No one is surprises to see the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers get off to impressive starts to the 2016-17 NBA season. Both fans and pundits are in agreement that the two current conference leaders will likely do battle in the NBA Finals in 2017 for the third season running.
While we’ve seen a number of very impressive teams this year, the Warriors and the Cavs have simply picked up from where they both left off in terms of the regular season. But there is a long time to go between now and June, and there is a host of teams who will believe they have what it takes to cause an upset and prove there are more than two teams in contention this year.
One of those franchises will be the Toronto Raptors, who have established themselves as the second best team in the Eastern Conference over a sensational three years. But despite last year making it a trio of consecutive Atlantic Division titles, going on to win their first ever seven-game series, the Cavs again proved themselves to be the Eastern Conference’s dominant force, beating Toronto 4-2 in the final on their way to their first ever NBA Championship.
The disappointment of last season will undoubtedly be a motivation for Dwayne Casey’s men, particularly DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who currently find themselves in the familiar position of second in the Eastern Conference looking up at the Cavs.
So, what chance do the Raptors have of finally shaking off that “little brother” tag and handing back a little revenge to Cleveland? Well, on the evidence of the three meetings between the two teams so far this season, very little.
The Canadian franchise have suffered three losses to the Cavaliers this regular season, leading many to believe this will be a similar storyline to last year for Toronto. But while it’s clear there is still some distance between the Raptors and the Cavs, with Toronto currently 25/1 with the latest bet365 NBA odds, Casey’s team have proved beyond doubt that they belong to being mentioned in the same breath as the Warriors, Cleveland and now the Clippers.
DeRozan and Lowry might not get the same plaudits as some duos in the NBA but there are currently few better. While DeRozan again showing why the Raptors value him so highly and Lowry possibly one of the league’s most consistent guards, Toronto have two players who are more than capable of taking apart any defense in the league. One worry for the Canadian franchise’s fans has been whether this roster has enough to handle the stress and strain of a long regular season and still have enough to produce what is needed in the postseason.
With that in mind, Casey and his coaching staff are expected to carefully manage this squad of players – especially the likes of DeRozan and Lowry, who scored 34 points in the recent win over the Celtics. One of the real strengths of this team, though, is the fact they have players capable of stepping up and filling a gap if needed, something that possibly can’t be said of the Cavaliers. If Cleveland hypothetically found themselves coming up against the Raptors in the postseason with LeBron Brown sidelined with an injury, that contest would become a much more even affair, and Toronto should definitely not be ruled out this year.