Can the Toronto Raptors Reach the NBA Finals?
With the NBA moving ever closer to a return it is time to start thinking about possible playoff matchups. Many seem to want to pencil in the Milwaukee Bucks against one of the teams from Los Angeles. The Bucks have indeed been phenomenal this year, boasting a historic record and point differential led by a player who is likely on track to win a second consecutive MVP. So why would I be considering a different team coming out of the East?
Honestly, because Toronto gets ignored far too often. Many wrote them off coming into this season given the losses of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, myself included. But without much fanfare they are sporting a better win percentage than they finished last season with. The ceiling of the team has risen along with the rise of some of their young players, spearheaded by the huge leap from Pascal SIakam.
Siakam averaged 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds in the post-season last year as a third option. So far this season he is even better, averaging 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists while improving his 3-point shooting to 35.9 percent on 6.0 attempts per game. He is growing as a leader of this team and would be looking to redeem himself from the two losses the team suffered to the Bucks this regular season.
The Raptors were missing Gasol for the second meeting and this time off should work wonders for the big man being ready to make a push for another title. Toronto is one of the few teams that can come close to matching Milwaukee’s depth and has the experience needed to beat a team like the Bucks. It will not be an easy series for either team, but the Raptors last year showed the ability to eliminate Antetokounmpo.
Kyle Lowry was a big reason for this and his clutch play came through in the first matchup of the teams this year. As good of a defender as Bledsoe can be, Lowry tends to have his way with the former Wildcat. Bledsoe was almost played off the court in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and with Fred VanVleet and Norm Powell only getting better it is not hard to imagine that happening again.
While the most likely outcome is the Bucks moving on and taking the East, that might be exactly what the champs want you to think. They will pick their spots and use their veteran leadership and young depth to present as harsh of a challenge as the Bucks could ask for.