Can the Raptors make the defensive top 6 for the 2022-23 season?

After struggling through the first half of last season, Nick Nurse’s team has become one of the best defenses in the NBA over the last 41 games. The full episode predicting various assorted over/unders can be found on the ‘Raptors Over Everything’ podcast feed and on our Yahoo Sports Canada Youtube.

Video transcript

IMMAN ADAN: And so, here’s the thing. I’ve been thinking about what it kind of takes to get to that 50-win mark in the Eastern Conference. And in the East you have to play defense. It’s a bit, that’s the name of the game. You have to play defense. A team like the Atlanta Hawks, second in offense last year, but we’re like last in the league on defense, and where do they end up? They finished in the play-in outside of the technical top 8. In a normal year, there would have been no team in the playoffs.

And I’m like, where do I think the Raptors defense is going to end up? Because I don’t think they’re going to be a particularly good team in attack, at least in half court. I think even some of their offensive numbers last year seem a bit loud, and I don’t know how well they can replicate some of that.

But as long as they are elite defensively, I think they will win a lot of games. And so I’m throwing you one against the wall, because I said to the top end, I like them kind of like maybe the third best defense in this league at best. Feels really, really high. But I’ll give you an over and under. The first six. No, the first seven. Are they above the top seven mark or below the top seven mark?

YASMIN DUAL: Top seven, yeah, I’d say they’re in the top seven.

IMMAN ADAN: The first six?

YASMIN DUAL: Top, no it’s, huh, I’m not as comfortable with the top six. I think because it hasn’t always been about… I think the Raptors’ defensive patterns aren’t as sharp as making sure the other team doesn’t score above that rate or something like that. It tends to be on a play-to-play basis. It tends to be extremely situation-based.

You know what I mean? Like, they’re not, for example, they’re not like the Bucks with a very predictable defensive pattern where they look to do this and do that. I think the Raptors are more like, which is why Nick Nurse was voted best tweaks coach.


YASMIN DUAL: Because it’s literally on a game-to-game basis. So because of that, you might have a game where they played great defense and a team might have scored over 110 points. You know what I mean? But you might have noticed some, and they might have won that game, but you might have noticed that they made a mid-game adjustment or something. I feel like it’s just a little louder when it comes to that. So because of that, they will be, I think, like a top-seven defense. But everyone will know that they are like a top three. You know what I mean?

IMMAN ADAN: Yeah. So let me tell you, because initially I was like the top five. And then I decided to put a little spice in it. And I just kept going a little higher and higher. But here is my justification, here is my reasoning. They were in the top six after Jan. 1 last season.

Very, very close to the top five, a few decimal places behind the Miami Heat, who played more, who played fewer games than the Raptors, and the Raptors did it without Fred VanVleet and without OG Anunoby for a lot of those games, because those two guys got hurt.

And when I look at this season, I’m like, the Bucks, the team that you mentioned, yeah, like, yeah, kind of a predictable defense. They give up a lot of 3-point shots, which I know Raptor fans are kind of like wringing their hands on this Raptors team. But the Bucks defense is a drop defense. It’s Brook Lopez standing low, taking any sort of shot away from the basket.

Brook Lopez, not quite healthy. I didn’t see him last year.


IMMAN ADAN: They fell around the 15 mark. They were an average defense. They weren’t very scary at all. Bobby Portis puts the fear, sorry, nobody. Maybe Nikola Mirotic. So I’m like, OK, the Bucks are coming through. Plus, we’ve seen the Celtics a few times already in pre-season. And I think the lack of Robert Williams was noticeable.

The Raptors aren’t afraid to attack an Al Horford, or even a Grant Williams there. So I’m like, you know what? Until Robert Williams returns, I don’t know if the Celtics defense makes me fear what they would have done in the second half of last season. And I think the Heat defense, I know they’re always gonna have Bam, always gonna have Jimmy, but I think just the lack of a real four for them there, and Jimmy taking a few hits will take them A step back.

So I’m like, watching this. And I figure three teams that you would theoretically imagine to be at the top are going to take steps back. Does that make you believe the Raptors could be a top six? Did I convince you?

YASMIN DUAL: Top 6 in the championship?

IMMAN ADAN: You’re like, no.

YASMIN DUAL: No, only because of the reasons I gave that I feel–

IMMAN ADAN: No, that’s right.

–As are

YASMIN DUAL: So hard to predict. Like, I’d say they’re the top three, but I’d say the numbers won’t always reflect that. But situationally, I’d like to trust them to always have some sort of defensive response to the other team. Like, there are very few teams that can just leave their hands tied and vulnerable.

But yeah, I’d say you bought, your points make a lot of sense. For example, there are a lot of teams in the East that will look a little deficient in certain parts of the pitch. And I’m curious to see. Give me a month of games and I’ll have an idea. Give me two weeks of games, I’ll have an idea.

IMMAN ADAN: I try to get people on this bandwagon.

Comments are closed.