After an off-season filled with trades and roster changes, the Toronto Raptors seem to have made it clear that they are going all in on a title. After re-signing Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry both to 3-year deals each, Toronto has their core of Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and C.J. Miles for the next 3 seasons. The Raptors also brought back head coach Dwane Casey after speculation that he would be fired.
While the Eastern Conference got substantially weaker, the teams that stand in Toronto’s path became stronger. Boston drafted the versatile scorer Jayson Tatum and signed all-star small forward Gordon Hayward. Cleveland was able to sign quality veterans like Derrick Rose and Jeff Green. And to make matters worse, teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards are developing into possible contenders. But nevertheless, the Raptors should be confident that they can contend in the East due to teams completely tanking, (Nets, Magic, Hawks, Pacers, Knicks, Bulls).
So with everything previously mentioned, let’s get into the predictions. I say that the Toronto Raptors will be around 56-26 and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Here’s why:
- The Raptors have the second best core in Conference, (Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka)
- Toronto is adapting to the modern style of shooting 3s and using ball movement rather than running ISO plays.
- They have the second or third best bench in the conference behind Boston and Cleveland.
- It will take Boston time to develop chemistry with their massive roster changes.
Toronto could easily find themselves in the 2nd or even 1st seed come next spring. They have the talent and the chemistry to be a serious contender. The question is, are the Raptors finally motivated to go at the Cavaliers while they are weakened and distraught with the Kyrie Irving trade drama. And if they are, can they successfully beat Cleveland in a 7 game series. The answer is yes. A lot of people forget that Toronto has never been at full strength when playing the Cavaliers in the playoffs. In 2016 Jonas Valanciunas was injured and in 2017 Kyle Lowry was out for games 3 and 4 with an ankle injury.
But one thing the Raptors cannot ignore is the 2-8 record against Cleveland in their last two playoff meetings. Whatever Toronto is doing is obviously not working. If the Raptors want to take their game to the next level and seriously push the Cavaliers then they’re going to have to change the way they play. President of Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri has stockpiled this team with 3 point shooters. Toronto finally has the pieces necessary to be a team that moves the ball around to get their shots. If the Raptors change their playing style to a Warriors or Rockets style, then I believe they can contend, and I have them doing just that. However, if we start to see Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan isolations like the last couple years, then the Raptors won’t go anywhere come playoff time.