The Toronto Raptors, like many around the league, were knocked to the floor in disbelief after the Utah Jazz traded Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a package headlined by Collin Sexton and multiple unprotected first-round draft selections. The East just got even more challenging.
Already boasting one of the best frontcourts in the league, thanks to Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, the Cavs managed to get even deeper and more lethal in the backcourt by pairing Mitchell with Darius Garland. No team in the East may have taken a bigger step forward.
The Raptors can’t feel secure about their playoff chances, as the Nets will presumably be healthy, the Hawks added Dejounte Murray, and the Cavaliers shook the NBA earth with this move. The East is going to be a dogfight for Toronto, who open the season against Mitchell’s Cavs.
While the competition is much more robust, the Raptors should feel confident in their ability to compete for a deep playoff run this year. Koby Altman and the Cavaliers are much better, but they still lack in a few key areas where Toronto comes out on top.
3 reasons the Toronto Raptors are better than the Cavaliers.
3. Perimeter defense
The biggest issue that Mitchell brings to the table is his defensive skills. While he has a long wingspan for a 6-1 guard, he hasn’t shown the results some optimistic Mitchell fans would have liked to see. Even on a good defensive team in Utah, his shortcomings were obvious.
While Cleveland figures to be one of the best defensive teams in the league after this move, Mitchell is the clear weak link that teams will try to attack. Garland is a solid NBA defender, but he won’t be up for the All-Defensive team anytime soon. Toronto has the edge here thanks to multiple veterans who have proven their lockdown quality.
The Toronto Raptors could compete with Cleveland defensively.
Fred VanVleet might be one of the best guards in the league defensively, and Gary Trent Jr. went from one of the league’s worst defenders to a pesky turnover machine. These two sharing the floor for heavy minutes helped Toronto rank as one of the best defenses in the league.
The Cavs have a much better interior defense than the Raptors, and that might be enough to carry them out of the play-in. Having said that, Toronto’s unique scheme and superior backcourt will be an important distinguishing factor as these two talented teams butt heads.