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Raptors, Warriors finals bound and other preseason lies

Who's for a Warriors-Raptors final? Anybody? Anybody?

When the NBA Finals tip-off in the second week of June, the Eastern Conference champion Toronto Raptors will take on the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors. This tough battle will see the Canadian side fend off the blue and gold Warriors for the team’s very first NBA championship.

Bettors taking the Raptors to win the championship will rake in the cash from a 200/1 bet, leaving oddsmakers crying into the tight print books. Those taking the Warriors at 125/1 will curse anybody and everybody north of the border.

Of course, this particular scenario is about as likely as Ronald McDonald chowing down on a Whopper and fries served by Colonel Sanders. But it’s a scenario that has been born of this preseason, which has seen the Raptors and Warriors top their respective conferences.

Which brings us to the question: does anything that happens in the NBA preseason actually merit any kind of attention?

Here’s the thing. The NBA preseason is almost completely irrelevant in terms of actual results. You could argue the same for any of the ‘Big Four’ sports and perhaps only Weeks 1 through 3 of the NFL preseason are more worthless than the NBA’s warm-up period.

But the results that are flung up by those six, seven or eight preseason games are still examined under a microscope and used as ammunition by fans and critics alike when it comes to proving why their team is going to win.

Want to know how useless these results are? Here’re a few samples for you to consider.

1. The scenario we opened with. The Raptors (6-1) top the Eastern Conference – alongside Philadelphia – and the Warriors (6-2) top the West. If the preseason actually meant anything, that would be our Finals matchup. I dare you to put your money on that those two teams vying for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

2. The Lakers are the worst team in the league. That’s what a 0-8 record would suggest. Does anybody really expect the Lakers to finish anywhere but one or two in the West? If you do, you’re probably a Clippers fan, eternally optimistic that the Clips will top the Lake Show this year. In reality, the Lakers will probably see their odds to win the West – which stood at 13/10 prior to James Harden being traded to Houston – shorten even more with OKC looking less formidable.

3. Eight teams will make the playoffs that weren’t there last year. As well as Toronto and Golden State, Brooklyn, Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Phoenix all finished the preseason in what would be postseason spots. Brooklyn, Minnesota and Houston – especially with yesterday’s James Harden trade – might make it there, but Sacramento and Detroit? Come on.

4. San Antonio isn’t good enough to make the postseason. The Spurs finished 4-3, just outside the top eight. Who in their right mind thinks the Spurs won’t be in the playoffs? That might happen when Tim Duncan retires or Gregg Popovich dons his smoking jacket and slippers, but the Spurs are the quintessential playoff side, and this year is no different.

5. Miami is a .500 team. Of course they are. Finishing 4-4 in the preseason means precisely nothing.

So we’ve proved that the preseason is nonsense and essentially wastes three weeks of our time. But hold on. There might just be a few nuggets of truth to be unearthed from this ragtag bunch of results.

1. Only three teams in the Western Conference finished with a record below .500 (Portland, Denver, LA Lakers). This is actually something that will likely pass over to the regular season. The West has more depth and over recent years, a lot of teams with winning records have missed out on the postseason. Maybe the number will rise to five, but most will leave with a winning record. Conversely, the East has seen teams with a losing record make it to the postseason. This preseason, eight teams in the east were .500 or above, with seven below that benchmark. Looks like we could see this trend repeated.

2. Orlando is a disaster waiting to happen. Actually, the disaster has already happened. Now we get to soak in the after effects. The Magic was 2-6 in the postseason, and if you consider the eight-game span to be a microcosm of the regular season, Orlando will finish up with about 20 wins. That actually sounds about right.

3. There is no No. 3. Our optimistic list is exhausted. There’s nothing left of merit to take from the preseason. Now, thankfully, we can enjoy tip-off on Tuesday (Boiston-Miami, anyone?) and get to seeing what this season is really all about. Here’s betting it’s not a Raptors-Warriors final!


Preseason Standings

Eastern Conference

1. Toronto (6-1) 2. Philadelphia (6-1) 3. Chicago (5-2) 4. Indiana (4-3) | 5. Miami (4-4) 6. New York (3-3) 7. Brooklyn (3-3) 8. Detroit (4-4) 9. Atlanta (3-4) 10. Cleveland (3-4) 11. Washington (3-5) 12. Milwaukee (3-5) 13. Boston (3-5) 14. Orlando (2-6) 15. Charlotte (1-7)

Western Conference

1. Golden State (6-2) 2. Houston (5-2) 3. Minnesota (5-2) 4. Sacramento (5-2) 5. LA Clippers (5-3) 6. Utah (5-3) 7. Oklahoma City (4-3) 8. Phoenix (4-3) 9. San Antonio (4-3) 10. Dallas (4-4) 11. New Orleans (4-4) 12. Memphis (4-4) 13. Portland (3-4) 14. Denver (3-4) 15. LA Lakers (0-8)

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