NBA Sunday: Raptors Aren’t Extinct Just Yet

The Toronto Raptors aren’t extinct—not but, anyway.

With the whirlwind of motion that dominates the headlines this previous NBA offseason and the expansion of a number of younger gamers, we’ve spent way more time discussing the likes of the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks than the workforce from up North.

We’ve requested ourselves whether or not LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers can win the Eastern Conference for a fourth consecutive 12 months and whether or not or not the Washington Wizards are lastly prepared to offer some credible resistance. Some of us have even gone so far as to foretell that, within the final irony, Kyrie Irving will lead the Celtics to the convention crown this season.

And that doesn’t even start to speak concerning the storylines from out West.

All the whereas, quietly and meticulously, Dwane Casey and his Raptors have stalked, and also you peer on the standings and notice that they enter play on November 19 at 10-5, tied with the Pistons for the second-best document within the convention.

What has made the Raptors thriving particularly inconceivable is the truth that they’ve achieved it regardless of lacking just a few key contributors for a sport or two. To this level, they’ve ranked respectably each in factors allowed per sport (102.6) and factors allowed per 100 possessions (107.eight). Those metrics rank them eighth and 11th, respectively.

So, the place precisely do the Raptors match within the grand scheme of issues?

It looks as if a query we’ve been asking for just a few years now.

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Having certified for the playoffs 4 consecutive years, Dwane Casey’s workforce has gained three playoff collection over the course of that period, however haven’t precisely discovered well timed and environment friendly play from their two star gamers in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

Now, because the Eastern Conference begins to characteristic youthful gamers with considerable upside—Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown to call just a few—it’s completely truthful to marvel the place the Raptors slot in. It’s additionally truthful, consider it or not, to wonder if they’ll be capable to present as a lot resistance to the Cavaliers because the Celtics.

In impact, the Raptors have turn out to be a modern-day model of Joe Johnson’s Atlanta Hawks. After signing with the Hawks previous to the 2005-06 season, Johnson led the revival of the franchise. They would find yourself qualifying for the playoffs 5 consecutive years, however by no means superior previous the second spherical. The same story will be instructed of Chris Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers.

The level is, nonetheless, that through the years, the Raptors have developed an id and are a workforce whose hallmarks have come to be toughness and ball-sharing—two traits that almost all coaches would like to embody their workforce. While we’ve been paying shut consideration to the issues which might be model new and thrilling, the Raptors are the identical previous crew that they’ve been. And for a workforce like that, the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks will proceed to be the gold normal.

The Mavericks notably rebuilt and tore down a number of incarnations of their workforce round Dirk Nowitzki till the workforce was lastly capable of encompass Nowitzki with the correct complement of gamers to attain one of many greatest upsets in NBA Finals historical past.

Whether anybody chooses to acknowledge it, the Cavaliers are susceptible.

Entering play on November 19, LeBron James leads the league in each whole minutes performed (617) and minutes performed per sport (38.6). Of the gamers who will comprise James’ supporting rotation within the playoffs, nearly all of them are gamers whose impression can be largely felt on one aspect of the ground: offense. To this level, the Cavs have 10 totally different gamers averaging 20 minutes performed per sport—an extremely excessive quantity. More than anything, that’s a results of Tyron Lue taking part in together with his rotations to determine which items work greatest, whereas additionally taking into consideration that the workforce has been taking part in with out each Tristan Thompson and Derrick Rose for lengthy stretches.

Still, of these rotation gamers—James, Rose, Thompson, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green—the easy reality is that it is just James who has carried out like a real two-way participant.

It’s a troubling pattern upon which the Raptors—and different groups within the convention—may capitalize.

The greatest two phrases to explain the Cavaliers thus far within the season are “old” and “slow,” and that’s merely a reality. The membership nonetheless ranks useless final in factors allowed per 100 possessions and 28th within the league in factors allowed per sport.

In quick, the Cavaliers, no less than thus far, have definitely seemed to be susceptible. It is those self same Cavaliers which have ended the Raptors season every of the previous two years.

You know what they are saying about third instances—they’re typically the attraction.

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There’s clearly an extended approach to go, and any probability that Toronto must get previous the Cavs rests within the skill of Lowry and DeRozan to seek out some consistency within the playoffs. Still, because the complementary items round them have slowly improved, we have now spent the early goings of the season fawning over the model information groups and storylines within the convention and have paid no consideration to the previous guard.

And relying on how the brackets play out, any Cavaliers foray within the convention finals may need to undergo the acquainted highway of Toronto.

If that occurs to be the case—if the Cavs do need to sq. off in opposition to their acquainted foe—they’re ripe for the selecting.

Just as they’ve been over the previous few years, the Duane Casey’s workforce can be there ready for his or her alternative.

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