.
For example, we can see that the line on the Raptors to make the playoffs, at the time of this writing, is -270.
That means the Raptors are favoured to make it — hooray — and Fivethirtyeight has the Raps currently with an 81% chance of doing just that.
So how comfortable am I predicting the Raptors will make the playoffs? Pretty comfortable! I’m not as comfortable saying they’ll finish top-6, but I do believe they’ll finish top-8, and I feel confident they can win one of the two games required to get in the proper bracket.
I think the Raptors will finish 44-38, in 8th place; they’ll lose to either the Nets or the Celtics, and then defeat either the Hawks or Hornets to secure the 8th and final playoff spot.
What’s next for the Raptors?
After this well-deserved week off, the Raptors are on the road for three games, before returning home on March 1 to face the Brooklyn Nets. The great news for that game is that Scotiabank Arena will have fans! Sure, it’s only 50% for now, but that’s something.
Hopefully by the time the Raptors do indeed make the playoffs, the building will be full, and rocking.