2019 NBA Playoffs Team Preview: Toronto Raptors - Odds to Win the NBA Championship
Head Coach: Nick Nurse
Home: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON, Canada
The NBA’s sole remaining non-American franchise, the Toronto Raptors, have continued their winning ways by making the NBA’s postseason for the sixth straight season. Once again finishing at the top of the Atlantic division, the Raptors have gone from one of the NBA’s most pathetic franchises to a model of consistency and internal development.
It’d be a travesty to talk about the Toronto Raptors without mentioning some of their brightest stars this season:
- (F) Kawhi Leonard – 26.7 PPG | 7.3 RPG | 1.8 SPG
- (F) Pascal Siakam – 17.0 PPG | 6.9 RPG | .368 3P%
- (G) Kyle Lowry – 14.2 PPG | 8.7 APG | 1.4 SPG
The Toronto Raptors enter the NBA Playoffs in the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Their 58-24 record to end the season affords them home court advantage against every team in the NBA save for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors have famously faded in the previous playoff runs, but they are now filled with the depth, talent, and experience to suggest that such a thing won’t occur this time out.
|(PG) Kyle Lowry||6-1, 196lb||12 Years||Villanova/USA|
|(SG) Danny Green||6-6, 215lb||9 Years||North Carolina/USA|
|(SF) Kawhi Leonard||6-7, 230lb||7 Years||San Diego State/USA|
|(PF) Pascal Siakam||6-9, 230lb||2 Years||New Mexico State/Cameroon|
|(C) Marc Gasol||7-1, 255lb||10 Years||Spain|
|(PG) Fred Vanvleet||6-0, 195lb||2 Years||Wichita State/USA|
|(PG/SG) Jeremy Lin||6-3, 200lb||8 Years||Harvard/USA|
|(SG) Norman Powell||6-4, 215lb||3 Years||UCLA/USA|
|(SG) Patrick McCaw||6-7, 185lb||2 Years||UNLV/USA|
|(SG) Jodie Meeks||6-4, 210lb||9 Years||Kentucky/USA|
|(SF/PF) OG Anunoby||6-8, 232lb||1 Year||Indiana/United Kingdom|
|(SF) Malcolm Miller||6-7, 210lb||1 Year||Holy Cross/USA|
|(PF) Chris Boucher||6-10, 200lb||1 Year||Oregon/Canada/St. Lucia|
|(C) Serge Ibaka||6-10, 235lb||9 Years||Republic of the Congo/Spain|
|(C) Eric Moreland||6-10, 238lb||3 Years||Oregon State/USA|
|(PG/SG) Jordan Loyd tw||6-4, 210lb||Rookie||Indianapolis/USA|
tw: denotes that the player is on a two-way contract and is therefore ineligible for playoff participation.
Notable Roster Moves
18 July 2018 – Traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 1st round draft pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and cash. (2019 1st-rd pick is top-20 protected.) $5MM
7 Feb 2019 – Traded C.J. Miles, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and a 2024 2nd round draft pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Marc Gasol.
13 Feb 2019 – Signed Jeremy Lin to a contract for the rest of the season.
How did the Raptors perform in ’18-’19?
For a team that played without a fully healthy roster for the majority of the season, the Toronto Raptors maintained as one of the NBA’s strongest teams. While they held on to the first seed for the majority of the year, they were overtaken by the Milwaukee Bucks by the All-Star Break.
The Toronto Raptors’ longest winning streak was eight straight games.
Their longest losing streak was three straight games.
The Raptors were fantastic both at home (32-9) and on the road (25-15) this year. They also have the best record against the Western Conference for the year at 21-8.
What does Kawhi Leonard change?
Kawhi Leonard brings to the Toronto Raptors a dimension that they haven’t had in their past playoff runs. A true defensive stopper, with the ability to guard the opposing teams best player in clutch situations. You could make an argument for PJ Tucker, but his ineptitude on the offensive end made playing him a difficult choice.
The Toronto Raptors have struggled in previous attempts toward the NBA Championship. While Leonard is a defensive ace, it hasn’t been their defense that failed them in the past.
In fact, the Raptors offense is what had left them hanging in previous playoff outings and Leonard is not likely to change that individually.
Where he will excel is in a defined system for the Raptors offense, rather than the isolationist nature of years past. While he can get his points in one-on-one scenarios, Leonard can play a role in the offense as well as he can play the primary option.
While he and Danny Green will split duties on the toughest wing assignments, Leonard will definitely be relied upon in the clutch to make key stops.
Can Lowry slay ghosts of playoffs past?
It is a popular storyline for Lowry in playoffs – he can’t be trusted, he isn’t efficient in the post-season. These is his all-time playoff averages:
In fact, Kyle Lowry has been particularly reliable for the Toronto Raptors as they’ve pursued the NBA Championship. Where the Raptors have failed is in stopping opposing offenses and getting contributions from their reserves.
One of the leagues top assist-men, Kyle Lowry will have the responsibility of getting his teammates involved more than ever. With additions of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, and the improvement of Pascal Siakam, creating easy opportunities should be simpler than ever for them.
Pascal Siakam Needs To Maintain His Play
Pascal Siakam is having a career year for the Toronto Raptors. While he is surely near the top of the list of candidates for Most Improved Player of the Year, his true value as a player will be judged by his performances in the NBA Playoffs.
Siakam’s ceiling has grown from a utility energy-player to a first or second option on an NBA team starting lineup. His speed and handle with the ball coupled with his finishing ability and playmaking are Giannis-esque. Did we mention he shoots 37% from three-point land?
All of that value could go out the window though if he doesn’t perform in the NBA Playoffs. Siakam’s game is predicated on dictating the pace of play and getting into the paint with speed in the half-court or in transition. The Toronto Raptors are yet to see if he can truly excel in 48 minutes of grinding basketball.
While his three-point percentage is admirable, he is yet to be tested when being left at the arc one-on-one, as he maintains an assisted three-point field-goal rate of 97%.
Bottom-line, the Toronto Raptors need Pascal Siakam to perform the same if not better in the playoffs than he has in the regular season. He shows no signs of slowing down, but the improved third-year player is yet to face a challenge of this scale.
What can the Toronto Raptors bench provide?
Once boasting a reserve unit with the moniker “The Bench Mob”, the Toronto Raptors have gone away from relying on a fully reserve driven lineup in order to maximize their results. Toronto will need their production though.
Toronto Raptors Bench Performance:
- 36.0 PPG (18th), 15.3 RPG (21st), 7.1 APG (25th), 40.6 Eff (21st)
- (G) Fred Vanvleet – 10.9 PPG | 4.8 APG | .378 3P%
- (G-F) Norman Powell – 8.6 PPG | .398 3P% | .549 2P%
- (C) Serge Ibaka – 15.0 PPG | 8.1 RPG | 1.4 BPG
The Toronto Raptors have now tuned their rotation to a strict eight/nine-man lineup. They maintain interesting individual pieces, but without the strength of the starting lineup leading them, they tend to struggle.
A curious piece to the puzzle for the Raptors is Jeremy Lin. The savvy point guard joined the Raptors after they lost key reserve, Delon Wright. He is yet to find any rhythm with the Raptors, but his veteran presence and scoring ability could be incredibly valuable if he could just find his range.
Expect the Toronto Raptors to stagger their lineup, in an attempt to mitigate the production loss from having too many bench unit members on the court.
Who are the Threats to the Raptors
Season Series: 1-3 MIL
No surprise here, the Toronto Raptors have struggled to contain the Bucks in previous matches. While they collapse on Antetokounmpo, the Bucks shooters have generally been hot and able to punish the Raptors paint defense. Teams have found success by allowing Antetokounmpo into the paint, in order to mitigate the threat from the perimeter. It is not a tactic the Raptors regularly employ, but losing the season series 1-3 may suggest they must think outside of the box.
Season Series: 3-1 TOR
The Philadelphia 76ers maintain some incredible internal dysfunction going into the playoffs. A team of alphas with not enough ball to go around, the Sixers are as great a danger to themselves as they are to others. The Raptors have handled the Sixers this season, but with the sheer amount of talent on their squad, the Raptors can’t take them for granted. Toronto and Philadelphia matchup well positionally, so if it comes to it it will be a match of attrition.
Season Series: 2-2 tie
The Boston Celtics are not a side to underestimate for the Raptors. Despite their chemistry issues, they are an organized defensive team that has scorers at every position. The Raptors matchup with them better now that they have Marc Gasol at center, but that is not enough to make up for the entire team. The Celtics want to grind inside and fire from deep, just like the Raptors. If these two meet, it could be a toss-up to find the winner.
Season Series: 2-2 tie
Should they ever come to blows, the Toronto Raptors will be wary of the Orlando Magic. The Magic boast length on par with the Toronto Raptors, and they have been inspired since the All-Star Break. The Magic are 20-9 since February and their play is greater than the seed that they own. The tied season series should be caution enough, but if the Raptors and Magic matchup it will likely be a closer contest than many expect.
Toronto Raptors Odds and Predictions to win the NBA Championship
The Toronto Raptors are all-in to win a championship this season. With Kawhi Leonard’s free agency looming, their desire to win now is likely greater than any other team in the NBA. Their window of opportunity has never been better.
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