3 reasons why Toronto are dark horse favorites in the East

What a season it has been for the Toronto Raptors. After spending the whole lot of the 2020 – 21 season away from Canada, the workforce has discovered a solution to get better from that terrible season. The drafting of Scottie Barnes, in addition to the rejuvenation of Pascal Siakam, has helped the workforce turn out to be one of many higher groups within the league once more this season.

After struggling to start out the 12 months on account of a myriad of accidents, the Raptors have discovered themselves on the center of the convention in fifth place. With a playoff spot locked up, it’s truthful to marvel what the ceiling of this squad could be. Here are just a few the explanation why the Raptors are darkish horse favorites within the Eastern Conference.

3 the explanation why Pascal Siakam, Raptors are darkish horse favorites within the Eastern Conference

Pascal Siakam, All-NBA contenderRaptors, Pascal Siakam

The final two years have been fairly tough for Pascal Siakam. In 2019, the Raptors ahead was having fun with a profession 12 months, incomes All-Star honors that 12 months. However, the COVID pandemic slowed him down considerably, and he was a shell of himself within the bubble. Then, within the following season, Siakam can be affected by accidents, as he failed to seek out any semblance of consistency.

This season, it extra of the identical, as Siakam was injured to start out the 12 months. However, when he began to play once more, it was clear that one thing was completely different with him… in a great way.

Pascal Siakam has actually turn out to be one of many NBA’s hardest covers on protection, because the Raptors ahead is a matchup nightmare. Slower forwards get blown by, whereas smaller wings get abused within the publish. However, there’s one huge think about Siakam’s elevation from good to nice: his playmaking.

Siakam’s playmaking has been first rate in his profession, however an incapability to appropriately punish double-teams was his greatest downside. This 12 months, the Raptors ahead made a concerted effort to enhance his passing recreation. Now, groups can’t simply double Siakam and hope for the most effective, since he’ll all the time discover the open man. He’s making a case to be a part of the All-NBA workforce along with his insane efficiency this 12 months.

The supporting solid, stepping as much as the plate

It’s not simply Pascal Siakam who’s been phenomenal for the Raptors this season. Throughout the 12 months, many gamers have stepped up and proved their value to the workforce. Their top-8 rotation is simply pretty much as good as some other workforce within the Eastern Conference.

Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby are two key items from the 2019 Raptors championship core, and their expertise has been invaluable. FVV has been a clutch machine for the workforce, in addition to a chilled presence on offense. When he’s wholesome, Anunoby has been the lock-down defender of the workforce, shutting down their opponent’s prime scorer.

Their closing lineup is completed by an unlikely duo (for various causes): Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes. Coming from Portland with a fame for being a scorer, Trent Jr. has shocked Raptors followers by offering a spark on protection alongside his sizzling capturing from the surface. Meanwhile, Barnes has been arguably the Raptors’ finest participant at occasions, doing just a little little bit of all the pieces on either side of the ball and incomes ROY votes within the course of.

Off the bench, Chris Boucher has settled into his function as an energizer huge who supplies nice assist protection and capturing from deep. Precious Achiuwa has carved out a job as a flexible switching huge man with first rate (albeit streaky) vary from the surface. Khem Birch, Dalano Banton, and Malachi Flynn have all performed decently as properly, whereas new addition Thaddeus Young stabilized a shaky Raptors bench along with his veteran presence.

The Raptors have a bunch of serviceable gamers who can fill many roles. That’s one thing that

Matching up properly in opposition to the highest

The playoffs are primarily based totally on matchups. If you play a workforce you’re ill-equipped in opposition to, you’re certain to lose. This is why groups typically prioritize having completely different appears, as a way to compensate for potential bizarre matchups. The Raptors are maybe the workforce finest outfitted to match properly in opposition to the most effective groups within the East.

The Raptors have gained notoriety for having a number of long-limbed forwards of their roster. OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa… you get the drift. This roster development permits the Raptors to adapt in opposition to most groups, no matter what lineup they trot out. It additionally helps that Nick Nurse’s scheme absolutely makes use of his protection’s size, utilizing heavy closeout and crisp scrambles to throw off opposing offenses.

The Raptors match up properly in opposition to each the Heat and the Celtics, as seen with their 2-2 document in opposition to each groups. The Sixers in concept needs to be a nasty matchup for the workforce, however historical past exhibits that Nurse has performed properly countering Joel Embiid’s presence. The Bucks, alternatively… are a stunning 0 – 3 to the Raptors, together with a recreation the place all three All-Stars for Milwaukee performed.

It’s undoubtedly not going to be simple, however the Raptors have the expertise to make it out of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The workforce is coming collectively on the proper time, and their chemistry is at an all-time excessive. At the very least, no workforce will need to face Toronto within the playoffs, lest they danger being an upset story.

Shaq, Dwyane Wade, Jamal Crawford

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