Playoffs, not draft ought to be Raps' priority

University of Kentucky's Anthony Davis is expected to be the first player chosen in next summer's...

University of Kentucky's Anthony Davis is expected to be the first player chosen in next summer's NBA draft.(REUTERS/John Sommers II)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:13 PM ET

I’m just throwing this out there, so all you Raptor fans please don’t march to my front door with various pitchforks in hand.

Here it is: Would it not be extremely beneficial for the young players on the Toronto Raptors to be involved in a playoff race this season?

And would pushing hard for a playoff spot and giving these young players that playoff race experience perhaps out-weigh trying to (indirectly or unofficially) tank the season in order to get the highest draft pick possible in June? Personally, I think if the Raptors found themselves in a playoff race, it would be a great situation for the organization going forward.

The thing about the Raptors is, even though this team is a full 11 games under .500, astonishingly, they’re only four games out of a playoff spot. Four games! That’s how bad the NBA East is.

And it says here that they have a chance, if they really push it, to make a serious run at the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Yes, they’re in the midst of a funk, having dropped three games in a row, including a 105-99 defeat at the hands of the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, but my theory is the Raptors are a team that should improve as the season progresses — maybe more than all the other dregs currently out of a playoff spot in the East. They’re young and they’re learning coach Dwane Casey’s system. It only makes sense that the more games they play, the better handle they’ll have on the system.

As well, they should be getting Andrea Bargnani back from his calf injury sometime (hopefully) in the not-so-distant future, and when he’s healthy this is not a terrible team. In fact, the Raptors are almost a .500 team (6-7) with the big Italian in uniform (and 2-12 without him). To me, the Raptors have a decent chance of making a playoff run when Bargnani gets back.

If the organization decides to play for a lottery pick, they can do that, of course, without ‘officially’ tanking. They do that by playing the hell out of their youngsters (under the guise that the youngsters are being given big minutes for developmental reasons) at the expense of players like Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Linas Kleiza or Leandro Barbosa.

Everyone knows the 2012 NBA draft is one of the deepest in years, so would not the Raptors still get a good player in the draft even if they aren’t in the lottery? And, hey, nothing is guaranteed in the draft. The team who picks first probably won’t go wrong by selecting Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, considered a legitimate franchise-type player. But after that, it’s a bit of a turkey shoot — though players like Harrison Barnes, Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Perry Jones, Thomas Robinson and Andre Drummond certainly have major potential to become NBA standouts. And besides, the odds of the Raptors getting the first overall pick, even if they tank, aren’t great. There are worse teams than the Raptors in the NBA.

So, again, here’s the question: Would pushing hard for a playoff spot, and possibly even making the playoffs, be more of boon for this organization, and its young players, than unofficially tanking for a high pick?

I say you want your young players to get used to winning as quickly as possible and a playoff race would be great medicine for the team and the organization — even if most Raptors fans would probably disagree with my take on this. But, hey, that’s what social media is for. So you can always blast me back into reality.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun


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