When the 2019-2020 NBA season began, the Toronto Raptors were expected to be a good team but certainly weren’t expected to truly compete for a second straight NBA championship, not with 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard wearing a Los Angeles Clippers uniform.
And yet here they are.
With a balanced offensive attack, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in close to half a century, to complement a fantastic defense, head coach Nick Nurse, who many believe will win NBA Coach of the Year, has the Raptors in a great position to make a serious run at a second consecutive title.
The Toronto Raptors are much better than they were expected to be this season
Without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, who both bolted to Hollywood in the offseason, the Toronto Raptors were not expected to be in the position they are now. Even with a full 82-game season, most thought the defending champs might be able to get to 50 wins and finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference.
But Toronto went out and surprised everyone. When the NBA shut down back in March, the Raptors were 46-18 and then won seven of eight games in the Orlando bubble once the season resumed, finishing with a record of 53-19, good for second in the Eastern Conference. Had the full 82-game schedule been played, they likely get to 60 wins, which would have been two more than they had in the regular season last year.
So how have the Toronto Raptors done it? Balance.
The Toronto Raptors are the first team since 1973-1974 to have five players average 15 points or more
While one of the strongest defensive teams in the NBA, second in defensive rating for the season behind only the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors also have a well-balanced offensive attack. It might not be flashy but it’s certainly been effective and it’s also been historic.
The 2019-2020 Toronto Raptors were the first team in 46 years to have five players who played in at least 70% of the team’s games average 15 or more points for the season. Pascal Siakam, who earned his first All-Star selection this season, led the way with 22.9 points per game. Kyle Lowry, who has earned six consecutive All-Star selections for the Raptors, was second on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game, followed by Fred VanFleet (17.6), Norman Powell (16.0), and Serge Ibaka (15.4). Eight different players led the team in scoring in at least one game during the regular season. Siakam led the way, leading the team in scoring in 29 of the 60 games in which he played, and was one of seven different Raptors to score 30 points or more in a game.
The 1973-1974 Buffalo Braves were the last team to have five players average 15 or more points in a season, led by Bob McAdoo’s 30.6 points per game. Jim McMillian (18.6), Randy Smith (15.5), Gar Heard (15.3), and Rookie of the Year Ernie DiGregorio (15.2) also contributed to the feat.
The balance has continued into the postseason
The Toronto Raptors’ offensive balance has continued in the postseason. The defending champs have taken a 2-0 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets and the same five players are still averaging at least 15 points per game. Fred VanFleet is having a remarkable series and leads the way with 27.5 points per game, also adding 10.5 assists. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam are both averaging 18.5 points per game while Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell are averaging 15 on the number.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference