Can the Toronto Raptors Repeat?
Quick, name the hottest team in the NBA right now. Any answer other than the Toronto Raptors is simply terribly wrong.
Last year’s NBA champions are on a monumental tear through the recent NBA schedule winning their last 13 straight games. The streak moves the Raptors to 38-14 overall and gives them first place in the Atlantic Division and the second spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Not too bad for a team that most had written off after last year’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard left for Los Angeles. But, is it possible the Raptors can win back-to-back NBA titles?
The Case for Toronto
Pascal Siakam is a star averaging 23.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Toronto has six players averaging in double figures and the backcourt of Kyle Lowry (19.6 ppg, 7.4 apg) and Fred VanVleet (17.7 ppg, 7.0 apg) can hold its own with any guard duo in the league.
The Raptors bench goes a full 10 deep with Norman Powell (15.3 ppg), Serge Ibaka, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Terence Davis. These four average 44.6 points, 20.3 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. In the era of superteams, Toronto is an exception and that makes them dangerous.
Raptors Playoff Prediction
How far the Raptors are able to advance this postseason likely comes down to two things. One is rebounding and the other is the five-team scramble at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Toronto can play defense. There is no question about that as the Raptors are a top-5 unit. The problem the Raptors have is a rebounding percentage. Toronto ranks 21st in the league and 26th in defensive rebounding percentage.
To reach the NBA Finals, Toronto will have to get through at least two of the Milwaukee, Boston, Miami, and Philadelphia. The Bucks, Heat, and 76ers are all huge upfront and rank No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 in the NBA in rebounding percentage.
The second factor in Toronto capturing a second straight title is having to run the gauntlet that is the Eastern Conference. As it stands currently, Toronto would get Brooklyn in Round 1 and then would have to go through the meat of the conference. Milwaukee is 44-7 overall, Boston is on a six-game win streak, and Miami added Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder for the stretch run.
While the Raptors should advance past Round 1, don’t expect Toronto to repeat as Eastern Conference champions.