Do the Toronto Raptors or Maple Leafs have a better shot at a title?

(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs are each heading into their respective playoffs with lethal lineups. Which has a better chance at winning a title?

Being a sports fan in the city of Toronto has been better than ever this winter. The Toronto Raptors sit second in the NBA and the Toronto Maple Leafs are fifth in the NHL. Both clubs consist of incredibly talented players ready to challenge for some hardware.

Each of these franchises made significant offseason moves that took already impressive teams and made them even more potent. On July 18, the Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard. He has been everything that the team could have wanted. He has averaged 27 points and collected more than seven rebounds and three assists per game.

On July 1, the Maple Leafs signed the biggest free agent on the market, John Tavares. His addition to the squad convinced bookmakers in Las Vegas that his new team was the favourite to win the Stanley Cup. They offered 7/1 odds. The Tampa Bay Lightning were second at 9/1. The Raptors were not seen as being promising contenders by Vegas due to the dominance of the Golden State Warriors and the expectation that the Boston Celtics were going to take giant leaps forward with a healthy roster. Casinos favoured others ahead of the Raps.

As the seasons progressed, both MLSE teams showed that they could win on any given night. Against the top team in the league, both the Leafs and Raptors took a single game in their season series; both on the road. The Leafs are 1-3 against the Lightning and Raps are 1-4 against the Milwaukee Bucks. This makes the discussion even more interesting.

Playoff Paths

Both franchises will have a very difficult path to achieve their ultimate goal. Neither are favourites at this point in the year and they each have struggled in specific areas of their game. The Raptors have been inconsistent hitting their threes and the Leafs have been poor penalty killers. They will need to clean up their play.

The best way to measure who has a more realistic shot at ending the year hoisting a trophy is to evaluate their respective paths. If the season were to end today, cementing brackets, the Raptors would dance with the Detroit Pistons in the first round. While the Pistons and familiar head coach, Dwane Casey, gave them trouble during the regular season, things should look a lot different in the playoffs. Toronto would be favourite to win by a large margin.

The same cannot be said for the Leafs first-round matchup. They would match up with the Boston Bruins, a team who has had their number this season and in recent playoff history. They would also enter the series as the lower ranked team without home-ice advantage. This would be a grinding set of games with the Leafs escaping as victors.

In the second round, the Buds would likely matchup against the league-leading Lightning. They have been dominant this season, and if everything went according to plan, would likely beat the Leafs.

If somehow Toronto should prevail, they would then take on someone from the very dangerous Metropolitan division. This could be the current leader in the division and last year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals. If they could survive that series they book their trip to the finals against the best team in the Western Conference.

The Dinos would lock up with the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round. Thanks to the changes General Manager Elton Brand did to his team composition, the 76ers now own one of the most deadly starting five in the NBA.

The Raptors would be favored to move past them but it will not be without wear on their bodies. In the Conference Finals, the Raps would likely then take on the Bucks and MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

While this the Bucks would certainly be an incredible challenge, the Raptors are on the same tier as Milwaukee, even if they haven’t been quite as good this season. If they knock them off, it would send them to the Finals against Vegas’ pick, the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Verdict

Neither team is a lock to even make the finals, let alone win it all. To get there, the clubs must be prepared for a grueling set of games. Every night will be a fight with intensity amped to its highest degree.

The style of play changes from regular season to the playoffs. The Raptors got Leonard in anticipation of a long playoff run. He is built like a tank and one of the strongest players in the NBA. Conversely, the Leafs did not find the grit that they were hoping to add. This could make their attempt to roll through the league even more difficult.

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With a slightly easier schedule and the right personnel in place, it is the Raptors who own the best chance to win a title.