Louisville, Kentucky: Charron Elliott
The Raptors May Be a Serious Threat in the East
The Cleveland Cavaliers are penciled in by just about everyone who watches NBA basketball to win the Eastern conference finals if fully healthy but what if possibly they didn’t?
Sounds crazy to think about but honestly there’s a small chance this could be the year that happens. The (32-10) Boston Celtics are atop the Eastern conference and are thought to be a serious threat to Cavs but the Toronto Raptors are also legitimate threat to get the conference finals as well.
Now the (27-10) Raptors don’t get a lot of the attention from the media like the Cavs and the Celtics, mainly because they are in another country and aren’t on a lot of nationally televised games.
Led by All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeRozan,Toronto has the second-best record in the East and is one of the few well-rounded teams in the NBA. What do I mean when I say that? Well the Raptors are one of only four teams in the league ranked in the top 10 in both defensive rating (sixth) and offensive rating (fourth).
Offensively, DeMar DeRozan is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 25.2 ppg. , taking a career-high 3.2 three-point attempts and making them at all-time rate of 36.8 percent. He also scored a career-high 45 points in a Raptors win against the 76ers on Dec. 21.
Kyle Lowry leads the team in assists (6.9 per game) and is shooting 38.6 percent from behind the three-point line.
Defensively, Toronto is second in the NBA in blocks (5.8 bpg.) and is fifth in steals (8.8 spg. ). They are also second in the league in deflections (15.7 dpg.) and have a team Net Rating of 7.5 (third in the NBA).
Winning in the Post Season is Toronto’s Next Phase To “True” Greatness
While the Raptors have impressed in the regular season thus far, it will be the post season where they will need to be better. In the Playoffs last season the Raptors were swept in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers and they lost to Cleveland 4-2 in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals as well.
The difference this year will be how both teams look during the Playoffs, right now Toronto is the better team but Cleveland is just recently starting to get healthy so they will be a different team once April and May get here. The Cavs also won’t have Kyrie Irving, who was traded to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas. IT, is just as good of a scorer, however he isn’t that effective on the defensive end.
Quite frankly, Cleveland as a team this season hasn’t been that good defensively, ranking 28th in the league in defensive rating. However, the Cavs last regular season weren’t that good defensively but obviously played well enough in the playoffs to repeat as conference champions.
The two teams will meet up for the first time this season on Jan. 11 in Canada so it will be interesting to see the results of their first contest. The Raptors will have a chance to make a statement not only then but also in the Playoffs potentially assuming their stellar play holds up.
So if you are an NBA fan/analyst still sleeping on the Raptors maybe the match-up next week will open your eyes (somewhat) to how good they are this season.