The Toronto Raptors are emerging as a genuine threat to not only the Eastern Conference but the entire NBA.
In the early stages of the 2014/2015 season a hefty claim can be made that the Toronto Raptors are the form team of the NBA.
It looks like Toronto may have finally shaken off the shackles of mediocrity and are driving the lane for genuine contender status.
Led by their superstar backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Toronto have stormed out of the blocks to a powerful 12-2 start.
The outstanding record is the equal best in the competition with the Memphis Grizzlies similarly dominant in the West.
With the 2nd highest scoring offence in NBA and the 6th most miserly defence, Toronto have been able to dispatch most teams they have come up against.
In fact, the Raptors boast an average +12.2 point differential in their games which is the best rate in the league.
Importantly, this hasn’t been against walkover teams as commonly associated in the East either.
The Raptors have scalped quality opponents from both conferences including: a rising Washington Wizards, the new look LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers and the West’s current top seed Memphis.
If arguing which team has gotten off to the best start this season – Toronto’s dominance has them sitting pretty.
You could chalk up this impressive start to the improvement that was expected after a solid season last time around, but to say this level of dominance was forecast would be a huge stretch.
Last season, the Raptors finished as the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, before being bundled out in seven games in the first round of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets.
Toronto managed a regular season record of 48–34 which isn’t terrific reading, but was still enough to take the 3rd seed in an Eastern Conference that only boasted 2 legitimate contenders in the Indiana Pacers and last year’s NBA runners-up the Miami Heat.
Still, it was enough for fans and pundits alike to expect improvement.
This improvement was more in terms of consistency at both ends of the court and perhaps a deeper playoff push.
Not to set the NBA world on fire in the first month of the season. No one expected that.
But with a backcourt that is dominating and a roster full of role players who can score and defend there is no reason to expect their luck to drastically change.
After all, it is going to be hard to stop a backcourt that is arguably the best in the league.
DeRozan is setting up to achieve superstar status with his athleticism and what is becoming an elite jumper bringing his points per game average 20.2.
As for Lowry, he is maintaining his signature consistent high level, with 18.4 points a game while also dishing out 6.2 assists.
Impressively, besides the Golden State Warriors dynamic partnership of Klay Thomson and Steph Curry, Toronto’s backcourt is the 2nd highest scoring in the league.
Then when you factor in Terrance Ross and Jonas Valanciunus who have become consistent starters who add their own unique dimensions to the Raptors line-up, a reason to join a Toronto Bandwagon becomes even clearer.
Even off the bench Toronto have options, with Lou Williams having become a standout when he was named this Week’s Eastern Conference player of the week after a devastating scoring run.
With so many positives in mind it is easy to let the mind wander, but Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is quick to right off any excessive hype that his team may be attracting.
“We’re still working on a lot of stuff, trying to figure out what we are, trying to figure out our identity,” Casey said.
“You going to tell me San Antonio, look at their record right now, you going to tell me they’re not going to be in the money?”
It’s still early to say that Toronto will challenge for the NBA title or even the Eastern Conference title, but they certainly cannot be slept on anymore.
Toronto has all the talent, and with their hot start, the confidence to continue to match it with the best.
If we continue to just focus on bigger name teams with the more recognised players then a rude shock could be coming.
Watch out. The Raptors are for real.
Written By Juan Estepa @EstepaJ