1. The crowded East
The East was long regarded as a monumentally inferior conference when compared to the West, and the Raptors managed to take advantage by ranking at or near the top of the conference multiple times in the last decade. This year, the East promises to be much better.
The top four seeds (Miami, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia) will likely be back in their roles of prominence next season, and the Brooklyn Nets are poised to compete for a championship. The Hawks and brand-new Cavaliers went from play-in locks to teams with eyes on a top-four seed. Even lottery teams like the Knicks and Pistons got better.
The Toronto Raptors have more competition.
Assuming that no gargantuan injuries happen (they will), the East projects to have 10 teams with legitimate chances of becoming a top-six seed. The margin for error is razor-thin, as two poor weeks could be a nightmare scenario.
If Raptors fans want one nugget of positivity to hold on to, it’s the fact that last year’s team won multiple games against the Nets, Heat, 76ers, and Bucks. The top teams in the East may not frighten Toronto, but can they replicate 2021-22’s effort against all of these new-look squads?