Last season was really a strong illustration of the issues with the Raptors. They ran away with their division, and were a strong second in the Eastern Conference. They advanced to the Eastern Final for the first time as a franchise. But then they were hopelessly outmatched by the Cavaliers. The series went six games, but it never felt at all close.
They just don't feel like a team that is quite good enough to play with the big boys, but they are good enough to beat the teams that are not very good and even most that are pretty good. They haven't changed much dramatically. Neither did Cleveland. It's tough to imagine, then, that they have really closed the gap, and the gap was plenty wide. Meanwhile, a few teams are nipping at their heels from behind. It will likely be a fairly successful season in Toronto in a lot of ways - unless you only measure success by titles, because that sure won't happen.
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2016 Toronto Raptors Betting Storylines
This team is still built around the tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. It's one of those duos that is good enough to make them a very good team but not nearly good enough to make them great. They both have talent but issues as well. They were good enough to both be in Rio, but neither played well enough to be core stars of the team. They are great when things were clicking, but they are streaky shooters who can get ice cold. Neither, and especially DeRozan, have the ability to shut things down when they aren't hitting shots and look for other ways to contribute. I personally wouldn't have brought DeRozan back at the massive new deal he signed, but I also recognized why the team felt they had no choice.
Jonas Valanciunas entered last season on the verge of big things. He is still there. He was strong often last year, but injuries limited him from taking a big step forward. He has all the potential in the world, and in this, his fifth year, the team needs him to play a bigger, more productive role. If one player can make a difference in a season then this is it for this team this year. Similarly, DeMarre Carroll was a shell of himself last year, but if he can be healthy he could have a big impact - especially defensively.
One thing you can't knock this team for is depth in a lot of spots. Cory Joseph could be playing starting minutes in the backcourts of a lot of teams. Patrick Patterson is a nice player off the bench. So is Norman Powell. And it goes on from there. There are questions about the top end of this team, but the mid-range is better than most.
2016 Toronto Raptors Additions and Departures
There is not a lot to cry about in terms of departures. Bismack Biyombo was excellent at times last year, and he fit nicely with this team, but the Raptors get credit for not overpaying for him and letting Orlando do so instead. James Johnson, Luis Scola and Anthony Bennett all moved on as well, but none are close to irreplaceable.
The draft netted the team two first-round players. Jakob Poeltl went ninth overall. The center has some work to do to be NBA-ready on a regular basis in all likelihood, but there will be more pressure for him to perform at least mop up minutes with Biyombo gone. Pascal Siakam went 27th. He's a power forward from Cameroon who played two strong years at New Mexico State. There is upside, but he seems like he will need time. To complement those two first-rounders, the Raptors signed four players following summer league appearances. All are long shots to become parts of the core.
The closest thing to a flashy addition this year was Jared Sullinger. The risk is low - they only signed him to a cheap one-year deal. His job is simple - to be better than Luis Scola. It shouldn't be that much of a task for him if he can stay healthy and fit, and he can split time with Patrick Patterson, so there isn't a lot of pressure on him. He's not a difference maker, but it was a low-risk addition that should pay off. Less low risk was keeping DeRozan around by signing him to a massive 5-year, $139 million contract.
2016 Toronto Raptors Futures Odds and Trends
At 45-37 ATS the Raptors were the fourth-best team to bet on all season last year. They were less useful on totals, going "over" 42 times in 82 games. They were disastrous in the playoffs, though - their 7-13 ATS mark was worst in the whole league. Some playoff profits could be salvaged from the totals, though - they went "under" 12 times in their 20 games.
Toronto Raptors Futures Odds
NBA title odds : +4000 (sixth choice)
Eastern Conference title odds : +1400 (third choice)
Kyle Lowry MVP Odds : +6600
DeMar DeRozan MVP Odds : +10000
Jakob Poeltl Rookie of the Year odds: +5000
2016 Toronto Raptors Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
I like this team. I'm a Canadian, so it's my duty to do so. My problem, though, is that I don't love them. What they did last year is some version of what they could do this year. The won two playoff series, but both went seven games and neither was comfortable or as easy as it should have been for a team that ran away with second in the conference. They were painfully outmatched in the conference final. They could be a little better this year. Or a little worse. Or just the same. It's up in the air and up for debate. It doesn't matter, though - they aren't going to be good enough to touch Cleveland, and that isn't going to change barring major injuries in Ohio.
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