Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our 2012-13 guide to the upcoming NBA season, in which we identify the reasons why your favorite team might have to start looking forward to 2013-2014 — and highlight at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: the Toronto Raptors, the team that makes the “National” in “National Basketball Association” a lie.
The Raptors were usually a good place to grab guys for your fantasy team. They’re rarely good enough for people to remember them, but always seem to have productive players with production that doesn’t translate to winning many games. After Chris Bosh fled the winters of Toronto for the year-round summer of Miami, Raptors fans didn’t really have a superstar to call their own. The perpetually injured Jose Calderon is a serviceable point guard who can’t play defense, and right when their former first-overall pick Andrea Bargnani started to break out, he got injured and has subsequently missed significant time the previous two seasons. Now, after their failed attempt to draw Steve Nash back to the homeland, the Raps picked up fantasy and real life point guard gold in Kyle Lowry. Can he, along with a possibly healthy Bargnani and a newly acquired Landry Fields, lead the way?
Did I actually just ask that if that were a possibility?
Sorry, Toronto, but, I mean, does even the most diehard Raptors fan think this 2012-2013 team is going to break out?
The East is notoriously weaker than the West and it’s easier for a bad team to sneak into the playoffs on that geographical side of the “national” boundaries. But does anyone think a core of Kyle Lowry, Andrea Bargnani, Landry Fields, DeMar DeRozan, and rookie Jonas Valanciunas can make it past the Heat, Knicks, Nets, Hawks, Pacers, Sixers, and Celtics? Not to mention a late surge from Chicago when Rose returns. That’s eight teams, and the Bucks look like they’re going to be better this year than last.
Although, if the Air Canada Centre DJ realizes to play “My Name is Jonas” whenever Valanciunas is at the free throw line, life will be pretty amusing a few times a game in Toronto.
There’s a bright side for the Raptors this year, at least: They’re better than last year.
Unfortunately, with the exception of Chicago, almost every team in Playoff contention in the East is also better this year than they were last year, and in theory, the Bucks, who weren’t in the Playoffs last year, also got better.
A few reasons you might not be screwed: If Rose doesn’t return to full strength early enough, the Bulls might not even make it into the playoffs. That will create an extra playoff spot for anyone (possibly Toronto!) to scoop up. Or the Knicks, who only secured the seventh seed last year, could implode and fall out of the picture – though that doesn’t seem too likely.
Actual season prediction: Just missing the playoffs, with a ninth or tenth seed, or sneaking by the Bucks while Chicago falls out of the picture to secure an eighth seed. Then they’ll get utterly embarrassed by either Miami, Indiana, or Boston in the first round.