The Toronto Raptors have been one of the best NBA teams for the past nine seasons, seeing them gain much attention amongst online bettors. They have made the playoffs in eight of those nine previous seasons and made it to at least the Eastern Conference Semifinals in five of those years. Obviously, in 2019 this team peaked when they won the NBA championship. Since then, this team has been good but not great again to make it past the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Raptors have remained competitive due to the genius of their general manager and president of basketball operations, Masai Ujiri, putting together a team that can compete year in and year out. This is a strong franchise that has the entirety of Canada as a fanbase. The Raptors have drastically changed their roster over the past few seasons, but it worked out nicely for them last season as they made the playoffs and nearly upset the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. This year, Toronto will look to build on what they started last year.
Toronto Raptors: A Dominant Team in the East!
The Raptors recently started to become exceedingly dominant in the East when they won 48 games or more in each season starting in 2014. That streak ran from 2014 through 2020. The core group for Toronto started with two of the best players in their franchise history, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Those two led these early Toronto teams to some high seeds in the Eastern Conference that took them as far as the Conference Finals in 2016. After the 2018 season, the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan for Kahwi Leonard that drastically changed the outlook of the franchise. Leonard had just won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs and hopes were high for him in Toronto. His first and only season in Toronto he led the Raptors to an NBA Finals win. Leonard was gone after that season and the retool began for Toronto.
That 2020 season the Raptors were able to make it to the second round of the playoffs without Leonard. Pascal Siakam emerged as a star and Lowry was still a key piece of the team. The next year, Lowry was traded and the Raptors failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. It looked as if the rebuild was on, but this previous year the Raptors drafted the rookie of the year in Scottie Barne,s and the Raptors made another run into the playoffs. In these playoffs they nearly upset the 76ers. Fred Vanvleet developed into an All Star alongside Siakam, and their team was really coming together nicely. It was a better than expected season for Toronto and their hopes are high coming into this year.
The new core for the Raptors is centered around two All Stars: Siakam and Vanvleet, as well as their now second-year player, Scottie Barnes. This core is definitely good enough to get the Raptors into the playoffs yet again this upcoming season. Without making some significant upgrades to their roster, it is hard to put them as one of the top contending teams in the Eastern Conference, however. Toronto will undoubtedly be one of the top eight teams in the East, but making it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals could prove difficult.
Can the Toronto Raptors get Past the Boston Celtics?
At the top of the Eastern Conference are the Boston Celtics, who won the Conference Title last year, the Milwaukee Bucks, who won the championship two years ago and have maintained that roster, and the Miami Heat, who already have a talented roster and are always a threat to land a big trade target or free agent. Getting past all three of those teams plus the 76ers and Bulls, who could also be good, may prove to be too much of an ask for this Toronto team.
In the offseason so far Toronto hasn't done much to improve their roster from last year. A big acquisition for them was getting Gary Trent Jr. from the Portland Trailblazers who has proven to be a nice piece for them so far. Besides that, this team looks like it will be virtually the same unless they land a big trade. The big offseason moves for Toronto so far have been re-signing role players Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young, as well as bringing in Otto Porter Jr. who won the championship last year with the Golden State Warriors. These are not franchise changing moves though. Toronto is still likely to be picked to finish around the sixth best team in the East. This team can get hot though as they did last year heading into the playoffs. This nearly caused them to beat the Philadelphia 76ers.
Barnes is Key!
This Toronto Raptors team is probably capped at advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Anything more than that would be an over achievement. The Raptors do have two former All Stars in Siakam and Vanvleet, but they are not a duo that can compete with the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the Celtics or Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton for the Bucks. A crucial part of next season will be the progression of Scottie Barnes. If he can build and improve on his rookie year, he should be able to lead this team to another good season. Barnes will really take this team as far as it can go. He plays a point forward, controlling the pace and the flow of the game for the Raptors. If he can emerge into an All Star type player, this team could exceed expectations.
The Toronto Raptors have been one of the best franchises in the Eastern Conference for nearly the past decade. They are not going anywhere this year. The only issue with this Raptors team is that they may be stuck in the mid-tier playoff team status. They don't seem good enough to push for a conference finals win but are still good enough to be a competitive playoff team. This team will likely only go as far as Scottie Barnes can take them. He seems to be the x-factor for the Raptors next year.
Toronto Raptors Odds
- NBA Championship Winner: 40/1
- NBA Eastern Conference Winner: 16/1
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