What a season it’s been Bucks fans! Not quite the year we had last year or the one we were expecting but against all odds we sneaked into the playoffs with the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. The acquisition hasn’t quite paid off yet and Michael Carter-Williams has been plagued with injuries but a few big wins late in the season gave the Bucks what they needed to get into the playoffs for the second consecutive year. In the first round of the playoffs they will play the 56-26 Toronto Raptors who just had their best regular season in franchise history.
The Raptors Probable Starters for the Playoffs
G Kyle Lowry, 6-0, Villanova
G Norman Powell, 6-4, UCLA
F DeMar DeRozan, 6-7, Southern California
F Luis Scola, 6-9, Argentina
C Jonas Valanciunas, 7-0, Lithuania
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Raptors
The Raptors biggest strength by far is the scoring combination of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Lowry averages 21 and DeRozan’s 23.5 a game ranks among the league’s best of two player combination scoring. In fact they rank in the top half of the league in scoring with 103 points a game. Another one of their big strengths is perimeter shooting as they are fourth in league shooting at 37 percent behind the arc. Lastly, Toronto is top tier defensive team this season, as they rank third in the league only surrendering 98 points a game. As for weaknesses, the Raptors have various. Outside of Lowry and DeRozan or even their starting lineup they do not have a big scorer. In fact, they are 26th in the league in bench scoring at a mere 31 points a game. Their top scorer off the bench is Cory Joseph at 10 points a game and players they invested the future in or money like Terrence Ross (5 PPG) or DeMarre Carroll (8 PPG) have been limited factors thisseason scoring wise. Also Toronto is one of the worst assist teams in the league averaging only 19 assists a game as a team; only the Los Angeles Lakers ranking behind them. Lowry is actually a top ten point guard in distributing the ball averaging 6.4 assists a game but besides him not a single player comes even close with the second best, DeRozen only averaging 3 a game. Toronto is a very good team on the perimeter offensively but defensively they are the second worst in the league with their opponents shooting 37 percent on the arc. Lastly, intangibly Toronto has struggled severely in the postseason in recent years. They headed in last season as heavy first round favorites but got swept by the Brooklyn Nets. Everything is different in the playoffs and who knows if Toronto could choke again even against a seventh seed Bucks team that they dominated throughout the regular season.
How the Bucks Would Matchup
As Eastern Conference foes the Bucks and Toronto played each other four times throughout the season and the Raptors won all four matchups. Three of those matchups were by 20 points or more and the closest was their December 11th game in Toronto where the Raptors won by seven. Against Milwaukee, Toronto averaged 103.5 points in those games and had a 48 field goal percentage. Behind the arc they performed above average shooting 43 percent. As far as Milwaukee’s offense they fell well below Toronto’s average points given up, only scoring 87 points a game against them. Mentioned before Toronto is the second worst team defensively on the perimeter but Milwaukee shot terribly against the Raptors with only a 30 three-point percentage. As far as player matchups the stats are surprising because on paper the Bucks have a significant size advantage over the Raptors. Also at all positions beside at point guard, Bucks starting players averaged double-digit points against Toronto. On the Raptor side DeRozen, Lowry and Valanciunas averaged over their season averages against the Bucks but the rest of their lineup didn’t post as impressive numbers as the entirety of the Bucks’.
What the Future Holds
Both teams hold potentially solid future. DeRozen’s contract expires after the 2016/17 season but Toronto will do anything to sign their franchise player. Lowry is 30 years old and his contract expires a year after DeRozen’s but since he’s just completed his second all-star season in a row, Toronto might go the extra mile to resign him even at his age. Because the Raptors just completed their best season in franchise history and received their highest playoff seed ever, with their youth and talent they can only get better gaining top tier in the Eastern Conference experience. This experience will help them compete against current great teams in the East like Cleveland and Miami and future great teams like Boston and Indiana. It will also along with their current talent be able to attract free agents that will be able to contribute to Toronto’s weak bench or even slot into a starting position as their shooting guard and power forward positions are currently not certain (Powell and Scola). Toronto will be a threat in the East for years to come and only playoff experience and the addition of bench scorers will make them better.