The Toronto Raptors continue to get disrespected thanks to the most recent 2020-21 Power Rankings.
In-between the Raptors were the Phoenix Suns (14th) and Indiana Pacers (16th). When are people going to figure out that Canada’s team is arguably the most consistent franchise of the past five seasons and a capable top-five team in the NBA?
Before I get into the reason why the team deserves to be higher on this list, let’s look back at the history of this franchise.
The Raptors have won the Atlantic Division six of the past seven seasons and have won 50 or more games in five straight seasons. The team has also never finished worse than sixth in the entire league in winning percentage within those five seasons.
Toronto is getting close to reaching a culture of excellence like the San Antonio Spurs and year-after-year the team overachieves their pre-season rankings. It’s becoming comical that certain folks still disrespect this team, despite being incredibly consistent.
Toronto Raptors are not shy to disrespect
Even when the Toronto Raptors won the NBA Championship, they were huge underdogs and critics claimed that they only achieved greatness because the Golden State Warriors were injured. Then, those same people said the team might even struggle to make the playoffs after Kawai Leonard left.
Let me remind you what happened last season.
The Toronto Raptors rallied to a .736 winning percentage (best in franchise history) and finished second in wins league-wide. The team may have lost to the Boston Celtics but it was in a hard-fought seven-game series that could have gone either way. If the Raptors made a few more shots, they’d be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals and could have found a way back into the NBA Finals.
Within the rankings on NBA.com, the Raptors are currently listed as the sixth-best team in the Eastern Conference. No offense, but I can’t see a world where this team finishes worse than fourth. And that’s the worst-case scenario.
Here are the teams ahead of the Raptors:
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Brooklyn Nets
- Miami Heat
- Boston Celtics
- Philadelphia 76ers
Of those teams, the only one that I legitimately see surpassing the Raptors are the Bucks. They still have the back-to-back MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a number of key starters returning, plus the addition of Jrue Holiday helps.
Besides the Bucks, how are the Raptors not in a better position than those other teams? Sure they’re missing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, but their core of Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Fred VanVleet are back and the youngsters should only improve. They also have Nick Nurse, who’s the best coach in the NBA, and you know he’ll get the most out of his bench players like he did last season.
The Miami Heat may have made the NBA Finals last season, but that could have been a fluke. We’ve never seen Jimmy Butler like that before and who knows if we will again.
In terms of the other teams ahead of Toronto, the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum may be a top-20 player in the NBA, but they lost Gordon Hayward. Personally, I’d still take the winning experience and core of Toronto over them in a series.
The biggest question mark to me is the Brooklyn Nets. I can understand that a Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving duo is fun to talk about, but I can’t see this working. Durant hasn’t played a meaningful NBA game in 1.5 years and Irving is always a distraction. Just because it looks great on paper, doesn’t mean it’s going to translate to the floor.
This is a star-driven league and sure, a Siakam-VanVleet duo doesn’t move the dial like some other tandems. However, if the Raptors have taught us anything, it’s that a team-game is more important than one individual. Leonard may have been a huge reason why the Raptors won a championship, but he’s not the only reason.
The team has a collection of talent that will make them successful, instead of one superstar. If you want a perfect example, look back to Game 3 of the Second Round last year. Of all people, it was OG Anunoby who kept the Raptors’ season alive, nailing the game-winning shot at the buzzer. The team has a collection of talent and doesn’t have to rely on one superstar to win a ball-game.
When the Raptors face adversity, they perform at their highest level and as the only team not playing in their home arena to start the regular season, they’re already battling hardship. Don’t sleep on the Raptors. Like every year before this, they’re going to surprise you.