NBA Daily Preview, February 4: What Happened to the Raptors?

Toronto is fading fast—and needs to make a move now

FiveThirtyEight

The Toronto Raptors, once owners of the league’s best offense, are now in fourth place in the East. They fell behind the Celtics and Wizards, and are only a half game ahead of the Hawks right now. Since Atlanta plays tonight (the Raptors don’t), there’s a real chance that the Hawks could catch Toronto tonight as well.

Toronto has been a near-disaster on both ends of the court over the past few weeks, posting a negative-6.1 net rating in its last 10 games. During a stretch of games when Cleveland has played especially poorly, the Raptors were even worse. The Cavaliers are 5–5 over their past 10 games, while Toronto is only 2–8.

While Cleveland’s troubles are mostly a mirage right now — despite all the noise, they’ll be fine—Toronto should be taking a long, hard look at its postseason chances right now. The Raptors really need home-court advantage in the first two rounds to make any noise, and that is looking increasingly unlikely. This team should be looking at any potential trades that could be out there right now.

Missing the playoffs is out of the question, but the Raptors are now solidly in the middle of the “East playoff teams” list. I still feel more confident about them than I do about teams like the Hawks or Pacers, but that confidence is waning a little each day. It’s not too late for Toronto to make a big move—they should absolutely be weighing all their trade options.

Predictions

1–1 last night (never trust the Trail Blazers), 7–3 for the week. There’s one game on ABC today, and I’ll use a League Pass pick too.

ABC—Cleveland at New York: Cleveland

An interesting game in terms of the personalities and talent involved, but a pretty boring one in terms of actual likely outcomes. Even with all of the Cavs’ troubles, they’re playing an equally troubled team right now. I don’t see any way for the Knicks to win this one.

New Orleans at Washington: Washington

The Wizards are now sitting at third place in the East, and are arguably the hottest team in the league right now. New Orleans is still within striking distance of a playoff spot, but that seems unlikely given how many teams they will have to jump. The Wizards are the better team, and are playing at home. Washington wins.

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