NBA Tier List: Raptors get time off knowing they’re among NBA’s elite

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) and head coach Nick Nurse chat courtside during second half NBA basketball action against the Chicago Bulls, in Toronto, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. (Frank Gunn/CP)

It’s a very quiet week in the NBA with teams not returning to action until this Thursday at the earliest.

This means that a good portion of the league is likely taking some vacation time to recharge their batteries before the unofficial stretch run of the season begins.

With that in mind, here’s a vacay-themed edition of the NBA Tier List.

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Deserves to be on break until the playoffs

The top-6 teams in the NBA — arguably with the exception of the Los Angeles Clippers — are playing so well that, honestly, they could just take the rest of season off to rest up and we’d still probably see them in the post-season just as ready to kick ass as they appear to be right now.

For teams as strong as these squads appear to be, the stretch run is more a chance to tighten up rotations and tweak things. They’ll still probably do that, but extended rest might honestly be the best way to prepare for the playoffs.

The Toronto Raptors, in particular, probably just need rest to get completely healthy and then who knows? The Finals aren’t exactly out of the question again.

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This time off will do them good

There are two kinds of teams here at this level: Squads that could use a break as a reward for the solid work they’ve done, and clubs that could use the time off to regroup and return to what has been their usual form this season.

Teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder certainly fall in the former. They’ve both been two of the NBA’s best stories this season and any R&R they can get is absolutely deserved.

The same can’t be said of the other four teams, though.

Though entirely correctable of late, all four teams have swooned a little and lowered their level of play as a result. Granted, this could be due to deeper problems such as the Philadelphia 76ers’ ongoing issues in getting Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to co-exist, but given their body of work this season, we’ll just chalk this up to these teams needing to regroup and refocus, something time off can hopefully solve.

If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.

Thinking about work while sipping on Mai Tais

Have you ever gone on vacation, but just weren’t able to actually relax because you knew that when you returned you’d be faced with a daunting mountain of work? That’s what these teams are feeling.

In particular, the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers will be super distracted as they’re both on the outside looking in at the final Western Conference playoff spot, and given the way they’re positioned, they don’t have much choice other than to try to make a push into the post-season. That’s a fair amount of pressure that could ruin a potentially good time in some tropical location.

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“You mean there’s more season after this?”

This group of unlucky 13 teams would all benefit from the season ending now. I mean, they’re already going on break, so why prolong this suffering?

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