The eye-test of the past five years under Bryan Colangelo, one in which the Raptors have missed the playoffs every time, suggests that this team only wins games when it doesn’t matter. Specifically, when playing out the tail end of the season with nothing on the line is when this team finds the winning mentality. Of course, by then the playoffs are a distant dream but it provides just enough fodder for our MLSE-employed announcers to suggest that a training camp is all you need, usually because we pull off a mid-season trade that completes the real makeup of our team.

Blake and his stats are the best in the business and usually he’d be writing something like this but since it is Friday night, he has a life, and I have nothing to do, I thought I’d take a shot at Microsoft Excel and Basketball Reference. What I basically did here is take the first 80% of the season, and the latter 20% of the season and compare the Raptors record in it. Strength of schedule is not factored, I’m assuming it evens out in the long-run. The percentage split is needed because of the lockout-shortened season when they only played 66 games. This is what the numbers look like:

80-20

As you can see, in three of the five years, the Raptors have played significantly better basketball in the last 20% of the season, which is coincidentally when there is zero chance of making the playoffs, other teams tend to care less, and there is no pressure to win. The greatest such run was the 2009 season which is when Shawn Marion came over. This past season comes close with a 14% differential.

The difference between the past year and these seasons is that the Raptors have a good chance of bringing the exact same core back for training camp in Gay, DeRozan, Johnson, and Lowry. Perhaps in previous years, the core wasn’t as clear-cut and wasn’t as developed as the current crop. So there’s that hope.

Scaling this a little and considering a 75/25 split of the season, the trend of playing better basketball in the later stages of the season still holds:

75-25

There is something a little more interesting that pops up, and that’s the 2009-10 season which is when the Raptors had a bit of a collapse and lost out when the pressure was on. You might recall Marco Belinelli, Colangelo’s SG of the future at the time, having an 0-4-from-three game against the Bulls at home.

For me, this season ended with the home loss to Washington (Reaction, Recap), and anything after that I safely ignored. We weren’t as bad as some of the losses after that, and not as good as some of the wins. I had not expected the Raptors to grab the final playoff spot but expected to compete for it, and we didn’t even come close. I think the last few wins we notched would’ve had far more meaning if they came with Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the Raptors in a neck-to-neck race, instead of Milwaukee comfortably in control and Philadelphia, much like the Raptors, winning games that hardly count.

I’m cautiously optimistic that this team can nab the 8th seed next year and would go so far as to put some money on it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that that’s where I think they’ll be for a few years to come, which I suppose, given Bryan Colangelo’s record, would be an improvement. The way I see it, Miami, New York, Indiana, Brooklyn and Chicago are locks to make the playoffs for the next few years. That leaves three spots for Atlanta, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington. I’m pretending Orlando and Charlotte don’t exist, and rightfully so.

Of this second tier of playoff contenders, I think Boston will go in a full-scale rebuild with Avery Bradley and Rondo as the core, so let’s kick them out. Let’s also presume that the Josh Smith and Jeff Teague leave, and Al Horford can’t carry the load on his own. That’s done with the Hawks. I’ll go ahead and say that the Wizards are still a couple years and few moves away from being a playoff team, of course this assumes John Wall doesn’t completely explode. In the ring still remain Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto. I say Milwaukee stays ahead of the Raptors on account of a decent back-court, an improving front line, and overall experience. So now we got a battle for two playoff spots between Philly, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto.

I’m contemplating Joe Dumars either wasting his cap space on over-rated free agents, or simply not being able to find anyone to play in Detroit, thus leaving the Pistons marginally better or the same. Now it’s down to two spots and three teams: Philly, Cleveland, and Toronto. I like the core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao. They’re going to add someone in the draft this year and Irving will continue to significantly improve. I think they’re better than the Raptors so give them one playoff spot. It’s now a showdown between Philly and Toronto, and I think the Raptors are the better team. Jrue Holiday is a nice piece, but overall, the Raptors have better talent and should’ve finished ahead of Philly this year. They didn’t and will next year. There’s your playoff team.

  • JHP

    Honestly I think issues with this franchise start at the top and trickle down
    Owner(faceless unknowns) – not interested in anything but making money
    (13th in attendance)
    GM – looks good in a suit but hates the draft and can not trade AB
    Coach – severely limited by talent provided by GM, still learning as a coach
    Players – come for the money and are always hurt, look at games lost to injury

    BC had 8 years to get here and whoever takes over (no extension please!!!) will need several years to turn things around. How can winning less then forty percent of your games be acceptable to management unless making money is their only motivation.

    • WhiteVegas

      How about making a playoff prediction instead of copy/pasting the same tired complaint from every single other comment section on this site (BC sucks blah blah blah). You’re obviously a disgruntled fan, and I’m curious to see how you think the Raps will do next year, which is the topic of this article. Saying BC sucks doesn’t bring anything new/interesting to the table, and isn’t particularly relevant to the article above. I’m also curious as to your thoughts on the other eastern Conference teams and who you think will end up making the playoffs. It’s fun to discuss and disagree, but only if people stay on topic. When there is an article on BC, feel free to copy/paste your comment over there, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the Raps playoff chances next year.

      • Destro

        Whats wrong with being a disgruntled fan ? Have you not been around since 2008 ? Its stupid to talk about playoff chances when alot of rosters esp teams out of the playoffs will change before next season begins….I think its pretty naive to suggest THIS team will automatically be better next season based on the how this season finished….

        • WhiteVegas

          Nothing wrong with being a disgruntled fan, there is something wrong with posting the same dumb comment over and over when it has nothing to do with the article. Go write a forum post on BC, or respond to an article discussing the GM. His comment had nothing to do with the article (Eastern Conference Playoff teams next Year), and the whole point of the comment section is to comment on the article.

          If he had written something like, “BC sucks, Raps will be 10th seed at best, Cleveland and Detroit will pass them next year and everyone above them will stay there.” Then the comment would have been relevant to the article above and achieved his goal of bitching about BC, but instead he left out any sort of relevance to the article above and was just using the comment section as a soap box for the same old tired crap.

  • DryDry

    holy shit you have to do some enormous reaching and drink gallon after gallon of koolaid to buy into this statistical house of cards

  • Amigo

    It has been a disappointing season for the Raptors. The Coach has been just terrible: started the season selling “faster tempo, shoot within 7 sec” kind of idea. Obviously starter pg was “street ball” KL and the new offensive system defined as “random attack”. All the experience on D gained last year by the roster has been cancelled by his own words. How many matches did you enjoy watching ? Personally a few. Has D Casey yet an offensive system that works ? Has this Coach made a player better than last season ?

    To complete our shitty season what a great surprise on RR ! Tim W. ! Wow ! Wow ! Wow ! OMG The Holy Bible Finally Explained, I told you so, do you remember ? Tolstoj’s War & Peace in comparison is a fresh mint. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    BORING

    • Copywryter

      Blaming the coach is convenient and lazy. Casey was hailed as the saviour of the team last year and the albatross this year. Neither are true. He’s probably not an elite coach, I’ll give you that. He makes questionable substitutions and doesn’t always get his matchups right. On the flip side he gets good effort out of his players and the team has been stable. We simply are not that talented or well-constructed, as evidenced by the fact that no coach has been able to find success here during BC’s tenure.

  • Dman

    dude millwaukee is out next year. both jennings and ellis are opting out after this season. dont u read the news?

    • Arsenalist

      I can’t see him leaving that kind of money on the table.

      • WhiteVegas

        Maybe not Jennings, but Ellis is gone. I see ATL offering Ellis a good sized contract in FA and I’m sure he’d rather play there than Milwaukee.

        • Copywryter

          Ellis leaving will probably make them better.

          • WhiteVegas

            You really think JJ Reddick can replace what Ellis brought to the table? Not a chance.

            • Copywryter

              Volume inefficiency and poor defence? You’re right, Reddick can’t replace that.

              • WhiteVegas

                Redick is a terrible defender and also pretty damn inefficient on offense (over 800 minutes in Milwaukee shooting .403 from the field). He also can’t create his own shot, which Ellis can. Ellis also averaged 6 assists per game, Redick averages less than half that. Ellis isn’t amazing and he does have the problems you listed, but he is significantly better player than Redick.

                • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

                  Ellis is a great stats guy, but his teams always seem to underachieve. His TS% in since he was traded to Milwaukee has been UNDER 50%, which is horrible. It’s actually among the worst in the league. Plus he’s always been one of the worst defenders at his position, despite his steals.

                  Reddick is actually one of the more efficient SGs in the league, with a TS% that is among the best compared to other SGs in the league. That’s because he hits such a high percentage of 3s and shoots nearly 92% from the free throw line.

                  If I was Milwaukee, I’d actually be happy if both Ellis and Jennings walked away. I just don’t think you can win either either of those guys in your starting backcourt. It will hurt them in the short term, but I thin they’ll be in a better position longterm.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    I’m going to guess Washington is going to be better than the Raptors, next year. Their record in games when Wall, Beal and Nene played is very good. In January, February and April, the team went 45-14. Now, I don’t think they’re that good, but as long as everyone stays healthy (which is the case for most teams), I’d say they’ll definitely be in the playoff race.

    • WhiteVegas

      Washington didn’t win 45 games this season, so how the hell did they go 45-14 during Jan, Feb, and April?

      • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

        No, that doesn’t make sense, does it. Ha! I just realized I was counting the games they played as wins and the games they won as losses. I’m going to blame the cough medicine I’m taking for that one. I know they did a lot better after Wall came back and had a winning record when Wall and Nene played together.

        • WhiteVegas

          Ok, I figured it was something like that. I do expect Washington to get better as I’m really high on Beal and think he could be the one that gets the over the lotto hump. I just don’t think that will happen next year. The problem with Washington is outside of Wall, Nene, and Beal, they kinda suck. Okafor is still serviceable but he’s declining year by year, and after him the rest of the team is pretty much garbage. Washington doesn’t have cap room to add any FA so I expect them to only win a few more games next year than this year.

          • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

            I think they have some half decent talent. Ariza, if healthy, has shown he can be a serviceable SF. Webster is probably playing the best basketball of his career, although that’s not saying much. He is a very good 3 point shooter and not a bad defender. I think Kevin Seraphin has some potential as well. Not astounding beyond those three, but I’d take their best three of the Raptors best three, quite frankly.

            • Destro

              All things being equal id rather have there nucleus than ours…

    • WhiteVegas

      Here are Washington’s real numbers from the months you mentioned.

      January: 7-9.

      February: 7-5.

      April: 2-7.

      So Washington’s real record for those months was 16-21.

      Maybe you meant to include March.

      March: 9-8.

      If you include March Washington is up to 25-29. Still a losing record and nowhere near 45-14 (gotta be a brain fart typo combo right?).

      • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

        No, as I said below, I believe I was medicated while writing that.

  • WhiteVegas

    I think this was a relatively fair analysis. I myself am more optimistic about some teams than you, and less about others.

    For starters, ATL will definitely not lose Jeff Teague, he’s a RFA and the Hawks have no one to replace him. He is 100% coming back to ATL. So it really comes down to whether they keep Josh Smith, and if not, what do they get for him (or his cap space). I’d lean towards ATL still being a solid 5 seed-ish team next year when all is said and done in FA.

    Also, you’re much much higher on Brooklyn than I am. If you look at their roster and the ages of everyone, it seems like they peaked this year, and that peak wasn’t very good. Joe Johnson is on a steady decline, having his lowest PER in 10 years, a below league average 14.1 (down from 18.4 the year before). ATL got rid of him at just the right time. They don’t have cap space to add anyone else so they will have the same team next year with an older crappier Joe Johnson. I see them struggling for the 8 seed. Definitely not a lock for the next few years like you said above.

    I do consider Miami, NY, Indiana, and Chicago to be locks, with ATL a most likely in. So 3 spots up for grabs. The contenders in my eyes for those 3 spots are TO, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Philly, and the Celtics. Celtics are a lock if Rondo/Pierce/Garnett are all back, but as you stated above, there is a decent chance they blow it all up.

    I don’t think Detroit and Cleveland are that close to the playoffs yet. They need some major roster additions first. So we’ll see what FA holds for them, but for now I’d consider them lotto teams.

    So it all boils down to the Raps fighting with Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and Philly for the 6-8 seed. I like the Raps chances there and think there is a much better chance they make the playoffs than don’t. I’d say 75% chance they are in.

    Free Agency could blow all of this analysis up but I think this is where things stand as of now.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      You don’t think Brooklyn is a lock for the playoffs next year? Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are definitely declining, but they still have Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. I don’t think they’ll ever be contenders, but I’d definitely say they’re playoff locks, as long as those two remain healthy.

      • WhiteVegas

        I see them getting worse, not better next year. They are close to a lock, but wouldn’t be surprised if they just miss. Like you said, they are one injury away from being bad.

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          I think most teams in the East are an injury from being bad. But with a healthy season of Williams and Lopez, I can see the Nets winning, at least, 50 games next year.

        • boshrawr

          Why not better dude? remember carleisimo probably isn’t going to be back so add to that formula of Lopez and deron one of the van Gundys or.dare I say Phil Jackson and I see them grabbing a top four seed again . its definitely not out out of the question.

  • NyAlesund

    With this core we can’t get the PO next year. KL at 99% will be resign on mid july and this force the Rapt to trade as quickly as possible Bargs the only one piece we have to do something during the off season. Unfortunately, until the European competition nothing will happen simply because Colangelo wants to give to Andrea the chance to show his talent and raise his value. Trade him before september would be stupid.

    The worst thing is the fact that we don’t see pure talented guys like Irving, Rose, Rondo……..Durant….. that can really change the fate of the team and the margin of Rapts improvements are not big. Valanciunas is probably the most promising guy, DD is good but not at the level of Wade, Curry, Ellis…….RG is overpaid fella that nail the cap, Lowry, Ross Johnson are good but nothing more.

    So, now, Colangelo has committed over 65 mln with a big decision to take with Lowry first and Bargs later. I don’t know why but I won’t expect nothing good.

  • Jordan Grewal

    u do realize that u just put nine teams in the playoffs at the end here u said so now we got a battle for two playoff spots between philly, detroit, cleveland, and toronto then u put the pistons in and then said now its down to two spots and three teams.

  • ckh26

    Question… The Raptors PR director who writes for the Toronto Star says that if the Raps amnesty Barney they still have to count his salary against the cap ?… IssDoug smoking toledo window box or is that a true statement ?

    • The Truth

      They wouldn’t have to count his salary against the cap but they would have to pay the shortfall between his contracted salary and whatever a team that picks him up (if a team picks him up) pays him.

      • ckh26

        Thanks for the answer

    • DumbassKicker

      Doug Smith did not say what you describe. He said that Amnestying Bargs doesn’t gain anything in regards to cap positioning to acquire someone else, as in it’s not enough. It helps to understand the English language when evaluating what someone says.

      • ckh26

        Thanks for smartass smarm.. The world needs more of that…

  • Destro

    These threads always been funny…Dont matter what fringe teams are in and out,have yall not learned 5 years later it dont mean the Craps are going to be IN or any better or any closer…..Craps are not a playoff team 2014 and im taking all bets right now on it….pending any off season moves team as is will win 30+ games and fall short again….

    • DumbassKicker

      lol, offering to take all bets over the internet, lol, ballsy

  • Not yet

    No way in hell the cavs are better than the raptors next year

  • Mojo Rising

    I see Jonas Valunciunas improving enough in the low post to force double teams against many Eastern opponents.

    This is a very important development for a balanced and potentially potent Raptor offense.

    If Val can get the left hand shot going in on a consistent basis (I think he can), then why shouldn’t the Raps improve next year.

  • studiogame

    If ownership has any balls they would gut the whole thing next year, inclus Colangelo. Go all in for the 2015 draft, it’s the only way to compete for a championship this decade. #raptorsownership

  • Truth

    Gotta say I disagree.

    Cleveland is not better than the Raptors and any team with Rondo that`s playing in the East will make the playoffs.

    I`d say we are comparable to 76ers (depending on Bynum`s health) and I think Bucks can be caught as well. So that leaves us fighting for the 7-8th seed for the next 2 to 3 years. And as a die-hard Raptor fan, that pisses me off.