Forgive me donning my King of Hearts attire for the afternoon, but the primary discussion around these parts of late seems to focus on whether our beloved Toronto Raptors are better than the vile Boston Celtics. The argument goes something like this: The Raptors were appreciably better last year and didn’t get substantially worse in the offseason. The Celtics were a step or three behind in 2015-16 but are young, added Al Horford, and have more assets than pretty much anyone else if a superstar becomes available. Even Jae Crowder and DeMarre Carroll have gotten in on the discussion, creating the spectre of an actual rivalry in the Atlantic Division this season.
Which is fun! But we need answers here, months and months from when we’ll actually get said answers (if we get said answers). And whatever the latest basketball predictions say, the readership here at Raptors Republic obviously know best.
There are a few different ways to slice the “which team is better” question, so we’re going to try three to try to get a firm finger on the pules of the collective confidence here. So, let’s try it.
Who will win more games?
This one seems pretty straight-forward and was discussed yesterday and as far back as late July. Projections and the Vegas market suggest the teams are close, usually within two wins of each other, and that’s before accounting for the fact that bookmakers will price in market expectations when setting a line (that is, Boston has a big fanbase that could over-bet a small over/under, so the win total may or may not be artificially high).
Who would win in the second round?
Whatever your thoughts on the regular season win total, the 82-game grind isn’t necessarily indicative of overall team quality. Injuries, additional priorities throughout the season, upside/peak, and a host of other factors all have to be taken into account when looking at regular season wins against what most now measure the Raptors by: Playoff wins. Most systems and predictions seem to have the Raptors and the Celtics in some order near the top of the Eastern Conference, usually two-three. So if all goes to plan, the two sides could get to settle the debate in a seven-game series.
Who has a better chance at a title?
As telling as a seven-game series would be – and make no mistake, the winning side would most definitely claim superiority – there is another way the “best team” angle can be sliced: Which team has a better shot at winning a championship? This strips out any Raptors-versus-Celtics matchup specifics and gets closer to the heart of context-free team quality. The latest lines have the Celtics at 20-1 and the Raptors at 25-1, with little change from the start of the season, but once again we have to control for potential market factors.