With a collective confidence boost from the franchise’s first trophy, the 2019-20 season became pretty quickly about the Raptors being under-appreciated as defending champs.
Whether it was the constant talk and drama around the Sixers, the regular season excellence of the Bucks, or just Dennis Scott standing next to a plasma screen assuming Toronto wouldn’t even make the post-season — the “most fun season in Raptors history” quickly centred on the always-arousing concept of dunking on the haters.
We had every right to be fired up too! Besides the departure of Kawhi Leonard, there was no reason to think Toronto’s solid bones and championship DNA wouldn’t lead them to some regular season success — at least enough to make the dance.
In fact, they climbed beyond everyone’s expectations. The team won 53 of 72 games, Nick Nurse was Coach of the Year, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam were both deserving All-Stars, and the team gave the Boston Celtics a hell of a fight in a bad matchup.
The big question, though: does this all mean we have a right to carry the same chip on our shoulder in 2020-21?
Well, if the bookies are people who can get your blood pumping, maybe we can start here. The NBA 2020-21 win total bets are open and BetOnline has pegged the Raptors at 41.5 wins in 72 games — a line that’s since moved to 41. That’s a win percentage of .569 and if it seems low, you only have to look at the post-Rudy Gay trade era to confirm your suspicions.
The books have five Eastern Conference teams ahead of the Raptors — Milwaukee (49), Boston (45.5), Brooklyn (45), Miami (43) and Philadelphia (43).
Everyone hates analysis from the couch, but I think you can go ahead and hammer the over on 41.5 wins if that’s still out there for you to bet. Sure, the Raptors have lost some pieces — Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka means Nurse will be testing out a younger, less experienced, and less talented frontcourt this season. Again, it looks like people are underestimating the bones though. Kyle Lowry is as wily as ever. Pascal Siakam has gone zero dark thirty after a playoff collapse — I’m expecting big things there. Fred VanVleet got his money. OG!
At the very least, this is a team that can get to a .600 win percentage and make some noise in the playoffs — you know, typical Toronto Raptors things — before fishing for an enormous splash in free agency.
I’m not one to tell you how to spend your money, but this is as close to a free post-covid trip as you can find. Go forth and make cash.