The Toronto Raptors do exist.
We can confirm that based on first-hand observations at their practice facility and at Scotiabank Arena through the pre-season.
The NBA media outside of Toronto though remains skeptical based purely on the number of mentions and attention the team has received from outside its own city this pre-season.
Finding a Raptors’ presence even in prediction pieces heading into the season is a challenge. For those that list all 30 teams, Toronto is obviously accounted for but rarely before the bottom third of the Eastern Conference final standings.
That’s fair but the door has been left wide open for these Raptors to surprise the league this year.
A league champion just five seasons ago, the Raptors are a definite after thought around the NBA this year.
The 41-41 finish a year ago is not expected to be reached with the majority of the prognosticators league-wide picking the Raptors somewhere around the 37 win mark. The justification, and it’s not necessarily wrong, is the team lost it’s starting point guard for no return and goes into the season with a rookie head coach and three key players looking at free agency come July as it stands now.
In terms of award talk the mentions are almost non-existent. We noticed Darko Rajakovic got at least an honourable mention from NBC for coach of the year if he can help this team rebound from the mess it was a year ago. John Hollinger of The Athletic also gave an honourable mention nod to Rajakovic for that award.
WHERE THEY WILL FINISH
Sporting News, of all media outlets outside of Toronto, seems highest on the Raptors, picking them seventh in the East based on a strong finish to the year once the team finally employed a true centre in Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline.
ESPN’s numerical projections have the Raptors finishing ninth in the East with a just better than 50/50 chance of getting into the play-in tournament in the East. The ESPN panel however leaves the Raptors completely out of the playoff picture.
Sports Illustrated has the Raptors finishing 12th in the East ahead of only Charlotte, Detroit and Washington.
Fox Sports seems relatively high on the Raptors compared to other U.S. media outlets but hardly committed. They have Toronto finishing ahead of Indiana, Washington, Charlotte, Orlando and Detroit in the East and with the same odds as Brooklyn, Atlanta and the Chicago Bulls of garnering a playoff spot though they don’t pick one above the other and a better season record than the Hawks or Nets seems unlikely.
Bleacher Report shows the Raptors the least respect from opinions to the south of us. They predict Toronto to finish with 36 wins and 13th in the East so no shot at the Play-In tournament.
NBC Sports has them making the Play-in as a No. 9 seed in the East but failing to come out of the tournament similar to last season.
NBA.com is all over the map with Toronto. In their writer’s predictions published about two weeks ago only Steve Aschburner has the Raptors in the top eight in the East and he has Toronto sitting at No. 8. The rest of the in-house writers at the league website predict Toronto to miss the playoffs entirely though John Schuhmann, who tirelessly puts together the weekly power rankings for the league suggests Toronto currently sits eighth in the East following one of only two perfect pre-season runs in the league (Minnesota had the other).
Schuhmann had the Raptors on the outside looking in for a playoff spot two weeks seems more open following a relatively good showing in the pre-season. He suggests they could finish anywhere from fifth to 8th in the East with some good fortune.
RAPTORS IN THE NEWS
Individually, though, mentions of any Raptors in pre-season publications are few and far between.
Third-year pro Scottie Barnes, who burst on to the NBA scene with a Rookie-of-the-Year Award in his debut, is predicted by The Ringer to be a guy who will make his all-star debut this year.
Zach Harper and Shams Charania of The Athletic mention Barnes as well but as the player they predict will be the first to dunk on presumed 2023-24 NBA Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama. Toronto opposes San Antonio in Game 6 of the year for the French wonder boy.
The Ringer does mention all three of Toronto’s potential free agents at the end of the season – Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. — but in the context of three of the 10 players most likely to be traded before the season is over.
And if all of that is not enough to get the most mild-mannered Raptors supporter bemoaning the lack of respect for their franchise, Schuhmann has this little nugget to offer up in terms of national exposure for the Raptors this season:
“The Raptors have the lowest ratio of national TV appearances (four) to 2022-23 wins (41). Three of those four appearances are road games on NBA TV, with their Jan. 18 home game vs. Chicago (TNT) being the only exception.”
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