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  Can the Toronto Raptors shock the rest of the NBA this season?

The Toronto Raptors are one of the NBA's newest franchises after they were formed just 20 years ago. Since then, they have slowly worked their way up the Eastern Conference ladder and have been a pivotal member of the playoffs in recent years, winning the Atlantic Division in each of the last two seasons.

As of December 8th, Toronto are sixth in the Eastern Conference but once again have a grip of the division and hold a slender lead over nearest challengers Boston Celtics. There are still plenty of matches left in the regular season but, on current form, Toronto will be difficult to beat and here's why.

So far, Toronto have shown enough quality to suggest that they could indeed challenge for a place in the NBA Finals this season. Fortunately, they are in the opposite conference to both Golden State Warriors, who beat Toronto in a close encounter, and San Antonio Spurs, who are both arguably the top two sides in the league.

If the Raptors reach the playoffs, they may be forced to beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, that is certainly possible. While the Cavs have an excellent home record, they are inconsistent on the road and could be defeated.

Despite ranking as the best team in the Atlantic Division, the bookmakers at the time this article was produced are offering lucrative odds of 40/1 on Toronto to win the NBA title this season.
Traditionally, the Atlantic Division has been fairly strong but none of the franchises have managed to make a major impact on the league in recent years. In fact, two of the worst teams in the NBA - the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers - ply their trade in the division, which may be a reason as to why Toronto's regular season record may be slightly skewed in comparison to their playoff form in recent years.

It would take a brave man to back against the likes of Golden State and San Antonio but the Raptors are one of the dark horses for success and it would be foolish to overlook Dwane Casey's side.

Realistically, Kyle Lowry will be crucial to Toronto's chances - especially after they lost DeMarre Carroll for an indefinite spell. The point-guard, who was included in the NBA All-Star Team in 2015, has been phenomenal in the early stages of the season and the Raptors will be looking towards him for inspiration when the going gets tough later on in the campaign.

Lowry is averaging 22.2 points per game, which is an incredible achievement. To put that into perspective, LeBron James is averaging 26.2 points per contest. While it would be foolish to compare the two players, Lowry's impact and influence on Toronto's results is clear for all to see.

kyle lowry

by michalkajzerek

So, can they go all the way and win the coveted NBA Championship? While the odds are stacked against them, there aren't many teams who possess the same spirit and intensity as Toronto.
If Lowry avoids a serious injury, the Raptors will stand a great chance of defying the odds and winning their first title this season. However, they must focus primarily on winning the Atlantic Division for the third year in a row - that must be their main objective. From there, who knows…

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