December the 25th is a momentous occasion around the world for multiple reasons, but one thing that makes it a little more joyous is the all day NBA schedule. Over 12 hours of non-stop NBA, it is a day that every sports fan looks forward to. But let’s get one thing straight: the NBA has been royally screwing up in the games that they schedule for a while and something needs to change. The Toronto Raptors are one of the elite teams in the NBA, but yet again they have been left off of the Christmas Day schedule.
Toronto Raptors Should Be Playing On Christmas Day
The Raptors have made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons and are well on their way to the postseason once again. They have improved their win totals every season under head coach Dwane Casey, winning 48 games in 2013-14, 49 games in 2014-15, and 56 games in 2015-16. The teams that play on Christmas Day are generally the “elite” of the NBA, and any team that wins 50 games is a top tier team. Of the ten teams playing on Christmas, only the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs had better records than the Raptors in the 2015-16 season. While there is the argument about their performances in the playoffs, losing in the first round in back-to-back seasons, the Raptors overcame their demons and reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season, losing to the eventual champions in six games.
While some teams make the Christmas Day schedule because of their record, others make it because of their star power. The Oklahoma City Thunder are not winning championships anytime soon, but they have one of the biggest names in the NBA in Russell Westbrook. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are both superstars in the NBA, both are two-time All-Stars, and both won gold medals at the Rio Olympics with the United States. Only seven teams had more than one All-Star last season, and Toronto was one of them. Kyle Lowry is the best point guard in the East; he plays elite defense, scores nearly 22 points per game on 45 percent from three, and averages 7.3 assists. Meanwhile, DeRozan is the throwback scorer, owning the mid-range area. He currently sits fourth in the NBA in scoring at about 28 points per game.
There are a few teams that, despite being terrible, always seem to make the Christmas Day schedule because they are located in a big market. For example, one of them this year is the Chicago Bulls, a historical franchise with a big fan-base. Toronto is the fourth biggest city in North America after New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico City. The area of Southern Ontario itself has 12.1 million people, making it one of the biggest markets in the NBA. If the executives are worried about T.V. numbers, Toronto is also the only Canadian team in the league, giving the Raptors 35 million potential fans.
The final element that gives teams a chance to make the Christmas Day schedule is youth and excitement. The Minnesota Timberwolves are on the list this year because they have a young and exciting team that includes Slam Dunk Contest champion Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Raptors also have a Slam Dunk champion in Terrence Ross (who once scored 52 points in a single game), as well as one of the younger teams in the NBA. The Raptors are the third youngest team in the league, with their two oldest players, Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll, both just 30 years old. Only DeMar Derozan and Patrick Patterson are between the ages of 26 and 30; the rest of the roster is 25 years old or younger. That’s without even mentioning that the Raptors average the second highest amount of points in the league this year and currently have the most efficient offense in NBA history (in terms of points per 100 possessions).
The Toronto Raptors should be playing Christmas Day. They are one of the best teams in the league; they have two superstars, as well as a massive market, fan-base, and audience; and they are one of the youngest and most exciting teams in the league.