Toronto Raptors: The Sleeping Giants in the Eastern Conference
The NBA is a stars league, where the guys who are most talked about are usually the superstars of the league. Every once in awhile a dark horse candidate will pop up and throw a curve ball to the NBA’s hierarchy. In past years there have been teams that would win, and not many expected the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons to win in 2014 and 2004, respectively. It appears the Raptors might be the latest version of these examples.
Dwane Casey should win NBA Coach of the Year for the job he’s done with this squad. None of the big sports outlets are giving this man credit for the absolute stand-up job he’s done this season. The Raptors are currently the top team in the East with a record at 48-17. The Raptors are the East version of the San Antonio Spurs. They’re a team that plays team ball and plays defense with the best of them. The Raptors beat the Rockets Friday night, bringing their winning streak of 17 to a halt.
No one is playing better ball at the moment. If the Raptors keep up this play and get the favorable one seed and have an easier route to the playoffs than years past. This could be exactly what Toronto needs to get over the hump and appear at their first NBA finals.
DeMar DeRozan is a legit NBA superstar. Unlike most number one options in the league, DeRozan has been able to package his game around the mid-range jump shot. He’s almost a throwback to guys in the early NBA eras that would feast on smaller defenders getting the easy looks. DeRozan is a hybrid of this style adding his own flair of athleticism as well.
Earlier this week he took an inbounds pass up court and dunked on a guy to win the game. He is excellent when the game is most important. Any other year, and he would be in the MVP conversation but James Harden has it virtually wrapped up.
The final component of what has pushed the Raptors to the next level is the bench play. Contributions from Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and CJ Miles have been instrumental in their success. All the bench guys mentioned all average at least seven points or better. If you’re Kyle Lowery or DeRozan the fact that you have a reserve unit that can keep up the pace while you catch a breather is priceless.
Most media outlets are hyping the Lebron James-led Cavs and hoping for a Cavaliers vs Golden State finals rematch yet again. The smart money is on the Raptors who are a top-ten defensive and offensive team. The city of Toronto is all in for their team and nothing less than a trip to the NB Finals will suffice.