Tag Archives: Toronto Raptors

If The NBA Playoffs Started Today

The playoffs start in the last weeks of April, and it should be a good one this year. For starters there is the return of the injured Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls, the new big three in Cleveland, and the always powerful western conference. These results were based off the week of November 14-17.

If for some strange reason the playoffs kicked off tonight there would be quite a mix-up of the usual teams that are in the playoffs each season. 

For example, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs with the eight seed would face the hot Memphis Grizzlies with the first seed.

That is one of the surprises early in the season.  Yes we know that it will never happen having playoffs in the middle of November, but wouldn’t it be fun to see some of the other irregular playoff matchups as of now. 

Let’s start with the always powerful Western Conference

We discussed the defending champs taking on the Grizzlies.  These teams actually battle it out come playoff time, but most of the time the Spurs are first place while the Grizzlies are in the eight seed.  

The Spurs and the Grizzlies are two great teams.  So whether one is first, last, or vice versa.  These playoff bound teams will always put on a show in the stacked western conference.

Next, there is the battle of the 2 and the 8 seed.  There is the second seed Houston Rockets, and the 7th seed New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Rockets, since picking up James Harden and Dwight Howard are always a force coming out of the west.  They are no strangers to the playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans on the other hand are the new kids on the block but with their star Anthony Davis having a stellar season and their offense improving since last season; it is not farfetched to see the Pelicans chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

The third seed in the west in this young season is the Golden State Warriors and their young high flying team.  With names like the “Splash Brothers” both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry lead this team with fast-paced offense and high percentage shooting. 

Besides their superb shooting, they also have big men that can hold down the paint, and yes take great shots.
The team that they will face off against will be the Phoenix Suns. 

The Suns were not even a playoff team last year, but with star Eric Bledsoe showing the league and the naysayers criticizing him of his big contract in the off season why they paid him so much. 
He also has the likes of Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup it is time to consider that the ever so difficult has improved even more with the Suns stepping it up this season. 

They are moving in the right direction to be a force in the west for the next few years.

If this team were in the eastern conference it would be a playoff team without a doubt.  That just shows how difficult the West is.  Not only do you have to win, but win a lot. 

The Phoenix Suns should be in the playoffs come April, but we shall see how that goes. 

The final hypothetical matchup is one between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.  The Blazers have the 4th seed while the Mavs have the 5th seed.  These two teams are always in the mix. 

The Mavs won it all back in 2011.  They were able to take care of the Miami Heat in six games.

These teams still have a tough long road ahead of them.  In this hypothetical situation there is a  team that  finished in second place last season, but are not even in the playoffs. 

This team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder has an excuse a pretty good one at that.  They are missing not one but two of its stars.  The Thunder had initially started out with their biggest star, Kevin Durant. 

Durant’s loss was an instant impact.  Durant is the defending NBA scoring champ, so you know that the Thunder is missing that.  

If that was not enough of a tough loss, a few games in the season they lose their other star Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder look to get their stars back sometime during the season, and hopefully they are able to bounce back and be in the playoffs again.

Now let’s look at the Eastern conference.  The East has been known to have a handful of good teams. 

Yes they are not as stacked as the West is but the teams that are in the playoffs and most notably the top five or six are constant visitors to the playoffs. 

The first mock matchup comes with the number one Toronto Raptors vs. The Brooklyn Nets.  The Raptors are looking to bounce back from last season. 

This matchup will be a rematch of last years first round playoffs where the Raptors who were the Atlantic Division champs and the 3rd playoff berth. 

The Raptors are one of the hottest teams this season.  They stumbled in the playoffs where they were able to take the Nets to seven games, where they were able to beat the Raptors.

With young stars like Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry the Raptors look to continue being on top of the Atlantic and what looks like the Eastern Conference as well.  

They face off against the Brooklyn Nets.  The Nets are kind of a mystery at times. 

They are not talked about as much as other notable Eastern Conference teams.  With a combination of young and old stars the Nets are always in the mix come playoff time. 

The current leading scorer Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez it’s hard to say that they cannot succeed in April.
The next matchup comes with the seven seeded Miami Heat vs. the Washington Wizards. 

The Heat coming out of the NBA Finals a loser, and losing their biggest player in the offseason look to show what they got without the services of LeBron James.

They still have the majority of their core in Miami, with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Yet, without James the Heat struggle, but that does not mean that they will get it together and show why they went to the NBA Finals for four straight years.

The Wizards, who are trying to go back to the playoffs after they took on the heavily favored Chicago Bulls and taking care of them in five games.  

They still look to continue from last years success and after adding some help on the bench and starting lineup its looking good for Washington’s chances. 

They have the services of John Wall, and the veteran Paul Pierce to help them get there.

The next matchup is the Chicago Bulls vs.  The Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bulls who were taken care of by the Wizards last season look to come back to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. 

They will also have their young star Derrick Rose somewhat healthy after missing all of last season and only playing 10 games in the last two seasons. 

Besides Rose’s return they were also able to add the team with the Spaniard Pau Gasol joining the Bulls this season, after he left the Lakers for the Windy City.  

The Bucks are a surprise team right now even early in the season, but yet they are still in the mix.  Who knows if that will continue this season. 

Yet they have a stacked roster on paper.  There is O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Larry Sanders, and Zaza Pachulia it’s easy to say they are playoff bound.

The final matchup is the fourth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks.  The biggest news of the offseason was in Cleveland. 

For starters the Cavs got the first overall pick again, the return of LeBron James, and the signing of Kevin Love. 

The Cavs are the favorite to win the NBA Finals now that they have both James, and Love, but you cannot forget the young Kyrie Irving it is difficult to bet against this new big three. 

The Hawks on the other hand are playoff bound again after last season where they were able to nab the 8th seed before being taken out by the number overall seed Indiana Pacers.  

Yet they continue to be there when playoffs start.   Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver are the ones leading the Hawks to the top of the east, but can they push through the first round of the playoffs or will it be the same story as the last few years.

Talking about the ones that are currently not in the mix is the former first seed in the Eastern Conference the Indiana Pacers. 

The Pacers have a dismal record and look pretty bad in this young season.  They are also missing their star Paul George, who was injured playing with Team USA in the FIBA championships. 
They are trying to come back and be a force in the east how they have for the past two years.  They took on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last two years.

So you know they are doing something right, but will that be the same this season.

We will hypothetically see this season, to see if these teams will be in the same spots they are now. 

Or will we see one of the teams that are currently out of the playoffs be the first seed or will they stay out?  Will teams that were in the conference finals, that are now out of the playoffs make a run again. 

We will see but if the playoffs started today it would still be a good two months of playoff basketball.


NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

By Jonathan Diego

Boston Celtics

2013-14 Record: 25-57, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Brad Stevens

Returning Players: Chris Babb (G), Keith Bogans (G), Jeff Green (F), Chris Johnson (F/G), Phil Pressey (G), Rajon Rondo (G), Avery Bradley (G) (Re-signed), Jared Sullinger (F), Gerald Wallace (F), Brandon Bass (F), Vitor Faverani (C), Kelly Olynyk (C).

Players Acquired: Marcus Smart (G), James Young (G/F), Marcus Thornton (G), Tyler Zeller (F/C), Joel Anthony (opt-in) (C).

Players Lost: Jerryd Bayless (G), Kris Humphries (sign-and-trade) (F/C)

In season 2 of Brad Stevens’ tenure as head coach, the Celtics have plenty of different pieces that will definitely take some time to develop. With the selections of Marcus Smart and James Young in the 2014 NBA draft, the end of Rajon Rondo’s time in a Celtics jersey appears to be looming on the horizon.

Re-signing Avery Bradley solidified the Boston backcourt for now, and it will be interesting to see how Stevens continues to lead the Celtics through a rebuilding period.

Prediction: If Rondo stays for now, this team wins 30 games. If he leaves before the season starts, 28 wins and another 4th place finish in the Atlantic. This season also produces another Jeff Green buzzer-beater, and a Phil Pressey to James Young alley-oop that lands in the top 10 ESPN plays for one day.

Brooklyn Nets

2013-14 Record: 44-38, 2nd in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Lionel Hollins

Returning Players: Deron Williams (G), Joe Johnson (G), Jorge Guiterrez (G), Marquis Teague (G), Mirza Teletovic (F), Mason Plumlee (F), Andrei Kirilenko (opt-in) (F), Alan Anderson (re-signed) (F/G). Brook Lopez (C).

Players Acquired: Jarrett Jack (G), Sergey Karasev (G/F), Markel Brown (G), Cory Jefferson (F), Xavier Thames (G), Bojan Bogdanovic (F).

Players Lost: Shaun Livingston (G), Paul Pierce (G/F), Marcus Thornton (G), Ilkan Karaman (F), Christian Drejer (F), Edin Bavcic (F).

Hiring Lionel Hollins could turn out to be the biggest offseason addition for this team. After the whole Jason Kidd debacle, Hollins’ defensive mentality will certainly bring a refreshing look for this Brooklyn team.

In his last season as the Grizzlies Head Coach, they ranked in the top three in points allowed per 100 possessions, opponent field goal percentage, and rebound percentage, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And the fact that Hollins’ Grizzlies teams improved every year he was there is a promising sign as well.

The losses of Shaun Livingston, Pierce, and the sporadic scoring of Marcus Thornton will affect this team’s offensive production, but hopefully with the addition of Jarrett Jack, consistent play from Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, along with the continued development of Mason Plumlee, this team could make some noise in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: If Hollins gets this team to cooperate and adapt to his defensive philosophies, this team wins 45 games, finishes second in the division, and is a 6 or 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. If injuries strike and luck favors their neighbors in orange and blue, the Nets could find themselves awkwardly in the middle of the pack.

New York Knicks

2013-14 Record: 37-45, 3rd in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Derek Fisher

Returning Players: Tim Hardaway Jr. (G), Pablo Prigioni (G), J.R. Smith (G), Carmelo Anthony (F) (re-signed), Andre Bargnani (F/C) (opt-in), Amar’e Stoudemire (F/C) (opt-in), Cole Aldrich (C) (re-signed).

Players Acquired: Jason Smith (F), Jose Calderon (G), Samuel Dalembert (C), Shane Larkin (G), Quincy Acy (F/C), Travis Outlaw (F), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (F), Cleanthony Early (F), Louis Labeyrie (F).

Players Lost: Toure’ Murry (G), Raymond Felton (G), Wayne Ellington (G), Shannon Brown (G), Lamar Odom (F), Jeremy Tyler (F), Tyson Chandler (C).

Since Phil Jackson was introduced as the president of the Knicks in March, Derek Fisher has been hired as the new head coach, Carmelo Anthony was re-signed, the team has traded pieces with the Dallas Mavericks, and drafted Cleanthony Early, who could turn out to be the steal of this year’s stacked draft. Things are looking up in The Big Apple.

That being said, these moves could turn out poorly for a team that was ranked in the middle of the pack offensively (11th out of 30), and near the bottom defensively (24th out of 30), according to basketball-reference.com. A new offensive system, a logjam in the backcourt, and a rookie head coach will provide plenty of potential drama in The City That Never Sleeps.

Prediction: If Carmelo fits into the triangle, and the others around him follow suit and gel into their respective roles, this team could be bound for a 43 to 45 win season, and a trip to the playoffs.

If locker room issues arise, and the bad chemistry bug bites this team hard, then it’s another year of Knicks fans ranting on YouTube.

Philadelphia 76ers

2013-14 Record: 19-63, 5th in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Brett Brown

Returning Players: Michael Carter-Williams, (G) Brandon Davies (F), Arnett Moultrie (F), Nerlens Noel (F/C), Henry Sims (C), Hollis Thompson (G/F), Jarvis Varnado (F/C), Casper Ware (G), Elliot Williams (G), Tony Wroten (G).

Players Acquired: Joel Embiid (C), Jerami Grant (F), K.J. McDaniels (F), Vasilije Micic (G), Dario Saric (F)

Players Lost: Thaddeus Young (F), James Anderson (G/F)

When you look at this roster, names like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric stand out. And that’s pretty much it for this year’s edition of the 76ers.

Although Williams started to pick up some poor shooting habits last year, he still shows promise as a playmaker. Noel had a nice Summer League campaign as he returns from an ACL injury, and with the selection of an injured Embiid, the Sixers should be hoping that history repeats itself in that regard.

Saric is staying in Europe for at least one more year, but the former Croatian League Finals MVP could make a big impact on a team that is struggling to find an identity at the moment.

And with coach Brett Brown looking to emulate the Spurs system, it will be interesting how Noel and Embiid will eventually factor into the rotation.

Prediction: With the potential to land a lottery pick in next year’s draft, it’s safe to say that the Sixers aren’t going anywhere in the Eastern Conference. This team will most likely match it’s record from last year, while Noel makes his case to win Rookie of the Year.

Toronto Raptors

2013-14 Record: 48-34, 1st in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Dwane Casey

Returning Players: Kyle Lowry (G) (re-signed), Patrick Patterson (F) (re-signed), Greivis Vasquez (G) (re-signed), Dwight Buycks (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Landry Fields (F), Tyler Hansbrough (F), Chuck Hayes (F), Amir Johnson (F/C), Terrence Ross (G), Julyan Stone (G), Jonas Valanciunas (C).

Players Acquired: Bruno Caboclo (F), DeAndre Daniels (F), Lucas Nogueira (C), Will Cherry (C), Jordan Hamilton (F/G), Greg Stiemsma (C), Diante Garrett (G), Lou Williams (G).

Players Lost: Nando De Colo (G), Steve Novak (F), John Salmons (G/F).

The Raptors had a low-key offseason, as they managed to retain Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, as well as turn John Salmons into Lou Williams and the 16th overall pick, Lucas Nogueira, from the Hawks.

The addition of Bruno “The Brazilian Kevin Durant” Caboclo was certainly a perplexing one, but it’s one that could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

Other than these additions, this team looks pretty much the same, but with another year to play together, this team could remain the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. If the returners can continue to improve their skill sets and team chemistry, then this team will make another exciting playoff run.

Prediction: 50 wins and a first place finish in the Atlantic Division is their realistic ceiling this season, barring any hiccups. I also expect Drake to hold an impromptu concert in the Air Canada Centre if the Raptors stumble into the Eastern Conference Finals, or—at the very least—attempt to do the Shmoney Dance on live TV after a vicious DeMar DeRozan game-winning dunk.

Jonathan Diego is a staff writer for Scouts Alley.