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Are the Toronto Raptors better than the Bulls?

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Probably not!

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Blog-a-Bull continues to assess the Bulls' competition in the Eastern Conference. Next up: the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto Raptors

Last year: 49-33

Vegas over/under: 45.5

Did you remember that the Raptors started 13-2 last year? It's true! Then DeMar DeRozan tore his groin on Nov. 29, but Toronto was still formidable without him. It was integrating him back into the lineup that proved to be more difficult. From Feb. 21 on, the Raptors finished the regular season 12-16. They would proceed to get swept out of the first round by sneaky small ball attack from the Wizards.

Additions/Subtractions

IN: DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Anthony Bennett, Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Amir Johnson, Lou Williams, Tyler Hansbrough, Greg Stiemsma, Chuck Hayes, Landry Fields

The big move here is letting Johnson walk to the Celtics and replacing him with a natural wing in Carroll. Johnson started 144 games after the last two seasons at power forward and did a lot of little things that made the Raptors tough to beat. The move to get Carroll signals that Toronto is following the league-wide to put more shooting and spacing on the floor.

Carroll was excellent last year in Atlanta, but he was also the fifth cog in the Hawks' attack. It will be interesting to see how often DeRozan, Carroll and Terrence Ross share the floor at the same time around Lowry, and if the offensive pay-off is worth a drop-off defensively.

Depth chart

POINT GUARD
SHOOTING GUARD
SMALL FORWARD
POWER FORWARD
CENTER
STARTER
Kyle Lowry DeMar DeRozan DeMarre Carroll Patrick Patterson Jonas Valanciunas
RESERVE
Cory Joseph Norman Powell Terrence Ross Luis Scola Bismack Biyombo
RESERVE
Delon Wright Bruno Caboclo James Johnson Lucas Nogueira
RESERVE
Anthony Bennett

What to expect?

Most people are predicting the Raptors to fall off because of the way last season ended, but they do have a couple candidates for internal improvement that could change the trajectory of the team. The first is center Jonas Valanciunas, who enters his fourth season as a 23-year-old. He's been good but not great to start his NBA career, but the former No. 4 overall draft pick certainly has room for improvement on both ends of the court.

The other player I've always liked on this roster is Terrence Ross. The former No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 draft has all the tools to be a really good wing: he's got great size for a two at 6'7, he's can shoot threes efficiently at a high volume and he's one of the most athletic players in the league. For whatever reason, he's only been average trying to pick his spots around high usage guys like Lowry and DeRozan the last two years. It's easy to remember that 51-point game from a couple years back and think he's capable of being one of the better young shooting guards in the league. Maybe this is the year it happens.

It's also easy to envision a scenario where Toronto stumbles out of the gates as the defense slips without Johnson, Dwane Casey gets fired and DeRozan gets traded ahead of free agency. To me, it seems unlikely this team is better than, say, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Miami, but as always, the season is going to come down to a) injuries, and b) the development of young players. Lowry (the worst superstar in the NBA! I think this is a compliment) has looked so good in the preseason that it would be foolish to bury them already.

Can they compete with the Bulls?

I'm just saying I don't want to imagine a world where Doug McDermott has to defend an on-fire T-Ross. Rose and Lowry is a great matchup that could go either way on any given night. Carroll seems like a natural matchup for Butler (edge: Jimmy, but it's not a blowout), Mirotic and Patrick Patterson is nice little stretch-four duel and Jonas could conceivably have an edge against Noah this year.

With that being said, the Bulls just seem to have a higher ceiling and a higher floor. I'm guessing Toronto finishes closer to 40 wins than 50 wins and has trouble sneaking into the playoffs.

FerriganFormula

[BaB's own Kevin Ferrigan gives his take using his own statistical model, described as: a plus-minus that used two years of data blended with predictive real plus-minus, and minutes projections from Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com]

The Raptors are a bit like the Celtics in that they are collection of mostly good players with very few bad players figuring to get much time in their rotation. They also have a bunch of guys mostly within a couple of years of their prime (age 27) season. This bodes very well for them. Adding DeMarre Carroll should help, but not as much as you might think, as they lost Amir Johnson in the offseason and he is also quite good. I've got the Fightin' Drakes projected for 48 wins.