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It's Time To Pay Attention To The Defending NBA Champions

The hottest team in the NBA right now isn't the Bucks, it's not the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Jazz, Nuggets, Celtics, Sixers, or Heat. You best believe if a number of those teams were on the type of run this team is it would be all we heard about. This team has won 14 games in a row, has the #1 offense, #4 defense, and #2 net rating since the streak started. They are quickly approaching one month without a loss. Who is it?

The defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

Can you imagine if the Lakers or Clippers went on a streak like this? ESPN would be cumming themselves. Instead, it's the Raptors so we don't hear shit about it. That's why I want to make sure they get their due because they have basically proved the entire internet and pundits wrong. Unless you are a Raptors fan, we all thought the same thing once Kawhi decided to take his talents out West. This team was cooked. You thought it, I thought it, we all thought it outside of Toronto fans. Well egg on our face because even with a shit ton of injuries to their main rotation players, this team has not gone away. In fact they are kicking the ass of pretty much everyone they've played. 

Now, we have to be fair. You look at the teams over this 14 game stretch and you see the likes of WSH/MIN/ATLx2/NYK/SA/CLE/DET/CHI/BKN and that's not exactly a murderers row. Of the 14 they've played 4 playoff teams, but one was Kyrie-less BKN so does that even count? It's a light part of their schedule, it's OK to admit that, but at the same time you don't see teams win 14 games in a row very often. They are doing what a good team is supposed to do and they deserve credit for that. They are 30-2 on the season against teams under .500, and have the most wins of any playoff team in close games (6-3). The fact that the Raptors are where they are right now is pretty remarkable and when your net rating over this stretch is in MIL territory, you know things are on a different level.

So what makes them so good? You have to start with their player development. I'd argue their culture and system is the best in the NBA at developing talent. Guys like Siakam, VanVleet, and now Terence Davis just go to show how no team gets more out of unknowns than TOR. I mean Terence Davis went undrafted and if we were to redo things he'd probaby be a lottery pick. 

They have a shit ton of these guys and it's how they are able to stay so competitive despite all their injuries. That level of mental toughness is going to serve them well moving forward. That and their clutch play late in games are signs of a good team.

There are still some questions when it comes to the Raptors though. For as good as they are against the shit of the NBA, they are just 9-12 against teams over .500. In terms of their head to head against some of the other East contenders they are

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1-2 vs BOS

0-2 vs MIA

0-1 vs MIL

2-1 vs PHI

2-1 vs IND

The good part of this streak is its given them a nice enough cushion to where those H2Hs may not end up mattering outside of BOS, but if there was one thing that could prevent someone from fully buying into TOR it's that. But a key to securing a top seed is you make sure to take care of business against the bad teams in your conference, and it's becoming harder and harder to imagine this team not ending the season with a top 4 seed. That is not really something many outside of TOR thought would be possible without Kawhi, and while they may not win the title this season, they absolutely have the look of a team that could be a bitch to play in the playoffs whether they have full health or not.

So I would just like to apologize to the Raptors and their fans. I thought this would be a come back to earth season for TOR, and they have shut me the hell up. They've shut us all up. Remember, until further notice this team is still the defending champ and they should be respected as such.