The place do the Toronto Raptors stand of their quest to tank for Cade Cunningham?

Proper now, there are two sorts of Toronto Raptors followers. On one aspect, you could have these reveling within the membership’s current two-game win streak that featured a historic 53-point blowout and a Gary Trent Jr. buzzer-beater who’re excited to see what Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie can provide.

On the opposite, you could have these whose sole focus the remainder of the best way is on bettering draft lottery odds.

There are not any two methods about it – Raptors followers are divided of their conflicting needs to both push for a playoff – or, extra doubtless, play-in – spot or backside out to place themselves properly forward of a deep draft. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse predictably threw loads of chilly water on the latter possibility, however that doesn’t imply it isn’t within the franchise’s finest pursuits long-term.

Specializing in the tanking bettering lottery odds via shedding possibility, there nonetheless stays a path to ending with one of many worst information within the league. Doing so wouldn’t solely doubtlessly double their odds on the No. 1 choose (and a crack at Cade Cunningham), but in addition enhance their ground.

This transfer might probably provide Toronto their highest choice since taking Jonas Valanciunas fifth total in 2011.

To higher measure Toronto’s outlook in a possible ‘Fade for Cade’ derby, let’s break down the remaining schedule, in addition to the bottom-dwelling candidates they’ll have to jockey for place with.

Toronto Raptors Remaining Schedule

Can a schedule be powerful and simple on the identical time? On one hand, they discover themselves working inside a stretch of seven sub-.500 opponents in eight video games, with the loss to the LeBron James- and Anthony Davis-less Lakers serving as their solely conflict with a successful workforce.

For as simple because the competitors could appear, these video games are being performed in a brutally tight window.

Monday’s win over Washington kicked off a stretch of 5 video games in seven days and 7 in 10. The busy slate is proving significantly taxing on a workforce that’s lacking Kyle Lowry (foot), Fred VanVleet (hip), Rodney Hood (hip), Paul Watson (COVID-19 protocols), Patrick McCaw (knee) and Jalen Harris (hip).

That was earlier than OG Anunoby was ejected on Tuesday evening and VanVleet and DeAndre’ Bembry obtained suspensions for leaving the bench in opposition to LA.

As soon as this ‘mushy’ phase of the schedule lifts, there stays two video games in opposition to the Brooklyn Nets, plus a troublesome four-game Western swing that includes video games in opposition to 4 of the highest 5 groups within the Western Convention.

The Different Backside Feeders

The 20-32 Raptors have the seventh-best lottery odds within the league, with a 7.5% likelihood on the high choose. Of the groups nonetheless under them within the standings, the younger Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder could possibly be feisty sufficient to string collectively some wins, whereas Russell Westbrook would possibly simply be able to single-handedly successful a number of meaningless video games for the Washington Wizards.

Assuming the NBA’s true backside tier is occupied by the Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and Orlando Magic, the workforce to look at for positioning functions would be the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Simply 1.5 video games behind Toronto, Cleveland has the fourth-easiest remaining schedule, younger expertise in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, and two extra video games in opposition to the Raps.

In a draft with one thing of a consensus among the many high 5 (Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs and G League Ignite stars Jalen Inexperienced and Jonathan Kuminga) and a subsequent drop, the Raptors’ positioning relative to their fellow lottery selectors issues.

Tanking within the NBA ensures nothing, with even the worst workforce proudly owning a mere %14 likelihood at selecting first. Nonetheless, till some league decides to do one thing radical to try to keep away from rewarding shedding whereas retaining aggressive stability via the draft, losses will show useful to groups in sure circumstances. Toronto could be in such a scenario now.

Raptor followers clearly need to see their workforce succeed. For now, meaning improvement from the likes of Gary Trent Jr and Malachi Flynn and robust showings from Birch and Gillespie. It additionally would possibly imply shedding video games, a bummer situation that could possibly be softened with the arrival of a future franchise cornerstone come July twenty ninth.

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