I made this comment over at Raptors Republic a short while ago
The one thing that makes me quite nervous about the Raptors going .500 or slightly over is the number of other teams who have similar hopes.
There’s about five teams generally agreed upon as having a shot at the #7 and #8 seed — Phily, Miami, Toronto, Detroit, Charlotte — and even if you beyond that, to Indy, Milwaukee and NY, you have three teams that if they’re healthy (Dunleavy, Redd + Bogut, Gallinari) that are capable of winning 35+ games. That’s 14 teams …
There’s going to be no easy games in the East next year.
There’s no terrible teams that everyone can just beat up on — like the Kings, Thunder, Wolves, Grizzlies, and Warriors in the Western Conference last year — it’s going to be a relatively even landscape in the middle of the Eastern Conference and teams are going to eat into each other’s win totals.
I think there’s a fair chance that the Raptors finish slightly below .500 (36-40 wins). The landscape is not favourable, not at all.
I think this is true for all the teams in the East between #7-#14. Even the fifteenth team, the New Jersey Nets, I think they’re better than they’re been given credit for too … and while they’re the worst in the East, they’re still not as bad as several of the very poor teams in the West were last season.
Now, it’s damn near impossible that they’ll all play like this … someone is bound to have injuries which given the parity on display will surely devastate their seasons … and there’s already three teams with question marks over them injury wise although each contend their boys are healthy at the moment … so some easy games will be created during the season, but there’s still going to be an awful lot of tough games.
The East will have three powerhouses that can run any of the other teams over at will. Then three other teams which are at a slight advantage over the trailing pack. From there we have somewhere between 6-8 teams who’ll be 50-50 propositions when going against one another. Thus leaving 1-3 teams who’ll put up a decent fight and have a shot at beating the teams ahead of them, but will be at a disadvantage each time.
This is a tough landscape for any team harbouring hopes of finishing .500. All these squads could easily eat into each other’s win totals, due to the competitiveness and the parity that exists, and leave nearly all, or even all of, these teams could finish below .500 next year.