After losing Kawhi Leonard to the LA Clippers in free agency, the reigning champion Toronto Raptors weren’t the favorites to win the NBA championship going into the season — they weren’t even in the top five. Their odds have steadily improved from +2000 to +1600 since then, but they still trail the Los Angeles Lakers (+200), Milwaukee Bucks (+280), Clippers (+300), Boston Celtics (+1200) and Houston Rockets (+1400), according to Bovada.
However, while oddsmakers might not consider the Raptors a legitimate title contender, their peers do. After the Lakers lost to the Raptors on Saturday, LeBron James praised the Raptors for their coaching, roster construction and team chemistry. As if that wasn’t enough, Dwight Howard took it a step further and said that he thinks the Lakers and Raptors will see each other again this season despite the fact their regular season series is over.
"It’s going to be Toronto and the Lakers in the Finals."— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) August 2, 2020
- Dwight Howard pic.twitter.com/OxgS1CkK8X
Granted, he probably only said the Raptors because Brissett was holding the camera, but it’s really not that bold of a prediction.
The Raptors are an elite defensive team, they’re one of the most efficient 3-point-shooting teams in the league and they’re a closer unit than they were last year, when they won it all. They also have an underrated superstar in Kyle Lowry, who’s done a tremendous job of stepping back into a larger role in the absence of Kawhi Leonard.
The path to the Finals won’t be easy for either team, but they both have real chances. We’ll see what these next few months have in store for them.