Back to Back Titles for the Raptors?
It was a case of thanks but no thanks in the off season as the Raptors tried tempting last season's star man Kawhi Leonard back for another season in the North. However, he opted to sign for the Clippers, but don't expect Toronto to be less competitive without him. They're the current NBA Champions. They will not relinquish their championship without a fight.
They're around the +4500 mark in terms of odds for retaining their title. That's incredible value if you believe they can do it. Many would argue that they've just not got the best squad anymore compared to other sides, though. Incidentally, the Clippers are the preseason joint favourites with the Lakers at around +378. Check out who offers the better odds before placing your bet. Betfair New Jersey, Bovada, 5Dimes - do your research as it's imperative you get the best price available.
Raptors Pre-Season Results
Two losses and two defeats. Not ideal, but it's only pre-season, right? Arguably so, but the defeats could have a psychological effect on the team heading into the new season. They started well with a 134-129 win over the Houston Rockets, but lost just two nights later against the same side 118-111. Ok, dust yourself off and simply win at home to the Bulls next? That ended in defeat too - by 105 points to 91. How often do you see the Raptors score under 100 points? Not too often these days. However, they did put on a convincing display to see off the Brooklyn nets in their last game before the season started by beating them 123-107.
It's those two defeats that have seen their price drift slightly to retain their title, but it will be mid-November, after 10 games, when Raptors fans will realistically know whether their side has a chance of making it back to back titles or not.
Kyle Lowry is the Key for the Raptors
Back from thumb surgery and having just signed a one year extension worth a massive $31m, a lot of responsibility will fall on Kyle Lowry's shoulders this season as he looks to repay the faith and steer his side to glory once again.
"We've all got something to prove every single night we step out there. That's one thing I can tell you has remained consistent since I've been here - everyone always has something to prove. So why not try to get back there, right?" he said at a recent press conference. "You don't want to say: "Well, I got there once.' You want to continue to try and get back there every single year."
If he can stay injury-free, Lowry at his best is almost unstoppable. Toronto will need every ounce of his skill and talent in order to compete with the best this season. Let's not forget Fred VanVleet either. One of the best backup point guards last season, he rotates well with Lowry and can be counted upon as a solid backup when Lowry's rested. If they're both on top of their game, the Raptors can beat anyone. Especially on home soil.
Who are the Favourites?
Discounting the Raptors, there are arguably four teams that stick out as title challengers this year. Golden State, the Lakers, the Clippers, and Milwaukee. Both LA sides have a great chance this season.
Filled with talent, this Lakers side look the team to beat this year. Anthony Davis and LeBron James are two men who expect to have a fantastic season. Keep an eye out for Kyle Kuzma too. After a great rookie season, he's going to be called upon to put in some strong displays this season. If he does that and the Lakers are firing on all cylinders, it'll be hard to stop them.
Another top, top side in LA. The Clippers are arguably just a good as their city rivals this season, with ex Raptors wizard Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pulling the strings for them. They've got a great squad, and if they can all stay fit, they will run the Lakers very close.
Golden State Warriors
Two words. Steph Curry. He's always a threat from anywhere on the court, but the likes of D'Angelo Russell and Klay Thompson should see them go close this year.
If the title is going to be won outside of Los Angeles this year, aside from the Warriors, the Bucks are arguably the best side to put up a challenge. They have the extremely talented Giannis Antetokounmpo in their side, but they cannot afford to rely on him all season. They've not won an NBA title for 48 years, and if they're to win another then players like Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe need to step up.
With so many great squads in the league this season, it's shaping up to be an incredibly exciting 2019/20 NBA season. Can the Raptors win it again? Or will the title be heading to the west coast? Let the drama begin.