1. Nets vs. Raptors November 7.
The Nets vs. Raptors contest is a showdown between two competing philosophies of winning a championship. The NBA has long been a copycat league. Since Danny Ainge started putting together superteams with at least three superstars in the mid-2000s, it’s been a model for winning basketball.
It has some flaws, as investing so much salary into just three players reduces the quality of the rest of your roster, and a serious injury or two to those stars and the dream is lost.
Brooklyn was an example of this in 2021. The Kyrie Irving/Kevin Durant/James Harden trio played just a handful of times together during the regular season, and when Brooklyn was expelled from the playoffs, only Durant was both on the court and fully healthy.
Starting before 2019, Toronto developed several young studs in Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, Chris Boucher, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam. Powell is gone, but that the remaining four are both still in Toronto and under 30 years old. Under the guidance of Masai Ujiri, the Raptors philosophy is trendsetting, not following everybody else, and it has served the franchise well.
In recent comments to the media, Ujiri was quoted as saying:
"“We’re going to create our own direction, we don’t have to go with the wave of what the NBA is doing — we’re such a copy-cat league, We have to ride our own opportunities. For now, our opportunities are building around the young players that we have and letting them grow.”"
The Raptors have a lineup that, if the talent develops, is at least 10 men deep, can run the floor well, and work hard at the defensive end. While Brooklyn was 48-24 in the win column in 2021, they gave up 114.1 points per game to opponents, and that was after a slight improvement late in the season.
With the changes the Raptors’ roster has gone through and their emphasis on athleticism and defensive pressure, Toronto could make it difficult for the star-studded Nets to win this game. A good showing from the Raptors in this contest could signify that the team-building system is the best way to construct Toronto’s second champion.