Despite making limited changes over the summer, the Toronto Raptors are ready for the start of a new era with the former Memphis Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic at the helm.
President Masai Ujiri decided to part ways with the 2019 championship winner, Nick Nurse, after a disappointing early play-in tournament exit last season at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.
The second change happened in the point guard position as veteran FIBA World Cup winner Dennis Schroder replaced a long-time Raptor, Fred VanVleet, who went to the Houston Rockets.
The rest of the team looks pretty much the same, meaning it is very hard to expect spectacular things from the only Canadian team in the league, especially now when the Eastern Conference looks as strong as ever.
Key Factors to Success
It would take something special for the Raptors to get a big role in a stacked Atlantic Division alongside the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and New York Knicks.
First of all, it will be very interesting to see Dennis Schroder in a Toronto shirt. The former Laker guided Germany to a FIBA World Cup title this summer, and he should enter the season on a high off of MVP performances for the national team. The 30-year-old point guard will not match VanVleet’s offensive potential, but if he can spark Toronto’s transition offense and offer a strong defensive effort, we might indeed witness something special this year at Scotiabank Arena. That said, we are afraid of his limited shooting range following a 32% campaign from downtown last year for the Lakers.
Scottie Barnes has failed to live up to the hype after a Rookie of the Year season two years ago. However, he looked impressive in this preseason and seems ready to fulfill his obvious all-star potential. We certainly expect a big year for the 22-year-old, who can easily establish himself as the new leader of this team.
Toronto successfully resisted numerous trade offers for a second-team all-NBA defender last season, O.G. Anunoby. Anunoby will become a free agent after this year, and we do not have doubts about his defensive production. The big question is whether he can improve offensive numbers, but if he does so, the Raptors could be flying.
Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl should complete a respectable starting five. The former enjoyed a career campaign last year with 24.3 points, 7.8 boards, and 5.8 assists per game. The latter has solidified the Raptors on both ends of the court since completing a mid-season trade. The veteran center constantly flirts with double-double numbers, and his production could also prove vital for the team’s success.
Are the Raptors Capable of a Deep Playoff Run?
Unfortunately for Canadian basketball fans, the short and simple answer to this question is negative. The Eastern Conference is as stacked as ever, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics as genuine super teams. Even if Toronto makes it to the postseason or survives the play-in tournament, they would likely run on one of these heavyweights in the early playoff rounds.
The sportsbooks even see Toronto as the worst team in the Atlantic Division (+3300 to win the division with BetMGM at the moment). DraftKings Sportsbook has them at +15000 to repeat the 2019 success and win the championship.
The best Toronto Raptors futures pick is their exact finishing position in the Atlantic Division. This is one of two divisions to have all teams finishing .500 or better last year. The Raptors can hardly keep pace with the likes of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York this season, but we can easily see them earning a better record than the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are no longer contenders following the Kevin Durant trade. They still have some decent players in the likes of Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Nic Claxton, but so do Toronto (as discussed above), and we will happily take the attractive +180 odds for the Raptors to outperform them.
Our Top Prediction: Toronto Raptors to Finish 4th in Atlantic Division (+180) with DraftKings