Raptors writers roundtable: Playoff predictions for Raptors-76ers

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 23: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors leads the team in a huddle before playing the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 23: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors leads the team in a huddle before playing the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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Gary Trent Jr, Toronto Raptors
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 20: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have made it back to the postseason by winning 48 games. This earned them the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and an opportunity to renew their rivalry with Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. This might be the most even first-round series in this current crop.

Nick Nurse knows that this is going to be a physical series that rewards whichever team is playing more high-octane, connected basketball. With an MVP candidate in Embiid and a future Hall of Famer in Harden to contend with, the Raptors have their work cut out for them.

Toronto has leaned on a creative cast of characters this season, and they will need to do the same if they want to escape this series and somehow move onto the conference semifinals with such a young roster. We’ve seen the Raptors pull off crazier feats in the postseason.

Raptors Rapture writers Matt Eichhorn, Shaun Suares, Tyler Hedmann, and I joined forces to tackle the biggest questions surrounding this series. Who will come out on top? Which players need to be examined under a microscope as the Raptors try to send Embiid home early.

Toronto Raptors writers’ roundtable: Postseason predictions

Q1: Which Raptors player needs to step up to upset the 76ers?

ML: Gary Trent Jr. is at the top of my list. With Matisse Thybulle not eligible to play in Toronto, Trent will get even more opportunity to star for himself. After putting up 30 points for the Raptors in a home win against Philly without Thybulle in the lineup, Trent needs to replicate that one or twice for Toronto to keep pace.

TH: Precious Achiuwa. The reality is that Philly is going to live and die by how the Raps defend and control Embiid. Chris Boucher doesn’t have the size to consistently take on Embiid,  and Khem Birch is likely gonna see limited time in a playoff rotation.

Precious will have to hold his own against Embiid to some degree. They’re going to build their defensive rotations around forcing the ball away from Embiid, but still.

Precious Achiuwa, OG Anunoby will play roles for the Toronto Raptors.

SS: OG Anunoby staying healthy and productive will be an X-Factor for us. We all know what he can do on the defensive end, but his ability to space the floor on offense with his 3-point shot and bang down low against smaller defenders while drawing fouls will be an added bonus since the rest of the squad has really stepped up.

ME: Fred VanVleet. Due most in part to injuries, VanVleet has seen his production drop quite a bit post-ASG. I think this series is decided by the perimeter play of the Raptors, as Embiid is going to get his buckets. If the Raptors can limit the 76ers along the perimeter then we could see them struggle to come back when down.