When LeBron James took his talent to the Western Conference to join the Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference becomes vulnerable and expected to have a new ruler in the 2018-19 NBA season. Before the start of the season, three NBA teams emerged as the top favorites to fully dominate the Eastern Conference, including the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors were already making a huge noise in the Eastern Conference Playoffs in the past seasons. However, most people believe that their decision to trade for Kawhi Leonard made them a legitimate title contender in the Eastern Conference. Even All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson expects the Golden State Warriors to face the Raptors in the NBA Finals 2019.
“Right now they’re the best, and I expect them to be there throughout the whole season,” Thompson told reporters (h/t Sportsnet). “They’ve got tremendous length and so many two-way players. Obviously, Kawhi (Leonard) is back and playing at an MVP level. Kyle Lowry is a great leader, as well as a bulldog out there. So it’s going to be a great test for us. Who knows, it might be a preview of June. They’ve got something really special up there in Canada right now.”
As of now, the Raptors are on a five-game winning streak and hold the best record in the league. They rank 3rd in NBA’s offensive efficiency, scoring 111.9 points per 100 possessions, and 6th in NBA’s defensive efficiency, allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions, per ESPN.
Takeaways from Warriors' 116-110 win over the Orlando Magic— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 27, 2018
-Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson being in attack mode
-Durant's obsession with efficiency
-How Klay & Durant navigated absence to Steph & Draymond
-Steve Kerr trusting Kevon Looney in crunch time https://t.co/26GxRe7p2H pic.twitter.com/f2T828jjvN
Meanwhile, despite not having Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors remain as one of the best NBA teams in the Western Conference. After going on a four-game losing streak, the Warriors managed to win their last three games, thanks to the explosive performances of Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.
On Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena, NBA fans will be seeing, as Thompson said, the preview of the NBA Finals 2019. Though the Warriors will still be playing without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, the upcoming game could help the fans assess if the potential new Eastern Conference representative has a real chance of dethroning the reigning NBA champions.
Unlike the Warriors who remain as the heavy favorite to rule the Western Conference, the Raptors’ road to the NBA Finals won’t be smooth, especially with the emergence of other Eastern Conference powerhouse teams like the Philadephia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. The Sixers have made a huge upgrade on their team with the acquisition of Jimmy Butler via trade, while the Celtics are soon expected to figure out how to maximize the effectiveness of their very talented roster.