Could this be the year?
The Toronto Raptors, who seemed a million miles behind the Cleveland Cavaliers one year ago, are the favourites to end up in the NBA Finals this year.
With a 41-16 record, the Raptors enter the NBA All-Star break having won seven in a row and hold a two-game lead over the Boston Celtics for first in the East. They’re 6.5 games up on LeBron James and the Cavs.
They’re winning so much, it’s making Chris Bosh jealous.
The Raptors have bolstered their lineup with youth and energy off the bench this year, which has complemented the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka.
But can they replicate their success in the playoffs? The website Five Thirty Eight thinks so, listing the Raptors with a 51% chance to make the NBA Finals, higher than any other team.
The Houston Rockets have a 48% chance of making the Finals, with the Golden State Warriors listed at just 32%. The Cleveland Cavaliers (22%) are listed above the Boston Celtics (7%) despite having a worse record.
The methodology used includes head-to-head results, margin of victory, and quality of opponent. It also uses projections to estimate a player’s future performance based on the trajectory of similar players.
Toronto’s odds are helped by the fact they play in the East, which is weaker than the West again this season. Toronto’s odds of actually winning the title are at 20%.
The Raptors have made it past the first round of the playoffs just three times in franchise history and have made it to the Conference Finals just once. They have never made it to the NBA Finals since entering the league in 1995.