Where do the Toronto Raptors rank in the Eastern Conference?

Toronto Raptors - Marc Gasol (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Marc Gasol (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images) /

3. Toronto Raptors

Yes, this team did get significantly weaker due to the departure of the Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard.

And yes, they did also lose their starting shooting guard and one of the best three-point shooters in the league, Danny Green. The Raptors picked up some nice rotational pieces this offseason, namely Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson.

The Raptors look to keep their defensive identity intact, and with two big forwards added to the roster, that’s certainly in play.

Champions still remain on the roster, as well as young players who are ready or at least on the cusp of breaking out. Pascal Siakam was just crowned the NBA’s Most Improved Player of 2018-19 and looks to be the face of the Raptors franchise for the coming years. He still has room to grow but the signs are there; Siakam could well be an All-NBA player in a few years.

Sure, a large portion of the roster is hitting an aging curve. Both Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry are in their thirties even though their playing styles have changed, both still remain highly productive NBA players. While Kawhi Leonard was a large reason why the Toronto Raptors won their first ever NBA championship in June, he didn’t do it all by himself.

A lot of the Raptors payroll ends this year, with Lowry, Siakam, Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka all coming off of the books this time next year. Siakam could be receiving a max extension soon, but the rest may well be playing for their next big payday. They all deserve it, they’re NBA champions by design, not by fate.

The Raptors will presumably be one of the top dogs in the Eastern Conference once more, but this time they’ll be playing with a chip on their shoulder. They won’t be the premier team in the NBA, but they won’t lie down for anyone.

Still, the third seed seems like a best-case scenario for the Raptors.