steph

Meaningless Playoff Positioning

If the playoffs started today the Nets would grab the 7th seed while Philadelphia would round out the top 8. The Raptors would start their first round series in Cleveland. We’re 6 games ahead of New Jersey and 3.5 games back of Orlando which is in 3rd spot, the difference between the 3rd and 6th seed inclusive is 7 games. By doing some simple math and throwing some probability in there it’s not hard to see that the Raptors are destined to finish somewhere between 3rd and 6th by season’s end. Catching Orlando is possible, but unlikely, the Magic haven’t showed any signs of letting up and even if we take advantage of our relatively easy schedule, Orlando can counter by taking care of business on their own end, long road trips or tough stretches evade the Magic too and they’re playing 16 of their remaining 28 games at home.

Barring major injury or a severe drop off, the Raptors aren’t going to fall 6 games in their remaining 31 games. Although New Jersey is only 2.5 games behind Washington (who get Arenas back soon), they won’t be going north in the standings. All this is coming back to the likely scenario that we’ll face either Washington, Cleveland or Orlando in a first round playoff matchup. As the team stands right now, the Raptors will be underdogs in any of the three matchups and the chance of pulling off a playoff upset remains equal in all cases. Orlando and Cleveland provide a rebounding challenge with a touch of star power while Washington presents an athletic, quick and explosive team that will be hard to contain.

So even if the Raptors play exceedingly well and manage to equal their 47 win mark (which would entail going 19-12), we’ll end up avoiding a matchup against a team we could realistically beat, i.e.: New Jersey, Philadelphia, Atlanta or even Chicago assuming the previous two make it. My point? Our next truly worthwhile game will be in April. The rest of the regular season is simply about earning a little respect, padding the win total and trying to get home-court advantage (which might not be as great as it sounds given the Raptors home performances).

The age-old phrase “jockeying for playoff positioning” doesn’t really apply here because there isn’t a significant advantage to be gained by moving up or down between the 3rd and 6th spots. The X-Factor in any playoff matchup will be the availability of Jorge Garbajosa. Garbajosa who’s often looked at as the missing ingredient that’s caused our rebounding and defense shame might be able to provide what many are asking in a trade. I’m not one of those people. He provides some grit and is an excellent team defender, but his 4.7 rebounds a game and inconsistent outside stroke doesn’t excite me.

Jose Calderon’s Blog

You have to love Jose Calderon for what he’s done for this team this year. There’s nothing I can write that’ll do his play justice so I’ll just quote his blog entry where he’s thankful for even being considered for an all-star birth:

“I started the season as a substitute and it was absolutely unthinkable that as a reserve for a team like the Raptors and with an average of less than twenty minutes playing time per game, I could aspire to be in the NBA All Star team. But it has gone like this, you cannot imagine the number of supporting messages I received on my web-page and there have been many articles published in Spain, Canada, and the USA also rooting for me. The truth is that I am very proud of this and I understand that there are other players who have performed as well as or better than me to be there.”

Much better than this snide little cunt.

Jamario Moon in the Dunk Contest

For what it’s worth, I have a feeling Jamario Moon’s going to win the dunk contest. And this prediction isn’t even based on his taking off from well beyond the FT line, it has more to do with the sheer confidence he seems to have. Watching his interview at halftime of the Nets conquest, the man seemed ready to bet his first-born on it and looks to have some tricks up his sleeve. Plus, he’s got the backing of Reggie Miller and Ernie Johnson.

The reason it’s hard to watch the dunk contest is because winning it doesn’t mean that you’re the “best” dunker in the league anymore. That title belongs to Vince Carter who if he wanted could’ve won it for 7 years straight. Some great dunkers that should find their way into the competition include Kenyon Martin, Kobe Bryant and Baron Davis. The NBA’s half thought-out rule of having players with limited amount of experience is one of the main reasons why interest in the competition is low. For all of the NBA’s emphasis on fan participation, I’m surprised nobody’s thought of having the fans vote the dunk participants in, that way you’ll generate the interest it deserves.

For more Moon love and bagfulls of free shoes, check out Dave Feschuk’s article in The Star.

Jason Kapono and some thoughts on the 3-point shoot out

Kapono’s primary threat in this event might come from Peja Stojakovic and Steve Nash who are two pure shooters that don’t need to be set in any sort of way to unleash their threes. But knowing Kapono and how much he values shit like this, I’m guessing he’s practicing right now. I’ll be surprised if he loses and so will everybody else. His soft uniform release is ideal for a competition which puts premium on quickness and rhythm.

If you had to assign a grade to Kapono’s play, it would probably hover somewhere between a C- and C+. He’s been neutralized as a perimeter threat and the original assumption that he’d open space for Bosh by spreading the floor have been all rendered untrue. Teams are still able to double Bosh successfully by helping off of people other than Kapono – usually Calderon who’s taken good advantage. If I had to pick one area where the coaching staff has failed us, it’s been in getting Kapono off. When a great who happens to be your GM’s chief off-season signing only takes 98 threes (1.92 a game), it’s either a bad signing or some bad coaching. You decide.

Till another day. If you’re using an RSS reader (don’t know why you wouldn’t), latch on the feed.