It’s finally getting to be about that time.
The preseason has concluded, with more positive signs than negative for the Toronto Raptors. The commitment to ball movement looks legitimate, the young, inexperienced second unit found a very quick chemistry together, the pace was ratcheted up appropriately, and the defense looked somewhat surprisingly spry by preseason standards. These are all good things as the Raptors set out in search of a fifth consecutive season winning at least 48 games and earning home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s not entirely unicorns and between-the-legs, of course. There are depth questions if injury strikes, concern that the new offensive system may give way to the old when trouble strikes, and a daunting six-game west-coast road-trip almost directly out of the gate. Even starting 4-4 might be considered a victory. From there, the Raptors can lean on familiarity, continuity, and the easiest schedule in the league (by 2016-17 opponent quality and by miles traveled) over the final 74 games. All told, they’re in a relatively good position to once again fall in that 48-56 win range and host a Game 1 when the postseason opens.
That’s not a consensus opinion, mind you. As always, there are some out there writing the Raptors off entirely, which plays into exactly the position the Raptors like to be in. Over at ESPN, their RPM-based rankings are once again low on the team, too, projecting 44.7 wins and the sixth seed. Their BPI (Basketball Power Index), meanwhile, is more in line with the betting market, projecting 47.5 wins.
According to sports betting operator Unibet, even that’s a shade low. The Raptors’ over-under there is set at 48.5 wins, though the under pays slightly less than the over at this point. The Raptors remain just a 70-to-1 bet to win the NBA Championship, which, fine. The bigger gripe probably comes in the Atlantic Division (5-to-1) or even just the Eastern Conference (20-to-1). That Atlantic Division money would seem like a reasonable bet if your optimism on the team is high, especially since models are in pretty stark disagreement about the Boston Celtics.
We’ll do a full roundup of predictions around the internet a little later on (and give our own). For now, we’re curious in hearing your take on just how good this Raptors team can be, as well as the justification behind it – reasons for optimism, causes for concern, and how you got to where you got on a win number.
To simplify things, we poll. We know a lot more now, about the players, team, and competition, than we did in the offseason. The drawing nearer of the season necessitates more serious reflection and projection (apparently). So, how many games do you think the Raptors will win in the 2017-18 regular season?
Mostly related but somewhat tied to how you see other teams, too, is where the Raptors will finish in the East. The seed is perhaps not quite as important as avoiding Cleveland in the second round, but the best possible way to do that is to secure the top seed, thus taking care of what you could control, and letting everything else fall where it may. That will probably require 50-plus wins. If your projection was lower than that, you probably have the Raptors in the three-to-five area, fighting with a few teams of comparable quality for home court.
So, where do you see the Raptors finishing in the Eastern Conference?
We’ll be back later this morning or afternoon with a round-up of league-wide predictions, as well as the first of our staff roundtable discussions. In the meantime, state your case for your votes.