At this point, the Toronto Raptors are exactly where they want to be.
Once the play-in tournament became unattainable, the Raptors turned their attention to getting more ping pong balls in the NBA’s lottery machine. The tank wasn’t always a smooth ride. Toronto probably wishes it had a few of those wins against Cleveland, Orlando, and Oklahoma City back, but at this point, the seventh-best lottery odds are good enough. Now, thanks to a 114-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Raptors have clinched a 31.9% chance of landing a top-four pick and a 7.5% chance of selecting No. 1 in July’s 2021 NBA Draft.
Not only were the Raptors without Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby, but their best so-called “active” players, Chris Boucher and Gary Trent Jr., dressed but did not play. It was a game that seemed an awful lot like the infamous Ben Uzoh game when Toronto rested all of its best players in the final game of the 2012 season. Unfortunately for that team, the Raptors upset the New Jersey Nets and lost the rights to draft Damian Lillard.
This time, the Raptors didn’t squander their chances. Aron Baynes saw his first minutes since Toronto signed Khem Birch on April 11 and Stanley Johnson played a team-high 43 minutes. While Johnson was actually very good, scoring a career-high 35 points with five 3-pointers, his -6.5 Net Rating for the season should tell you exactly how the Raptors felt about Thursday’s game.
Now the Raptors will hope they can continue the trend of teams with the seventh-worst record in the NBA moving up and landing a top-four pick. Last season it was the Bulls who jumped up from the seventh spot to land Patrick Williams with the fourth pick. The year before the New Orleans Pelicans famously jumped up to draft Zion Williamson, and prior to that, the Sacramento Kings moved up to No. 2 to select Marvin Bagley in 2018.
Up Next: Dallas Mavericks
After all this rest lately the Raptors should be able to welcome their usual starters back on Friday night in the penultimate game of the season against the Dallas Mavericks.