Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Break it down

Since the Celtics/Minny trade last week, already everyone is trying to rate the eastern conference standings for next season. It is hard to judge who is the favorite to win it since there is quite a few teams that are pretty much equal and no team is head and shoulders above everyone else. The Bulls/Pistons/Cavs/Celtics/Heat are generally considered to be the top teams in the east. with the next group being the Nets/Wiz/Raps/Magic. I would like to take a moment to remind everyone of something here...

Since New Years 2007
Detroit - 35-18
Toronto - 34-18
Cavs - 33-20
Bulls - 30-21
Heat - 31-21
Nets - 28-23
Wiz - 24-28

Well look who is a half game behind first? That's right the Raptors. And some of you who think the Raps aren't a top 5 team in the East will say... "Well the Raps didn't have the injuries some of the other teams had"

Bargnani - 16 games
Garbo - 15 games
Parker - 9 games
T.J. Ford - 6 games
Jose - 3 games

All after new years. Of course teams like the Wiz got hit harder, but it's unfair to say that the Raps didn't lose key players during long stretchs ether. I know that for some who do not focus on the Raps during the season will only view the playoff performance this year as an indication of how the Raps play but that is unfair. The reason the Raps lost to the Nets is 2 fold... Injuries and lack of playoff experience.

Bargnani played in all 6 games, but he had missed those 16 before getting in one game which was the last game of the season. He was obviously rusty till game 4 when the game was over in the 1st quarter and the rest was pure garbage time. At that point he returned to form and was solid for game 5 and 6. I really question what would have happened in games 1-3 if we had a healthy Bargnani stretching the defense and taking pressure off Bosh. Also Garbo. Alot bigger of an injury that we might have feared. Because without Garbo we had Joey Graham. And Joey is a decent player who did well in the end stretch of the season but the playoffs is a different beast and we saw why Joey Graham will most likely not be in the rotation next season. If Garbo was playing, Jefferson would have been held in check quite abit more during the early games. And Garbo also brings experience to the team, as the strongest players in the series were Parker/Jose and Bargnani. All three has extensive big game experience overseas. Garbo would have added to that. All the experience was needed to off-set the lack of experience Bosh has. CB4 is a player that needs experience for him to step up. I think some players can go out and play just as well in a playoff atmosphere even if it's their first time, but Bosh is not one of them. And let this be known also, if Jose's pass at the end of game 6 was abit higher and Jefferson didn't get it, the Raps are going to game 7. Game 7 at home with full momentum. I have no doubt it would have been Raps vs. Cavs round 2 if that pass was up a few inchs.

So anyhow, moving on, at this stage the Raptors are not getting a lot of respect when it comes to the order of the eastern conference teams. And even though I wanted to point out a few things, I also am fine with everyone thinking the Raps are in the bottom half of the playoff picture. It's hard to blame them for giving the Raps the shaft. I think the Raps are a top 3 team, but let's look at all the other eastern teams for this upcoming season. Maybe this is something that is said every year, but it really does seem like this year every team has gotten better.

Celtics - Of course they are better with Garnett/Ray/Pierce
Wiz - Had major injuries during the second half of the season which lead to the weak finish and a joke of a playoff series
Knicks - I don't think they are a playoff team BUT they are more dangerous then last year
Magic - Forget the Rashard Lewis signing, I think getting a new coach is what will make them better
Bulls - Just having another year together under there belt makes them better
Nets- Injury free and a former all-star in Jamal Magloire
Charlotte - More experience plus Jason Richardson plus motivation to make the play-offs
Atlanta - New point guard which they missed last year. Lots of talent that has one more year together
Bucks - Injuries set them back last year. What will happen with no injuries?
Sixers - Once they got use to not having Iverson, they were almost a 500 team

And that does not include the Pistons/Heat/Cavs who should all be the same as last year, which were playoff teams.
So what about the Raps, who will be the same next year?...COME ON. The same next year??? I have been hearing that even from some of Toronto Raptor fans. They won't be the same next year...
-Bargnani with a year experience, already looked like a potential all-star next year
-Top 3 point shooter in the league with Jason Kapono
-The potential of Carlos Delfino
-Bargnani STARTING which is the biggest reason for improvment
-Just having a year under the belt for the whole team playing together.
If they were almost the best team in the conference when they started to jell together, I think it's fair to expect big things when they start all over this upcoming year. But don't get me wrong, it's going to be toughier this year then it was last year.

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