Well, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us. With its Disney Bubble premise in full effect, 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The NBA is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each of the NBA playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch.
Let’s hit the Toronto Raptors.
Expectations: Eastern Conference Contender
Despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard, Toronto has been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference from the jump. Playing a bruising, physical style of play, the emergence of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby has put Toronto in a place to compete against Milwaukee and Giannis for the East.
What’s Working for Them
Defense. As a Celtics fan, I hate anytime I see Toronto on the schedule. This team FIGHTs and makes you earn every single bucket. Expect much of the same as they enter the 2020 Playoffs.
Toronto finished the 2020 season #1 in overall defense, allowing only 106.5 points per game. This has come as a result of their ability to defend the 3-ball, allowing opponents to sink treys at a 33.3% clip. Toronto uses its length to create mismatches and force offenses inside, where they are battered by the likes of Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol. Whoever has Toronto on the slate can expect a brutal series where they’ll have to fight for every point.
What Might Hold Them Back:
Offensive talent. When it comes to a lot of the key metrics, Toronto finds itself in the middle of the pack. Top 5 in 3-point percentage, but bottom-10 in total FG percentage. They have 5 guys that score double digits every night, but no “takeover” guy when you need a bucket.
Toronto’s reality is that they are incredibly balanced. They don’t have superstar talent and get MAJOR contributions from players that recently found themselves fighting for NBA roster spots. They remind me a lot of the Isiah Thomas led-Celtics in 2016/17. Some solid talent, but not enough to get it done.
When the 3s aren’t falling, Toronto is a below-average NBA team and will struggle on the nights were opposing stars takeover.
Storyline to Watch
The future roster. Courtesy of a contract extension this past year, Lowry will remain in Toronto through the 2020-2021 season. However, a 34-year-old PG isn’t exactly the area an NBA franchise wants to make a long-term investment.
Toronto will be at a bit of a crossroads heading into the 2020/2021 season. They have some young guys heading into the prime of their careers in Siakam, VanVleet, and Anunoby. But are they enough?
The Raptors were a huge surprise as the #2 seed in the East. That said, I’m a firm believer that water finds its level. As good as they’ve been, you don’t win in the NBA with pieces you were able to scrap together off the junk heap. They’ll fall back to earth next year and will be left to figure out who stays and who goes to build another championship contender.
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