2018 Toronto Raptors Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
Things have been weird since the regular season ended in Toronto. Bold, but weird. They won 59 games to become the No. 1 seed in the conference in the playoffs, but once the playoffs started things went downhill fast. They struggled far more than they should have to get past Washington in the first round in six games and just rolled over and died against the Cavaliers. They didn't even put up a fight as they got swept. It was instantly and painfully clear that the status quo wasn't going to get them where they wanted to go - not with Boston and Philadelphia looking as strong as they do. So, the team went nuclear. New coach. New star. Longtime star sent packing. Not necessarily a long window with this team, but some real upside. It will be fun - if only for one year.
We'll look at the big additions in a second, but it is important to also pay attention to the guys who are still here. Kyle Lowry is a Top 10 point guard, he's still productive, and these changes should only benefit him. I expect a big year from him. Jonas Valanciunas is a center of the old school, but new coach Nick Nurse is a big fan, and we should see the ways he is used increase. He and Serge Ibaka make a good combination up front. OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are all younger guys coming off surprisingly excellent years last year, and they all have a chance to get even better this year. Toronto's depth was a big advantage last year, and it should be this year as well.
2018 Toronto Raptors Additions and Departures
We aren't here to read about the Raptors because of what is the same, though. It's all about the changes. And one change above all else. Management for this team is not afraid to be bold, and there wasn't much you could have done this year that would have been bolder than trading for Kawhi Leonard. He is a Top 5 talent in the league, but there is plenty of uncertainty. He is coming off a year of injury and discontent, so his mental and physical state are both unclear. And he seems to have no interest in staying in Toronto when he becomes a free agent next year. Perhaps Toronto hopes to pull off a miracle like Oklahoma City did with Paul George - Toronto is a great and underappreciated city, and maybe Leonard will learn to love it - but the risk is high. And they also had to give up their biggest star, DeMar DeRozan, to get him. There is a lot that could go wrong. But Leonard is a uniquely special talent. And in a league this star-driven and top-heavy, if you get a chance to bring in a guy like him you do it - no matter what it might mean in the long term. Leonard becomes the team's best defender and their best offensive star. New coach Nurse is a defensive-minded guy, and there is a lot of guys with defensive focus on this team. They are going to be very hard to play against. And if Leonard is happy, healthy and focused then things could really get interesting.
Leonard wasn't the only prize in the trade. Danny Green is a top-rated shooter who gets even better when things get clutch. He had an off year last year - at least by his standard - but it was a weird year in San Antonio, so that is to be expected. He should fit like a glove here.
The coaching change is also significant. Dwane Casey was named Coach of the Year last year, but by the time he collected his hardware he had been fired and hired in Detroit. You don't see that every day, but despite being a strong coach something wasn't quite working with him and this team. It was a necessary move. The team launched into a serious search after Casey was booted but wound up staying close to home, hiring Nick Nurse, who has been an assistant in Toronto for five years. This is his first NBA head coaching job, but he has run teams in the G-League and in Europe, and he is highly regarded. It is a positive hire and should really be able to amp up the defensive strengths of this team - of which there are many.
2018 Toronto Raptors Futures Odds and Trends
NBA title odds ( from Bovada ) : +1400
Eastern Conference title odds : +350
Kawhi Leonard MVP Odds : +1100
Kyle Lowry MVP Odds : +32500
Season win total: 55
The Raptors were 48-43-1 ATS last season, including the playoffs, which means that they were very slightly profitable on the season. They went "over" the total 46 times and "under" 44, so the total did not offer long-term profits.
2018 Toronto Raptors Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
I really like this team. I'm a Canadian, so I am obligated to - We The North, and all. Leonard is incredible. And even if this isn't a place he wants to be, he can do a whole lot of damage if he is healthy and focused. And the supporting cast is strong here. It is a given that they are a Top 3 team in the East, and I think Top 2 is reasonable to expect. The playoffs are going to be tough in the East, and past experience makes me hesitant to trust them to run a gauntlet that could require them to get past both Philly and Boston. I have picked Philly to win the conference and I will stick with that, but a Toronto win would be far from a shock. And neither would it be a shock for Leonard to discover that Toronto actually isn't a bad place to be - that it is more fun being top dog for a great team than being LeBron's whipping boy in L.A.
Doc's Sports is offering $60 worth of member's picks absolutely free - no obligation, no sales people - you don't even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please on any of our top NBA handicappers. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free . Also, for a limited time only get three top NBA handicappers for the price of one! Click Here . Get free NBA picks today at Doc's Sports basketball predictions page.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of Today's NBA Picks
Get all of Today's Guaranteed Expert NBA Picks