After a disappointing COVID-distracted season in 2020-21, the Toronto Raptors should rebound and exceed their projected 35.5-game win total. Here's why....
The Toronto Raptors, two years removed from their first NBA title, will open the 2021-22 regular season on Wednesday evening.
The Raptors will host the Washington Wizards, who were also a disappointment the previous season. However, Toronto looks to be in position to rebound with a much better effort this time around.
The Raptors Should Improve Significantly This Season
Quoting Joe Nelson, NBA analyst at VegasInsider.com:
“The Raptors crashed to 27-45 last season, but they were barely negative in scoring differential and went just 16-20 in ‘home’ games, played in Florida as the Raptors had a significant disadvantage all season. Nick Nurse is still regarded as one of the best coaches in the league and the Raptors were 53-19 in 2019-20 with one of the tougher home courts in the league. Pascal Siakam may miss the first month of so but adding Goran Dragic gives this team a solid backcourt while they’ll have midseason acquisition Gary Trent for the full season. OG Anunoby took a big leap last season while Malachi Flynn offered some promise in his rookie season while other than the top two teams, the Eastern Conference field does not look all that demanding as this group could move up significantly.”
Toronto's Defense Will Improve
Quoting Gerard Samillano at ClutchPoints.com:
"The team is pretty much a blank slate at this point, with only a few holdovers from Nurse’s championship run in 2019. With a lot of new guys coming into the team, how can we expect them to hold a top-10 defense in the NBA (especially since they were middle of the pack last year)? The answer: length. Lots and lots of length. Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam are three huge wings that can play the 2 to 4 positions when needed. The trio alone ensures that the Raptors will always have at most two good defenders on the court. The new centers, Khem Birch and Precious Achiuwa, all are agile enough to hang with guards in switch-heavy schemes. And of course, Fred VanVleet is one of the best, if not the best, point-of-attack defender in the NBA today. The Raptors certainly have the personnel to field a good defense."
A Bold Prediction: Toronto Will Finish in Top 6 in the East
Quoting Nickeem Khan at FiredUpNetwork.ca:
"The NBA world has forgotten just how good Toronto was when they were fully healthy. Out of all the teams that got hit with the injury and the COVID bug the worst, the Raptors were among that list. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and many role players missed a lot of action due to these factors. This prevented Toronto from garnering any sort of consistency with their rotations and schemes throughout the season.
Looking ahead to the upcoming season that won't be the case (besides Pascal Siakam who may be out until November). The departure of Kyle Lowry is a big hit to what makes the Raptors so good, but their next-man-up mentality will thrive and be evident as the season progresses.
Most importantly, the Raptors will finally have homecourt advantage again in Toronto. It's consensus knowledge that the Raptors have one of the best fan bases in the NBA, and playing without that advantage is obviously going to be detrimental for any team.
It's ignorant to think a Raptors team with the talent they have won't make the playoffs or won't be competitive in the East. Will they be among the top teams in their conference? Most likely not, but can they be better than the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks? Definitely."