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5 Reasons why the Toronto Raptors are a legitimate title contender

773   //    10 Mar 2018, 01:08 IST

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

With a 121-119 win in overtime over the Detroit Pistons today, the Toronto Raptors have become the first team to clinch a Playoff berth in the NBA. With a 47-17 record and a win percentage of 73.4%, the Raptors are at least two games ahead of the rest of the Eastern Conference teams.

While the Raptors have been quite successful in the regular season in the past few seasons, their level of play this season seems to be on a whole new level. They rank 3rd in defensive rating (102.5), 4th in offensive rating (110.8) and have an 8.3 net rating per 100 possessions - good for 3rd best in the league.

These figures are significant because the Raptors are now the only team other than the Warriors to rank in the top 5 of all 3 efficiency rankings. With the Cleveland Cavaliers slipping down a notch after the Kyrie Irving trade this offseason, the Raptors have emerged as the likeliest team to emerge from the Eastern Conference - given the evidence that the regular season has yielded so far.

Here are the 5 reasons why the Raptors should now be counted as legitimate title contenders:

#5 Interior Dominance

Detroit Pistons v Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam and Jonas Valanciunas

The Raptors' frontcourt is one of the best in the NBA. Although they don't have a bonafide star, Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poetl, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka are four above-average players putting up solid numbers.

Jonas Valanciunas is averaging career-highs in points and rebounds in per-36 numbers (he's only playing 22.4 minutes a night). He has also added a 3-point shot (albeit that he rarely uses) to average 44.6% on 0.9 attempts per game.

Sophomores Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam have emerged as solid defensive players who could get up to 20 minutes every night.

Serge Ibaka, while no longer the two-way force that he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder, is still a valuable presence on both ends of the court. His on-ball defense, shot-blocking threat, and catch-and-shoot threat makes him a dynamic third option for the team.

Together, the Raptors frontcourt, while not blowing oppositions out every night, are a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court. They average 48.3 points in the paint per game - the best figure for any Eastern Conference team.

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Started as an Arsenal fan at the age of 6. Became a Ronaldo and a Real Madrid fan after the 2002 World Cup. Bandwagon Celtics fan this season, though I've watched the NBA with increasing frequency over the past 14 years or so. Played both games with my high school team at some of the highest levels there are in India. Played against East Bengal u-17s in college. A member of Mercurial FC, 1st division Amateur League team in Bangalore.
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