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Raptors Must Avoid Regression in 2016-17

Since the Toronto Raptors’ inception into the NBA in 1995, the franchise has been largely a non-factor. But times have changed, and the Raptors have finally earned respect throughout the league.

The 2016-17 campaign is shaping up to be an interesting one for Canada’s lone professional basketball team. General manager Masai Ujiri has done a masterful job of assembling a competitive roster, and this year’s edition is essentially the same as last year’s squad that finally broke through the first round en route to an appearance in the Eastern Conference final for the first time in history.

DeMar DeRozan, a key cog in Toronto’s emergence from the depths of irrelevancy, re-signed with the club on a five-year, $139-million deal in the summer. An unrestricted free agent in 2017, Kyle Lowry’s future with the team is murky, but he and DeRozan will continue to power one of the NBA’s best backcourts for the time being.

The Dinos have established themselves as a force in the East, but they’ve yet to make the jump into the upper echelon of the NBA. Avoiding regression will be key for this group going forward. Considering Lowry’s status, this season could go a long way into determining the direction of the club north of the border.

Here’s a look at their futures odds, courtesy of Bovada:

NBA Championship Odds +4000

On one hand, the Raptors have never been this high on championship odds lists before the season tips off. On the other, they may be getting overlooked a bit by oddsmakers. The Raps have the sixth-best title odds, tied with the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder and the brick-tastic Chicago Bulls. It’s going to be a tall order, but if you think Toronto can go all the way, this is a fantastic price.

Eastern Conference Odds +1400

When LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in your conference, you’re behind the 8-ball before the games are even played. However, I’m not sure why the Raptors are well back of the Boston Celtics, who sit at +500 odds. Boston is deep, talented and well-coached, but the Raps have the edge on the C’s in the experience department and match up well against them in every aspect of the game.

Atlantic Division Odds +105

The Raps have won the Atlantic Division three straight times, and a fourth banner is entirely reachable in 2016-17. The Atlantic is looking like a two-horse race, as the Raptors and Celtics will battle it out all year for the right to claim the bragging rights. Sportsbooks aren’t quite sure what to make of the division right now, so grabbing the Raptors at plus-money seems like a great bet.

OVER/UNDER Win Total 50.5

Toronto won a franchise-best 56 games last year, but books are expecting a slight regression for Dwane Casey’s crew. The 2015-16 season was the only time the Raps have eclipsed the 50-win mark, so the thought process behind that is understandable. Passing 50 again shouldn’t be a problem for this team, however. Take the OVER.

2016-17 Toronto Raptors Futures Odds
NBA Finals+4000
Eastern Conference+1400
Atlantic Division+105
Win Totals50.5