The Toronto Raptors have found themselves relegated to the rebuilding tier in the eyes of many across the NBA, as many believe their new-look roster is incapable of making any improvements after a 41-41 campaign last year. Masai Ujiri’s lack of conviction is souring opinions on him.
The Raptors likely believe that Darko Rajakovic and his offensive ideas will have this team performing better than they were under Nick Nurse despite some serious changes. ESPN, specifically Tim Bontemps, might be as pessimistic about Toronto’s chances in 2023-24 as anyone else.
In ESPN’s first offseason power rankings, the Raptors were slotted at No. 25 overall despite their championship odds being in the middle of the pack. If these power rankings became a reality, Toronto would finish 12th in the Eastern Conference and miss the postseason yet again.
Despite the fact that the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic have +35000 and +30000 odds to win the title, per Caesars Sportsbook, both of them ranked higher than Toronto. Only the Spurs, Hornets, Pistons, Trail Blazers, and Wizards are below Toronto in these rankings. The Thunder have worse title odds at +10000, yet they rank No. 15.
Toronto Raptors underrated by NBA power rankings.
Like many prognosticators across the basketball media landscape, Bontemps seems to think that replacing Fred VanVleet with an unexpected signing in Dennis Schroder will take the Raptors from the fringe playoff team tier to one of the tankers. That seems a bit too extreme, especially if Scottie Barnes takes over the ballhandling duties.
Bontemps apparently is unaware of the fact that VanVleet was one of the most inefficient players in the league last season, contributed to behind-the-scenes friction with younger players, and earned a max contract that Toronto would have been mocked even more if they inked VanVleet to. Schroder was not signed to be a secondary scorer behind Siakam.
The Raptors have given fans plenty to be irritated with due to Masai Ujiri’s lack of clarity and direction, but they haven’t fallen so far that they should be considered alongside the Detroits and the Charlottes of the world. They do have an All-NBA star (Pascal Siakam), an emerging young standout (Scottie Barnes), an All-Defensive wing (OG Anunoby), and a prized rookie (Gradey Dick) on the team.
The Raptors had a nice season or two-long sabbatical from their status as a perennially underrated team, but it appears as though the doubters are starting to return. While this roster is far from perfect, expecting such a humungous fall-off would be a bit foolish.