- The Toronto Raptors have started the season 1-5 after Monday night’s demoralizing loss to Boston
- A poor string of performances offensively has seen the Raps slide to +1200 to win the Atlantic Division
- Are Toronto worth a bet to win the division with a West Coast swing upcoming?
The Toronto Raptors have won the Atlantic Division in six of the last seven seasons. They were fourth favorites for the division coming into the season, and while they remain at that place in the Atlantic hierarchy, they have seen their odds slip to +1200.
Already an outsider in NBA championship odds, the Raptors’ 1-5 start to the regular season has seen them drop from Eastern Conference challengers to middle of the pack. Toronto has made the headlines in James Harden trade rumors, and a disciplinary issue with Pascal Siakam, but their on-court play has left a lot to be desired so far.
NBA 2021 Atlantic Division Odds
|New York Knicks||+25000|
Odds taken on January 5th from FanDuel
Only Way Is Up
Projections and predictions of the 2020-21 Raptors varied. No one expected them to struggle anywhere near this much. A pair of losses to the Pelicans look disappointing, but they cannot be evaluated properly until we know how good New Orleans is. Falling to the much-improved Sixers was not much of a surprise.
The loss to the Spurs is the worst at first glance, but there wasn’t a great deal the Raps could do against an inspired DeMar DeRozan. The former Raptor was the best offensive player on the floor, shooting 58.8% from the field and going three-for-four from deep. Games like that happen. The same can be said for Jayson Tatum’s 40-point gem on Monday.
Even after Boston’s offensive explosion in their last game, the Raps are still ninth in defensive rating. They are 10th in opponent shots at the rim, and they’re doing a good job at defending the three-point shot – they are eighth in opponent three-point percentage.
Defensively, at least, Toronto has been good. The other side of the ball is where the concern lies.
Last in field goal percentage, 29th in offensive rating and hitting just 33.5% of their threes, the Raptors offense has been woeful so far. They lead the league in three-point attempts (partly through design, partly through difficulty creating good looks). Almost 36% of their shots are non-corner threes, though.
Through games on Jan. 4, here’s how all members of the Toronto Raptors have fared in TPA during the 2020-21 #NBA season. pic.twitter.com/fIRxiGxU8a
— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) January 5, 2021
Only two teams got a higher percentage of shots at the rim last season. Toronto is down in 19th in that category this season.
The offense has been poor. Marc Gasol’s passing is sorely missed. Shot creation off the bounce is lacking. There are fundamental reasons to believe these Raptors will be no more than average offensively, but that’s still a lot better than where they have been so far.
There’s sufficient talent to be a competent offensive team. Improvement will come on the offensive end, partly through settling into life without Gasol and Serge Ibaka, but just as significantly, through their key players working through some cold streaks.
Fred VanVleet looked to break out of a slow start with a 35-point, 13-for-20 night against Boston. Siakam, OG Anunoby and Kyle Lowry are hovering around 40% from the field. Norm Powell is closer to 30%. It might seem reductive, but some of their struggles are a simple case of shots not falling. That will change.
Toronto looked a good bet to win the division before the season. Philadelphia look strong, as have Brooklyn at points, and Boston have picked up wins without Kemba Walker, but the strength of this Raptors roster should not be downplayed. Their division rivals are all carrying flaws and working through their own issues.
Although already with plenty of ground to make up on the 6-1 Sixers, the Raps look a decent bet at +1200 to win the division, though it might be worth waiting to see how they fare on their upcoming four-game road trip against the Suns, Kings, Warriors and Blazers.
They really need at least two wins out of that stretch. They return for consecutive home games with the Hornets – it’s not impossible they are 6-6 by the time they host the Dallas Mavericks on January 18th.
The Raptors aren’t perfect, but they are much better than their record and offensive statistics suggest. In a division full of talent and uncertainty in nearly equal measure, the Raps are worth backing at +1200.