The Toronto Raptors went from a fringe play-in team to a 48-win near-contender in one season. Individually excellent seasons from Scottie Barnes, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam contributed to this improvement. Unfortunately, this team might be one or two ticks short of being called an unquestioned contender.
Barring the Nets somehow patching things up with Kevin Durant, the projected top four seeds in the Eastern Conference will likely remain relatively unchanged from last year. Philly and the defending champion Celtics are in the exclusive contenders club alongside the Heat and Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks.
The Raptors should not be discarded, nor have their pleas to be taken seriously silenced. Toronto went 10-5 against the top-four seeds in the East last year, and they have made some improvements that will give them an even better chance at becoming a contender.
The Raptors have one advantage over all these mighty squads that they can use to pick up some wins in head-to-head matchups. If the Raptors keep building on their strength, they might be viewed as the class of the Eastern Conference sooner than many anticipated.
1 advantage the Toronto Raptors have over the best East teams.
76ers: Scoring skill on the wings
The 76ers may have one of the best 1-2 scoring punches in the league thanks to Joel Embiid and James Harden, but it’s fair to question this roster outside of those two. If Tobias Harris, who has been often maligned for his performance after signing a huge contract, is their best non-Harden perimeter, that’s not ideal.
Matisse Thybulle, an offensive liability who can’t play in Toronto, is projected to start at small forward again. Even though PJ Tucker should play his usually reliable brand of basketball, names like Isaiah Joe, Furkan Korkmaz, and Danuel House might not be adequate supplementary players.
The Toronto Raptors could outscore the 76ers
Barnes and OG Anunoby are both primed for the best offensive years of their career. Expect at least 17 points per game from each of them. In addition, the signing of Otto Porter Jr. and re-signing of Chris Boucher give the Raptors a level of quality on the perimeter that Philly might not be able to equal.
While the 76ers are going to be a dominant offensive team, if for no other reason than the continued excellence of Embiid, hitting a few extra 3-pointers could be the difference between a win and a loss. Philly won the playoff series, but even a less than 100% Raptors team gave them hell in the playoffs.