Why the Toronto Raptors will win the NBA title
Why the Toronto Raptors will win the NBA title
This is the year for the Toronto Raptors. Not only are they going to get out of the first round this season, they're going to go all the way to the NBA Finals.
Then, they're going to win it.
Why are the Raptors going to win it all this season? Because they can do it all: They shoot the 3. They get to the free throw line. They have rim protection and they limit shots on defense. They can play fast. They can play slow. They have an elite point guard, a tremendous complementary shooting guard, and a roster that's as deep as any in the NBA, even if you might not know all their reserves' names.
And because of all that, they can beat, have beaten, and will beat again the other elite teams in the NBA playoffs.
The Raptors have no excuse to lose to any team that's not the Spurs, Cavs, or Warriors, but that's not to say they're overmatched in those contests.
Here's why the Raptors can slay the best the NBA has to offer and win the first-ever title in franchise history:
These two teams have been squaring each other up for an Eastern Conference Finals matchup for months.
Sure, the Heat are good, and perhaps the sleeper Hornets go on a run, but it would only be right for the East's two best teams to battle for a spot in the NBA Finals.
The Cavs might be playing well as of late, but they had serious problems keeping up with the Raptors in the regular season.
The Raptors' defense might not be elite — the Cavs are going to score points — but Toronto does present a matchup nightmare to the Cavs.
First, the Raptors have a LeBron stopper — if there is such a thing — in DeMarre Carroll, the NBA's prototypical 3-and-D wing, who is returning for the Raptors' first-round series after a half-season absence.
But more importantly, the Raptors have Kyle Lowry at the point, and Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love have absolutely no idea how to stop him.
That much was readily apparent in the Raptors' Feb. 26 win over the Cavs at the Air Canada Center. Toronto made it a priority to put Love in the pick-and-roll blender, and Lowry had his way with both his primary defender, Irving, and the switch man, Love.
Picking on Love, should the Cavs continue to play him, despite his defensive liabilities, will likely be a theme for the Raptors in the series. When Luis Scola, who takes the length of the shot clock to move from half court to the baseline can do this to you at will, there's a mismatch and only fools wouldn't take advantage.
And don't think Matthew Dellavedova is going to do much better on Lowry or backup Cory Joseph. This isn't a backcourt mismatch for the Raptors, it's a landslide victory.
Lowry is averaging 31 points and 8 assists a game against the Cavs this season, shooting .660 and .438 from the field and distance respectably over three games. Those are astronomical numbers, but when you watch the tape, "luck" is not a word that comes to mind.
Frankly, there's little the Cavs could do to limit Lowry from creating the same amount of offensive output in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series, and that would be enough to cancel out LeBron's contributions on the other end.
If the Raptors can do that, it comes down to a battle of depth, and that's a battle Toronto will win every single night.
San Antonio Spurs
The Raptors don't fear the Spurs. They beat San Antonio straight-up in December and then had the game close in the final minutes of the teams' April 2 showdown that did not include the Raptors' two best players, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Against a Spurs squad that wasn't resting anybody, the Raptors' B-squad shut down every offensive avenue for San Antonio that wasn't Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. And while that doesn't sound like a good idea, it was.
In the third quarter of what was eventually a 102-95 loss, only Leonard and Aldridge scored for the Spurs, as the pair rattled off 37 straight points without getting their teammates involved.
It was by design. Toronto, using their prodigious, anonymous depth, chipped away at a sizable San Antonio lead while the two alternated isolation possessions.
The Raptors came up short in the end of that loss, but without the team's two best players on the court, it's hardly a signal of weakness.
The Raptors proved this season that they are absolutely on the level of the Spurs in a head-to-head matchup, and the addition of Carroll to the lineup — giving Toronto a primary defender on Leonard — should tilt the scales their way.
Golden State Warriors
Remember when the Warriors, the greatest regular-season team of all time, looked literally invincible — when we questioned if they would ever lose a game? Well, the team that made them look vulnerable was the Toronto Raptors.
Golden State won both regular season meetings with Toronto this season, keeping their undefeated to start the season intact at 12-0 and 21-0 in the process, but they won't forget how close Lowry came to taking that perfect record away. In the two regular-season contests, Lowry posted a gaudy offensive rating of 145, and if not for a final-possession turnover and a last-second offensive foul call, the Raptors could have easily won both games.
The Warriors are the same team they were back then. If anything, after a run of 73 wins, they're more mortal.
The Raptors, meanwhile, have improved significantly from their early season struggles — yeah, they were struggling when they played the Warriors — and there's little doubt that they could push the Warriors deep in a series.
With a little extra luck at the end of a few games, there's legitimately no reason to believe the Raptors — the team that's played the Warriors arguably better than any other team in the league this season — wouldn't be able to win four out of seven games.