- Toronto Raptors set to begin championship defense with home game against New Orleans Pelicans
- Pelicans will be missing first overall pick Zion Williamson, who has been ruled out for a number of weeks with a knee injury
- With Kawhi Leonard having moved on to Los Angeles, Raptors will have to rely on others to step up, but went 17-5 without Leonard in the lineup last year
Another NBA season is set to tip off in Toronto on Tuesday, as the Raptors host the visiting New Orleans Pelicans to begin their championship defense.
While some of Toronto’s big stars from its title-winning season, such as Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, have moved on, the Raptors still possess a strong nucleus of players, and the odds are favoring them to get the season off to a winning start.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Toronto Raptors Odds
|Team||Spread||Moneyline||Total at Bovada|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+7.0 (-110)||+240||O 231.5 (-105)|
|Toronto Raptors||-7.0 (-110)||-290||U 231.5 (-115)|
*Odds taken at 10/21/19
Banner Night in Toronto
Emotions will be riding high at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night as the Toronto Raptors begin the new NBA season with a ring ceremony accompanied by the raising of their first championship banner to the rafters.
For the 19,800 or so fans in attendance, it will be another chance to reminisce about last year’s season for the ages, but it will also mark a distinct turning of the page as that chapter of the franchise’s history comes to a close.
7pm ET: Coverage begins on SN ONE 📺
7:25pm ET: Ring and Championship Banner ceremony 💍
8pm ET: Tip-off 🏀 pic.twitter.com/uoEiXsnF6y
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 20, 2019
Can the Raptors tap into the intensity of that fan energy, or will they be overwhelmed by the occasion?
The answer to that question will go some way to determining who comes out on top here.
No Kawhi, No Problem?
The driving force behind last year’s success is no longer with the team, but can the Raptors win without Kawhi Leonard? The answer would appear to be yes. With Leonard and the team closely monitoring his minutes last year, No. 2 sat out a number of games, but it did little to slow down the Raptors.
Toronto went 17-5 without him in the lineup.
The Raptors will obviously need others to step up, none more so than Pascal Siakam, who just agreed a four-year, $130-million max extension. The young forward broke out in a big way last year, improving from 7.3 points per game in 2017-18 to 16.9 and winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
👀 PASCAL SIAKAM’s 2018/19 Most Improved Player highlights! 🌶 pic.twitter.com/h9gNpBYa3l
— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) June 25, 2019
And he showed he is not intimidated by the big stage, getting the Raptors off to winning ways in the NBA Finals with a 32-point performance in Game 1, before adding another 26 in the Game 6 series clincher.
This right here, this is beautiful. pic.twitter.com/kTB6RoBHfL
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 18, 2019
Siakam will have help though, with Kyle Lowry providing his usual All-Star-caliber point guard play, and the likes of Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby, who missed much of last season through injury, chipping in.
A Zion-Sized Hole
At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft is hard to miss. However, the Pelicans will be missing Zion Williamson when the season starts up as the former Duke standout is expected to miss a number of weeks with a knee injury.
There’s no way the Pelicans won’t miss their star forward, as he showed during a preseason in which he averaged 23.3 points in four games – all victories – that he won’t have a problem adjusting to life in the NBA.
Most Efficient Preseason Scorers* (TS%)
1. Zion Williamson … 73.7%
2. Zach LaVine ……. 71.2%
3. CJ McCollum …… 70.5%
4. Steph Curry …….. 69.4%
5. Bryn Forbes …….. 69.3%
* Min 40 FGA (58 Players) pic.twitter.com/3kY0wEik3I
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) October 17, 2019
In Williamson’s absence, the Pelicans will be looking to the likes of Jrue Holiday, who averaged 21.2 points per game and 7.7 assists last season, as well as the likes of JJ Redick and Brandon Ingram to help fill the hole.
Who’s the Best Bet?
The betting has unsurprisingly swung towards the Raptors, who saw the spread move from 5.5 to 6.5 points in their favor once Williamson was officially ruled out. That has now increased to 7.0 points, and feeding on the energy produced by another championship celebration, the Raptors should be a good bet to cover the spread here.
Pick: Raptors -7.0 (-110)
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