NBA Division Odds – Should Bettors Be Sleeping on the Raptors?

| January 9, 2020 11:21 am PST
Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam Toronto Raptors

Sports betting is often about two things — withstanding the current moment and projecting what is to come. It is incredibly difficult to not get swept up in the ongoing drama of sports, no matter which league you’re talking about.

When it’s the NBA, it’s only magnified.

If a team is struggling, they’re toast. If you’re not a title contender now, you probably won’t be for the remainder of the year.

It can be that cut and dry, but in the case of the 2019-20 Toronto Raptors, I’m not so sure it is. Kyle Lowry and company may have proven that on Wednesday, with the team edging out the Hornets in an overtime thriller, 112-110.

This, on the heels of a back-breaking home loss to a last-second Carmelo Anthony jumper.

That displayed Toronto’s trademark resilience, even in the face of a laundry list of injuries. The latest being star guard Fred VanVleet, who was added to a pile that consists of names like Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, and Norman Powell.

Toronto isn’t the championship team everyone saw last year, but they also aren’t a trash heap. Despite their mangled roster, the Raptors keep competing every single night and doing whatever they need to in order to win.

It’s been so impressive that it’s quite arguable the NBA needs to be wary of this team getting healthy.

State of the Toronto Raptors

As things stand, the Raptors are in a surprisingly great spot. Toronto stands in with a strong 25-13 record and is just 1.5 games back from first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Raptors also own the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. They’re down 2-1 in the season series with the Boston Celtics but don’t have that fateful fourth meeting until March 20th.

Toronto has also held serve against the other elite teams in the conference, splitting their two meetings with the Philadelphia 76ers and falling in overtime in one of their showdowns with the Miami Heat.

They’ve done this at less than full strength when most teams would crumble into oblivion. Nick Nurse had done an amazing job, while veterans in Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka have taken on massive roles and responded exactly the way they’ve needed to.

The question isn’t if the Raptors are good. Despite everything they’ve been through, they are still a tough out and can get wins. They still share the ball on offense and are one of the grittiest defensive teams in basketball.

What bettors need to wonder about is how good they could be once they’re healthy again.

Assessing Toronto’s Injuries

As the Raptors stand, they’re in trouble when you look at the rest of the season. I think the coaching, system, and veteran play would keep them in the playoff hunt, but nobody can realistically expect them to maintain things forever.

At some point, Toronto needs reinforcements. They need to get some of their guys back. So far, they’ve had the luxury of winning on the fly, so they’ve been able to play it safe with their injured stars and avoid rushing them back too soon.

The two big ones are Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. FVV was just a key role player during Toronto’s title run, but that was in name only. I’m not sure the Raptors beat the Warriors without him, and that isn’t an exaggeration.

FVV is necessary for their high-level success. The good news is while his injury is somewhat serious, it shouldn’t keep him out too long. Nobody knows just how long, but VanVleet returning within the month probably isn’t unrealistic.

Then there’s Siakam, who has been sidelined since December 18th. The Raptors have not been shy to admit that he’s still “a ways away.” Dealing with a troublesome groin strain, it’s unclear exactly what that means for Siakam.

My guess is he’s out for most of January and perhaps makes his return following the All-Star break. There hasn’t been much speculation that he’d be shut down, so there remains realistic optimism that he’ll be back and 100% for the stretch run.

Norman Powell is nearing a return, while Marc Gasol may only be slightly behind him in his own groin strain recovery.

Overall, Toronto is slowly trending in the right direction from a health perspective, but it’s clear that they’ll need to hold down the fort for at least a little while longer.

Betting on the Toronto Raptors

Even if they get healthy, this never felt like a team that was going to repeat as NBA champions.

Their inability to stay healthy certainly raises questions, but the Raptors still have to contend with some good teams in their conference — not to mention perhaps the best team in the NBA in the Milwaukee Bucks.

Toronto offers pretty nice value as a +2500 champion bet, but that’s not a wager I like at all. They’ll be in the playoffs, though, and I do think they still have a real shot at winning their division.

The Raptors need to get healthy to make that happen. But even until they do, the road ahead is pretty appealing. In the next two weeks alone, they face the Spurs, Thunder, Wizards, Timberwolves, Hawks, 76ers, and Knicks.

Five of those seven games are against teams that have losing records and/or are just flat-out bad. Toronto then finishes January with games against the Spurs, Hawks, Cavs, and Pistons.

It’s an easy month that should allow Toronto to keep their head above water and remain within striking distance of the Atlantic Division.

All things considered, Toronto is a very nice value bet to win this division (+400 at BetOnline). If they can tread water and get their guys back in time, I think they’re a worthwhile flier bet to do just that.

Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at GamblingSites.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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