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Old 10-29-2012, 09:07 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Smith: Two reasons why the Raptors can make the playoffs

There is a depth of talent not seen for years — relatively young, unproven talent without any history of success, but talent nonetheless.

But here’s the thing, as has been pointed out in several private conversations with coaches, front-office types and scouts:

The team’s best players have to be their best players.

To accomplish their goals — and the public one of challenging for the playoffs belies the fact many privately think the playoffs are a necessary achievement — guys like Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Lowry have to be as advertised.

Especially Bargnani, who is the focal point of the offence and the guy teams game plan against. He has to stay healthy and productive, because as much as they talk about depth and wanting to play at some higher tempo, they need a star, or at least something approximating one.

If Bargnani does what he did at the start of last season, if DeRozan becomes as good a basketball player as he is an athlete, and if Lowry provides some defensive toughness, things could get good in a hurry.

The Eastern Conference is loaded with bad to awful teams and the opportunity to move up the standings quickly is there.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks are pretty much where, or below, where the Raptors are. They are huge question marks with rosters laden with youth and dubious talent and that, as much as anything, fuels the feeling this could be the year Toronto breaks its playoff drought.

Toss in the fact no one knows how the perennial playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks will do without Joe Johnson or how much the perennially injured Andrew Bynum will help Philadelphia or how the New York Knicks will make a team that squeaked into the playoffs last year better by adding a gaggle of senior citizens (Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas chief among them) and the East is, frankly, wide open in the bottom half.

As one insider said last week: “We have to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat and if we steal some other games, we’ll be fine.”

That means not losing twice in a season to Charlotte, it means dominating those bottom-feeders and it means holding their own when the powers of the Western Conference come visiting.
Raptors can make the NBA playoffs: Two reasons why - thestar.com
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