The Toronto Raptors are a proud organization from the head office to the last man on the bench.
The team does not appear interested in tanking the 2020-21 season to improve their draft lottery odds.
After dropping Tuesday night’s tilt 116-103 to the Brooklyn Nets, the Raptors find themselves 1.5 games back of Washington for the last play-in tournament spot.
That gap used to be much larger for Toronto who continue to play good basketball despite their proximity to the lower echelon of the standings.
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The Raps have won five of their last seven games and are on a mission to make the postseason despite the challenges they have faced this season.
Playing home games in Tampa, a litany of injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak on the team have been monumental obstacles. You could understand if they mailed it in for the year in the hopes of landing a top pick in the draft.
But the face of the franchise, Kyle Lowry, is not making any excuses down the stretch.
"“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I think the biggest growth is that we’re sticking together a little bit more,” said Lowry, to reporters. “Everybody’s trying to stay on the same page and figure out, okay, how does this person and that person get going? What do we have to do, and how do we continue to build off our core things that we want to do defensively and offensively?”"
Toronto Raptors players and coaches not interested in tanking
Coaches and players have no interest in playing to lose but the pull of a high pick often causes front offices to put a less than ideal product on the court.
Head coach Nick Nurse does not want to hear the word ‘tanking.
"“Yeah, I don’t like it,” said Nurse, to reporters, when the team was 19-30. “I don’t like talking about it, I don’t like thinking about it and I don’t like that it goes on.”"
With prized prospects Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Evan Mobley available in the top-5, teams are salivating at the chance to land a future superstar.
Not so with this Raptors team, who have far too much championship DNA from 2019 to function in any way differently than trying to win every night.
As of this writing, the Raptors have a six per cent chance of the first overall selection. Flatter lottery odds mean that chance can only get as high as 14 per cent.
The team is 26-36 after Monday’s win but have an expected win-loss of 32-30. You are what your record says you are but there has been some bad luck on the court as well as off of it.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle in making the play-in round lies in the team’s upcoming schedule. After hosting Brooklyn Tuesday, the team heads on the road for games in Denver, Utah and both Los Angeles teams.
That is the first, third, fourth and fifth place teams in the West. Getting through that gauntlet will go a long way to proving the team is poised for a playoff run.
What do you think of the Raptors’ chances of making the play-in tournament? Should the team try to tank their way to better lottery odds? Let us know in the comments below.