For the past couple of seasons in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors have been one of the sides to beat, but they haven't been receiving the respect they deserve.
The Raptors currently have a 2-0 start to the new NBA season, most recently picking up a win against the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 128-94 on Saturday night. This places them currently at the top of the Eastern Conference alongside the Washington Wizards.
During the win against the Sixers, Raptors global ambassador Drake made a surprise appearance on commentary, making a few what some might deem bold statements about the team which he represents.
Drake said when Toronto had control of the game during the third quarter: "It's looking like a potential 30-piece right now. Norman Powell looks great, DeMar DeRozan is set to have the season of his life, Kyle Lowry is looking streamlined, tatted-up Lucas (Nogueira) has more face tats than any rapper I know.
"It's crazy. We're going to the Eastern Conference finals, boys. That's all I got to say."
Sure enough, Drake's prediction came true, as the Raptors won by 34 points, and DeRozan poured in a season-high 30 points. So what's to say his Eastern Conference Finals prediction can't come true as well?
Most of the attention in the Eastern Conference has been on either LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, or Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics, especially after the super trade between the two teams that took place during the offseason.
Many NBA fans expect the Cavaliers and the Celtics to have a one-two finish, with the Raptors coming in third, but there are a few reasons why people shouldn't be sleeping on Toronto doing well this season, and Drake has already mentioned some of them.
DeRozan could be about to have the season of his life and improve on his stats from last season, where he averaged 27.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. Himself and Kyle Lowry have played better with each other year after year, but this season, they're both making a conscious effort to get others involved.
Just by watching the first two games of the season, you can see there have been improvements on the team's ball movement thanks to their new offensive system. Both DeRozan and Lowry are sharing the ball more on the court, and it's paying off for the Raptors so far this season with two wins under their belt. This is something which Drake noticed as well.
The rapper said: "It's great to see them sharing the ball. The energy we have — just a change in the offense is exciting as well. I watched DeMar work out all summer, and everybody is looking great, man."
We know DeRozan and Lowry can shoot, but the fact they're getting their teammates more involved earlier on in the season helps towards their cause of being a threat in the playoffs and reach the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond, dethroning either the Celtics or the Cavs along the way.
Newcomer CJ Miles certainly benefited from this style of play during Toronto's first game of the season against the Chicago Bulls, as he scored 22 points in that game. Serge Ibaka profited from their new system against the Sixers as he scored 21 on the night.
The Raptors have qualified for the playoffs in the past four seasons and they made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, so they have the potential to finish as a top-two team. It's all about making sure they live up to the what people expect of them by staying consistent, not just during the season, but throughout the playoffs as well.
Everyone is sleeping on the Raptors, but they’re making a mistake.
Watch NBA League Pass for FREE between now and October 25th, 2017. Visit the link below to find out more and sign up for your free trial today.