Despite finishing with 59 wins for the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, the Toronto Raptors shook up their roster significantly this off-season in search of an elusive playoff run. Toronto has a very good young bench that could give the starters a break if they need it. The strategy is paying off and we may see the Raptors in the Championship series this year.
Toronto made a blockbuster deal–arguably one of the biggest off-season trades–with the San Antonio Spurs, obtaining Small forward Kawhi Leonard and Shooting guard Danny Green. The Raptors took a chance since Leonard is only guaranteed in Toronto for a year, later able to be resigned by any team. After an upset in the second round of the 2017-18 playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto needed to make some changes in order to keep up with the other top teams in the Eastern Conference. So far this season they are in 2nd place in the entire league and have locked up a playoff spot early. Kyle and Kawhi have been looking good lately and it’s looking like Kawhi Leonard knows the offence better than earlier in the year.
Toronto has 3 major competitors: Boston, Philly and Milwaukee. Earlier in the year everyone had some questions about how Boston was going to play together because of how much talent they have on their roster and how their bench compares to NBA teams starting lineups. The Celtics are considered to have one of the deepest talents throughout the league and any of those players can be a key starter on any most teams in the NBA, however they are currently sitting at 5th in the conference. The 76ers were a solid team coming into this season, but were never really looked at as the favourites in the Eastern Conference. Sitting now at 4th in the conference, they are attempting to defy expectations.
The way the Bucks have been playing, it’s looking like they could potentially be a top contending team in the playoffs along with the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics. Right now Toronto is playing very well and Boston hasn’t reached their full potential. If Boston doesnt start playing the way people think they should play like or else they could be the underdogs in the East behind the Bucks and Raptors.
Toronto’s chances to come out of the East are pretty good right now but still have to prove that they can play at a high level when it really matters. Outside of Boston, Toronto, Philly and Milwaukee, there are no other real threats to come out of the East after the big injury to the Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo. He fell hard on his right knee and his knee cap had popped out–that could be season ending. Indiana was having a good year and they might still give a top team a run for their money.
At this moment, I’m going to go with Toronto as the favourites in the Eastern Conference but Milwaukee and Boston have both shown some promise. This could be the year for the Raptors to go all the way if they keep playing at this high of a level.
Image: Flickr/Keith Allison