To continue this week’s Atlantic Division previews for the Chicago Bulls, we’ll take a look at one of the two Eastern Conference finalists from last season: the Toronto Raptors.
The Chicago Bulls swept the Toronto Raptors in their four-game regular season series last year.
Toronto has relied on their scoring guard duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to carry them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. The two play a strong attacking game that involves long range sniping and constantly probing the paint for rim attacks.
As good as Lowry and DeRozan are on offense, they both are not as capable as defenders, nor are the Raptor bigs capable of chasing the Bulls’ inside-out big scorers all over the court without leaving another Bulls scorer open.
Those Raptor bigs still allow the stretch-four heavy Bulls’ mobile artillery plenty of chances to unleash some torrid perimeter shooting. In spite of the tougher inside presence of the Raptors this year, the more versatile Bulls bigs can still stretch the floor by knocking down shots from long range.
Bobby Portis can get hot from beyond the arc when he is in the zone and the slower Raptors bigs either live with that or play smaller athletic forwards to chase the Bulls’ shooters around all game long.
The Bulls’ “Three Alphas” are no slouches against the Raptors and it’s expected that the core starters force DeRozan and Lowry to have poor shooting nights and negate their advantage. The Raptors can still be physical in the paint given that Poeltl and Siakam are both long and strong big men in the traditional NBA center mold. The Bulls just might have a little trouble driving the lane if the Raptors pack the paint with big men who can block shots.
Coaching: Dwane Casey vs. Fred Hoiberg
Fred Hoiberg swept Dwane Casey’s team last year and it’s fair to expect Hoiberg to still be the better offensive coach than Casey. The retooling of both teams should provide a contrast that may make or break matchups if one side plays into the other’s strengths.
The Raptors look bigger and stronger in the paint with all the new wide-bodied centers who can block shots.
The Bulls still look like the better inside-outside team that can still defend the Raptor playmakers.
If the Bulls can get out and run for easier opportunities, this will negate Casey’s frontcourt depth. Hoiberg will expectedly tune his team to outshoot their opponents from long range all game long, while Butler and Wade foul out their defenders attacking the rim with all that space provided by the Bulls’ stretch-fours.
The Bulls’ shooting makes or breaks the season series
If the game goes into a grind-out, post offense-orientated game and the Chicago Bulls shoot poorly from long range, the Raptors might even things out.
But since Poeltl and Siakam are still rookies out to prove themselves and only Jared Sullinger is the proven NBA veteran among their centers, it’s fair to expect the Bulls to have another favorable matchup with the Raptors where the shooting of Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and even Tony Snell and Isaiah Canaan can carry the team to the W.