The Toronto Raptors exist.
We can confirm this based on first-hand observations at their training facility and at Scotiabank Arena during pre-season.
However, the NBA media outside of Toronto remains skeptical, purely based on the number of mentions and attention the team has received from outside its own city this preseason.
It’s a challenge to find the Raptors’ presence even in the early season predictions. For those listing all 30 teams, Toronto is obviously represented, but is rarely ranked outside the bottom third of the final Eastern Conference standings.
That’s fair, but the door is wide open for the Raptors to surprise the league this year.
The Raptors, who were league champions just five seasons ago, are a fixture in the NBA this year.
The 41-41 mark a year ago is unlikely to be matched, as the majority of prognosticators across the league have the Raptors somewhere around the 37-win mark. The reasoning, and it’s not necessarily wrong, is that the team lost its starting point guard to no return and is entering the season with a rookie head coach and three key players who, as things stand, are considering free agency in July.
There are hardly any mentions when it comes to price discussions. We noted that NBC’s Darko Rajakovic deserves at least an honorable mention for Coach of the Year if he can help this team recover from the mess a year ago. John Hollinger of The Athletic also recognized Rajakovic for the award.
WHERE YOU WILL END
Sporting News, of all the media outlets outside of Toronto, appears to have the highest rating on the Raptors, picking them seventh in the East based on a strong finish to the year after the team finally added a true center in Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline.
According to ESPN’s numerical projections, the Raptors are ranked ninth in the East with just over a 50/50 chance of making the East play-in tournament. However, the ESPN panel leaves the Raptors completely out of the playoff picture.
According to Sports Illustrated, the Raptors are in 12th place in the East, ahead of only Charlotte, Detroit and Washington.
Fox Sports seems to rate the Raptors relatively highly compared to other US media, but is hardly committed. Toronto is ahead of Indiana, Washington, Charlotte, Orlando and Detroit in the East and has the same chances as Brooklyn, Atlanta and the Chicago Bulls for a playoff spot, although they don’t decide over the others and have a better season record than the Hawks or Nets seems unlikely.
Bleacher Report shows that the Raptors are the least respected by opinions south of us. They expect Toronto to finish with 36 wins and 13th place in the East, so no chance of making the play-in tournament.
According to NBC Sports, they make the play-in as the No. 9 seed in the East, but don’t get out of the tournament like they did last season.
NBA.com has Toronto all over the map. In their writers’ predictions, released about two weeks ago, only Steve Aschburner sees the Raptors in the top eight in the East and Toronto at No. 8. The rest of the in-house writers on the league’s website predict Toronto will miss the playoffs Not at all, although John Schuhmann, who tirelessly compiles the weekly power rankings for the league, suspects that Toronto is currently in eighth place in the East, having only had two perfect preseason runs in the league (Minnesota had the other ).
Schuhmann left the Raptors looking more open on the outside in the hunt for a playoff spot for two weeks after performing relatively well in the preseason. He suggests that with a bit of luck they could finish somewhere between fifth and eighth in the East.
RAPTORS IN THE NEWS
However, there are few mentions of individual Raptors in preseason releases.
Third-year pro Scottie Barnes, who burst onto the NBA scene with a Rookie of the Year award in his debut, is projected by The Ringer to be one of the players to make his All-Star debut this year will give.
Zach Harper and Shams Charania of The Athletic also mention Barnes, but as a player they predict will be the first to take on Victor Wembanyama, the projected 2023-24 NBA Rookie of the Year. Toronto takes on San Antonio in the French wonderboy’s sixth game of the year.
The Ringer does mention all three of Toronto’s potential free agents at the end of the season – Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. – but in the context of three of the 10 players most likely to be traded before the end of the season.
And if all that isn’t enough to make even the most mild-mannered Raptors fan complain about the lack of respect for their franchise, Schuhmann also has this little nugget to offer regarding the Raptors’ national prominence this season:
“The Raptors have the lowest ratio of national TV appearances (four) to wins in 2022-23 (41). Three of these four appearances are away games on NBA television, with the Jan. 18 home game against Chicago (TNT) being the lone exception.”
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