The Toronto Raptors may not be expected to compete for a championship after finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference last year, but there is optimism that they could return to the postseason, as the infrastructure of this team is strong and adaptable enough to help them bounce back.
Toronto managed to retain Gary Trent Jr. and Khem Birch, draft Scottie Barnes No. 4 overall, and add Precious Achiuwa to a roster that already included Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby. To me, that doesn’t sound like a team that is going to be picking No. 4 again.
Teams like the scoring-laden Wizards, young Hornets, and experienced Pacers will likely be right next to Toronto in the standings for a good chunk of the season, though the Raptors should feel very confident about the prospects when compared to any of these three teams.
The Raptors have at least one big advantage over the Wizards, Hornets, and Pacers. If push comes to shove late in the season or in a play-in game setting, Toronto could exploit these facts and end up getting themselves the No. 8 seed in the East, or perhaps an even higher seed.
1 advantage the Toronto Raptors have over some rivals in the East.
Washington Wizards: Bench Quality
While Washington is led by a superstar in Bradley Beal, and they at least plan to lean on a bench consisting of the spare parts they acquired in the deal that sent Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, many key contributors are coming off of some disappointing 2021 seasons, and Toronto could exploit that.
Kyle Kuzma has seen his scoring decrease, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was hot and cold, and Montrezl Harrell was exposed as one of the worst interior defenders getting major NBA minutes. Davis Bertans built a house of bricks in the playoffs, and we’re still waiting for Aaron Holiday to truly break out.
The Toronto Raptors could overwhelm the Wizards from the bench.
Toronto has a Rookie of the Year frontrunner in Barnes, an emerging guard of their own in Malachi Flynn who can cancel out Holiday, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Chris Boucher, and a wily veteran scorer in Goran Dragic. That second wave could overwhelm the Wizards.
In addition to concerns about the health of top rookie Deni Avdija, the quality of Thomas Bryant at center, and the transition to Wes Unseld Jr. and his scheme, even Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie might not be enough to get Washington past a very deep Raptors rotation.