NBA

DeMar DeRozan.

Paul Pierce is not convinced by the Raptors being contenders this season

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While many believe that this year's Eastern Conference Finals will be contested by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors have been quietly going about their business and playing some of the best basketball in the NBA recently.

After defeats for both the Cavs and Celtics on Christmas Day, the men from Canada moved to the top of the east without even taking to the court and can take a firm grip on that position as they've played fewer games than their two rivals.

The Raptors have shown an improvement almost every year under head coach Dwayne Casey and have made a subtle change to their playing style this season which has led to their successful 23-8 start.

They have placed more of an emphasis on spacing the floor and moving the ball in an effort to move away from their usually predictable iso-ball with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in recent years which has been their downfall in the playoffs.

Toronto has been flying under the radar but some believe they could give both Boston and Cleveland a serious run for their money in the postseason.

One person who isn't convinced of this, however, is former C's star, Paul Pierce.

Toronto Raptors v Denver Nuggets

The retired small forward, now an analyst for ESPN, was speaking on 'NBA Countdown' ahead of the slate of Christmas games on Monday and completely dismissed the Raps as contenders.

“I’m not really sold on them yet because I’ve seen this replay from the Raptors — a great regular-season team, where they end up in the Top 4 [in the Eastern Conference], home-court advantage, just to see them get bounced again in the playoffs,” Pierce said.

“I don’t know how much they did in the off-season to improve their roster in terms of getting that player that can get you over the top. They have good, young role players, [Jonas] Valanciunas is improving, but I just don’t see that other player that gets them past where they need to go.

Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors

“I look at them as a team that can make the second round, put up a good fight but their ceiling may be the Eastern Conference Finals but no further than that.

"They can get the best record in the East, have home-court advantage, but I just don’t see this team really being a contender amongst Cleveland, Houston, Golden State.”

Pierce has a valid point as the Raptors have often failed to live up to expectations in the playoffs and mount a serious challenge to the Cavaliers in particular.

Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors

They were swept by LeBron James and co. last season and it's hard to predict which team will turn up on the biggest stage.

But DeRozan and Lowry should look to use this as motivation and be even more determined to prove their doubters wrong this year.

Topics:
Toronto Raptors
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
NBA
DeMar DeRozan
Kyle Lowry

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