The long-awaited return of the NBA and the defending champion Toronto Raptors is finally over. The professional basketball league starts tonight, with four teams kicking off the opening-night slate. One of those teams is the Raptors, who will face the New Orleans Pelicans in Toronto. Hopes would normally be sky high for a defending NBA champion off its first-ever team title, but expectations are a little muted for the Raptors this year, following the off-season departure of star forward Kawhi Leonard. Even without their departed star, though, the Raptors have a strong core of players who could make some noise in the regular season and a run in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the Raptors’ first week of the season.
The Raptors still have a team that’s loaded with young talent and supplemented by cagey veterans. Right before the season tipped off, the Raptors came to an agreement on a four-year deal worth $130 million with Pascal Siakam, locking up one of their best players.
The Raptors also have a solid point guard in Kyle Lowry who signed a one-year extension and veteran center Marc Gasol, who picked up a player option for this season.
In the offseason, the Raptors took some chances on younger players on the wing with a lot of athleticism, hoping either Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Stanley Johnson could end up being a diamond in the rough.
Even with Leonard no longer in town, many NBA pundits predict the Raptors will still have a winning record and reach the playoffs next spring. The team has too much talent to simply fall by the wayside, and the Eastern Conference — while improving — isn’t as strong as the Western Conference. A season with 45 wins or so is very possible.
First up on the slate for the Raptors is a home matchup against the Pelicans on Tuesday night. They’ll then travel to Boston to face the Celtics on Friday night, and then onto Chicago to face the Bulls on Saturday night.
The biggest story for the Pelicans this off-season was their trade of star center Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. The team had the first pick in the NBA Draft, and it selected Duke star Zion Williamson to be the heir apparent. However, Williamson will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season with a knee injury.
The Pelicans are starting a youth movement in New Orleans, and not much is expected of the team in terms of standings this season as a result. They do have a lot of young talent, though, which could lead to some upsets and exciting games. In fact, they got a nice haul back from the Lakers for Davis, which included experienced players Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart.
The Raptors’ wagering outlook
In their first game of the season, the Raptors are currently 7-point home favorites over the Pelicans, and are favored -305 on the moneyline. The moneyline seems a little steep, unless you’re willing to lay a lot of juice on the Raptors winning.
The 7-point line may be enticing for some bettors who think emotions will be high for the Raptors in their home arena as defending champions, and with so many new players on the Pelicans. That seems to be a decent play. For players who like points, this game could have them, with a posted total of 231.5.
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