1 advantage Raptors have over comparable playoff contenders

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 03: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles by DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 03: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles by DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Jan 26, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby (3) is defended by Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) and Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors have to reckon with a much improved Eastern Conference in the 2022-23 NBA season. Not only are the Brooklyn Nets eyeing a championship after returning to full health, but the Cleveland Cavaliers just announced their presence as a legitimate contender by acquiring Donovan Mitchell to lead the team’s backcourt.

The Raptors won 48 games last season and brought back essentially their entire rotation. That might not guarantee a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference again. However, given how the East suddenly became much deeper than the West almost overnight.

The Cavaliers, who were eliminated in the play-in tournament last season, join Toronto in a group of teams expected to make it to the postseason that also includes last year’s No. 8 seed in Atlanta and the No. 6 seed in Chicago. Brooklyn and Cleveland’s massive improvement could create quite the logjam in the middle of the pack.

The Raptors should be wary of these teams, but they shouldn’t necessarily be fearful of their potential. They still have multiple advantages over these squads that could help Toronto push past them in what is going to be a very tight finish in the East.

1 advantage the Raptors have over the Bulls, Hawks, and Cavaliers.

Bulls: Performance against the Best

The Bulls not only got a fantastic season out of Raptors legend DeMar DeRozan and saw Zach LaVine’s ascension to the star tier, but they got back to the playoffs after years of close misses. This should be extra shocking considering how they struggled against most of their playoff competition.

The Raptors went 10-5 against the top 4 teams in the East during the regular season, showing they can pull off wins against the best in the game with regularity. The Bulls finished a whopping 1-14 in those games, meaning that they feasted on the minnows that no longer exist in the Eastern Conference.

The Toronto Raptors beat good teams more than the Bulls.

The Raptors have proven to confound some of the league’s best thanks to their unique approach to the schematic side of the game and tireless hustle. For Chicago, injury concerns and names like LaVine and Nikola Vucevic failing to come through when needed contributed to this tailspin.

Considering that Lonzo Ball is currently struggling to get healthy, the Bulls could go into a pivotal season without all their heavy hitters in the lineup. One or two losses against top competition could create an avenue for Toronto to overtake them in the rankings.