3. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors were just a few wins away from being on the same plane as the 76ers and Celtics. This comes despite playing most of the year without a reliable bench, backup point guard, or true rim protector. They should be a bit better this year after making some upgrades.
The Raptors know they’re not a title contender just yet, but last season crystallized the fact that they would be selling themselves short if they are aiming for the play-in. A strong second season from Scottie Barnes and the recently signed role players doing their job could push them into the top four seeds.
The Toronto Raptors should compete with the Philadelphia 76ers.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers are not short on star power, as Joel Embiid and James Harden are a good enough trio to give even teams like Toronto some major issues. Those two will make Philly a contender, but the gap between them and the Raptors is not as wide as many may assume.
Toronto gave them everything they could handle in their playoff series, and acquisitions like PJ Tucker don’t make up for a general lack of bench depth. If Harden continues to show signs of regression, like he did last year, the Raptors equalling Philly’s win total might not be that absurd.