Changing landscape of East presents opportunity for Raptors
Imman Adan and Chris Walder discuss how recent moves and rumoured deals have given the Raptors reason to double down on the current core. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.
IMMAN ADAN: I completely agree with you. And I was listening to-- I think I was listening to Kevin Pelton on a pod earlier today. And he said something that I thought was really interesting in the way that the Raptors are probably-- obviously, he's not saying this with any knowledge or talking to the team, just looking at why the Raptors made the move that they made for Jakob Poltl. And is [? Byers ?] at the deadline?
And he's like, with all of these rumors about James Harden wanting to go to Houston and the Nets in freefall. The Raptors right now probably look at the Knicks and are like, we're better than them. And they look at the Nets and they're like, we're better than them. So that would make us what, the top five seed in the East? And then if you have the Sixers dismantled, you're like, hey, can we get into that other tier?
So really, they're looking at the East fall apart and they're saying to themselves, can we be in the upper echelon at some point? Can we be there with the Cleveland Cavaliers? Which is why I thought today's game was such an important match-up.
Now unfortunately, you don't have Fred VanVleet and I just don't think that this team will have what it takes offensively to be able to withstand a Donovan Mitchell barrage. So I just look at this game tonight as something to toss aside. But it's been clear that the Raptors have had the Cavs numbers and have matched up well with them in the past.
So I was really interested in listening to Kevin Pelton frame it in that way because I didn't even think about where this team looks like next year, what this team looks like next year in an Eastern Conference that will more than likely change. We know Brooklyn is falling out. We don't know what the Knicks are going to be at any given tier.
We also look at the Cavs and say, Hey, you guys made this push. Is there something that we can do to shore up our depth the next year? And you have a center and you have this where we can believe that we're in a similar tier than you. And if so, then we've just entered the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, which I thought was really interesting, and it's why these final 20 games matter so much because now is the time to prove it. Otherwise, why believe in this team for next season at all?
CHRIS WALDER: I said this on Twitter as well. If the Raptors traded for [? Yakupov ?] over the summer or earlier in the season, they would not have the record that they do right now. And I think that's been evident over their recent play, the offensive rating and the defensive rating that they've had.
When you're talking about the standings as well, I truly believe that there's only three teams in the Eastern Conference at the moment that are unquestionably better than Toronto. And that's Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia.
IMMAN ADAN: That's [INAUDIBLE].
CHRIS WALDER: Brooklyn, obviously they had a strong start because of who was on their team, which is no longer the case. I do not think the Knicks are better than the Raptors regardless of what their fans might think.
And then again, everyone in the play in right now with Chicago, Washington, Miami, I don't think any of them, I can say with full confidence, is a better basketball team than the Toronto Raptors. I think the move for Poltl obviously helps and the goal of this offseason will be to keep him.
Hopefully Gary Trent Jr and Fred VanVleet, the money, is a different story that'll be difficult to do as well. But you head into next season with a little bit of momentum and with a roster that fully fits the capabilities of this team with Nick Nurse at the helm, then you're talking about a team that could be vying for home court advantage in the Eastern Conference.
IMMAN ADAN: And not to get too ahead of ourselves. Let's take a step back and look at or--
CHRIS WALDER: No, it's never too soon to go to head of our season, Imman--
IMMAN ADAN: It's true though--
CHRIS WALDER: --that's what we do here.
IMMAN ADAN: It's true. Let's plan the 2024 parade. Because you know what? The 2019 parade, it was fun, but I think it needed some more planning. So let's get ahead of it now and let's plan it early. But tomorrow-- not tomorrow. Tuesday.