The Toronto Raptors have the misfortune of being lumped in what is arguably the best division in the entire NBA. The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers rule the roost, the upstart Knicks are far ahead of schedule, and despite some moving and shaking, the Celtics have a strong enough infrastructure to keep the wins coming in Boston.
Because of this, the fact that Toronto completely bottomed out, and Kyle Lowry’s potential departure, the idea of a rebuild kicking off in earnest has started to pick up some steam.
The one downside to this is that rebuilding is essentially waving a white flag and consigning yourself to the basement of this division for a few years. Considering how the playoffs are going right now for the two top dogs, the Raptors might get a chance to knock them off of their perch in the next few years.
The Nets were eliminated by Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Bucks in seven games after a host of injuries limited their effectiveness, and the fact that Philadelphia even needed seven games against Atlanta shows that they aren’t firing on all cylinders right now. This dysfunction could help convince Toronto to go for it next year.
The Toronto Raptors might not need to rebuild so quickly.
As stacked as these teams look, every one of them has a major flaw Toronto could exploit to jump over them in the standings.
The 76ers, should they miss out on the finals, could do some retooling, as the play styles of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid don’t seem to be meshing well. Brooklyn has all of the star power, but injuries and lack of depth ruined them, and they face many of the same question marks heading into the offseason.
Are the Knicks really this good, or are they one-year wonders? Will Boston be as good with Brad Stevens not on the sideline? If Toronto puts a combination of players on the court capable of making the postseason, they could make some noise.
If Pascal Siakam comes back healthy, and if they either retain Lowry or use the money they would’ve allocated towards bringing him back to sign a similarly talented player, Toronto will have a rotation that is by no means a last-place roster. One of those teams is getting passed by the Raptors, and they could at least be a nuisance for the two top dogs.
Toronto played well against Philadelphia this year, and even though they never got the Nets at full strength, they took them down several times. The pieces of a force to be reckoned with are there.
Let’s be frank for a minute. The Raptors are not going to be as good as the Nets next year. Brooklyn will likely open the year as the title favorites, with Philly right behind them. However, neither of them are invincible, and the Raptors could make a run if one or two lucky breaks go their way and the basketball gods remain uncharitable towards both of these teams.