Whether it’s the frenzy of creating superstar duos, the braggadocio of Klay Thompson, or the fact that it’s early August and we’ve all slowed down our basketball talk — it seems like the only team not being talked about right now are the NBA champion Toronto Raptors.
It does make sense to a degree. Losing Kawhi Leonard took the wind out of the sails for the Raptors in any mainstream conversation. But are the expectations really swinging that violently into tepid waters? Las Vegas seems to think so.
According to Sports Betting Dime, two major sportsbooks — BetOnline and Bovada — have the latest Raptors win total for 2019-20 set at 45.5 games, a 12.5 win drop from last year’s result. Only the Oklahoma City Thunder are seeing a more precipitous drop in their expected fortunes for next season, with a 16.5 win total drop to 32.5. You can convince me of that: their best player going into next year is Steven Adams.
Is Vegas slandering the Raptors too far though? There’s still a collection of All-Star talent on this team, regardless of the ages. Between a medium-sized three of Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol, there’s at least the idea that this can be a team that runs back its defensive presence from a year ago. It wasn’t just Kawhi’s doing that the team’s nine-man rotation was able to quickly turn into the NBA’s most ferocious defence over single possessions.
Sure, the offensive side of the ball is a bit more questionable. A 12.5 win drop in the Eastern Conference, though, would be hard to achieve — especially considering the unknowns from the supposed new powerhouses. Will Philadelphia stay healthy and find a go-to source of offence in clutch situations? Can Milwaukee run rampant like they did last year with a bit less depth? There’s still many more mediocre teams than great teams in the East, too, which will help the Raptors fight for a home court seeding.
Summer NBA takes are all about hyperbole, so this is nothing new for the first week of August. We don’t really have real stuff to argue about. Looking at next season, though, I’m of the opinion that some easy money can be made by hammering the over on the Raptors winning 45.5 games.