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What: Charlotte Hornets (6-6) at Toronto Raptors (2-8)

When: 7:30 pm EST

Where: Amalie Arena; Tampa, Fla.

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Charlotte Hornets’ four-game win-streak came to an abrupt end with a poor showing last night against the Dallas Mavericks, but thankfully they have a chance to bounce back quickly tonight against a shockingly-bad Toronto Raptors squad.

The Toronto Raptors (2-8) limp back to their 2020-21 home court following a 1-3 Western Conference road trip to host the Charlotte Hornets (6-6) Thursday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. Tip-off will be at 7:30 p.m. ET. Below, we analyze the Hornets-Raptors NBA betting odds and lines, with picks and predictions.

The Raptors’ road swing ended with back-to-back single-point losses. They were topped 106-105 by the Golden State Warriors Sunday and 112-111 by the Portland Trail Blazers Monday in the second half of the back-to-back. They dropped their last home game against the Boston Celtics 126-114 Jan. 4.

The Hornets are coming off a 104-93 Wednesday loss to the Dallas Mavericks. They had previously won four in a row with two at home and two on the road. Toronto beat Charlotte twice in the preseason by scores of 111-100 and 112-109.

Hornets at Raptors: Betting odds, spread and lines
Odds via BetMGM; access USA TODAY Sports’ betting odds for a full list. Lines last updated at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Money line: Hornets +310 (bet $100 to win $310) | Raptors -400 (bet $400 to win $100)
Against the spread/ATS: Hornets +9.5 (-120) | Raptors -9.5 (+100)
Over/Under: 219.5 (O: -110 | U: -110)
Hornets at Raptors: Key Injuries
Hornets

SF Gordon Hayward (hip) questionable
C Cody Zeller (hand) out
Raptors

None affecting betting lines.

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Hornets at Raptors: Odds, betting lines, predictions and picks
Prediction
Raptors 114, Hornets 102

Money line (ML)
The Raptors (-400) will get right Thursday but we can’t justify laying -400 on a 2-8 team, or any team. They nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback against the Warriors but blew a big fourth-quarter lead against the Blazers. A return to their artificial home court and an Eastern Conference opponent that began the season with much lower expectations will serve them well.

Charlotte is 2-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this year but the Raptors are well-rested and the potential absence of Hayward would be a big loss for the Hornets.

PASS and look to the spread.

Against the spread (ATS)
The RAPTORS -9.5 (+100) should be backed to win by at least 10 points. Toronto has the guards to match up well against Charlotte’s trio of Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham and LaMelo Ball, and the continued absence of Zeller will leave space for Raptors PF Pascal Siakam and C Cheap Chris Boucher Jersey in the paint.

Toronto is eighth in the NBA in steals and Charlotte is just 17th in turnover percentage. The Raptors commit more fouls than all but one team, but the Hornets rank just 25th in team free-throw percentage, so Toronto won’t be penalized as badly as it was late in the games against the Warriors and Blazers.

Over/Under (O/U)
The Raptors’ defense has been the most disappointing area of their game this season but a two-day rest and a tired opponent should see a more spirited effort, especially if Hayward needs to sit out. The Hornets are just 3-9 against the Over/Under and fall an average of 7.7 points per game below the line with 107 PPG scored and allowed.

The Raptors rely too heavily on 3-pointers and the Hornets are fourth in the league in 3-point defense.

Take the UNDER 219.5 (-110).

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Also see:

James Borrego says it’s best for LaMelo Ball to come off the bench early in season (Lonzo Wire)
Art of the smokescreen: The thought process behind execs and agents leaking info (Hoops Hype)
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The Raptors lost two key pieces from last year; Cheap Serge Ibaka Jersey and Cheap Marc Gasol Jersey anchored their defense and Cheap Aron Baynes Jersey alone has not been able to replace their production. Nick Nurse had Toronto playing the second-best defense in the NBA in 2019-2020, but through 10 games this season they allow 113.6 points per 100 possessions, placing them in the 23rd percentile via Cleaning The Glass. Cheap OG Anunoby Jersey was a popular Most Improved Player candidate prior to the season, but his offensive skillset hasn’t taken “the leap” yet.

Toronto’s biggest issue this year has been the underwhelming play of Cheap Pascal Siakam Jersey. Coming off of a second-team all-NBA selection, Siakam is averaging 20.4 points per game on 31.0 percent from deep with one a 26.7 percent usage rate that lands him in the 94th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass. He’s only shooting 62 percent at the rim right now and his defensive impact metrics have gone down. It seems like the Raptors had a small margin of error after losing two important big men, and right now they’re just not cutting it. It’s hard to believe a team with Siakam and Cheap Kyle Lowry Jersey that’s coached by Nurse will be this bad for much longer, though.

The Raptors should be all set on the injury front; just Cheap Patrick McCaw Jersey (knee) will be out tonight.

The Hornets didn’t play bad defense yesterday, but their offense was horrible, though shots not falling was probably a big part of that. There has been one lasting problem for the Hornets’ offense in the early-going:

The Hornets’ offense has a tendency to stall out and turn into a grind, especially when Gordon Hayward isn’t playing well. Even with the new additions to the team and their improved ball movement (first in the NBA with a 73.8 assist percentage), they still don’t have enough shot-creation in the half-court to compete on a consistent basis. Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington’s shooting struggles don’t help, but again, Hayward is the only high-level shot-creator on the roster and he can’t be—nor should he have to be—perfect every single night. This problem was evident earlier in the year, but it seems to have reared its head again last night.

Here are some positive vibes for you all; Hayward did leave the game early last night with a hip injury, but he made the trip to Tampa to play the team from Canada. Hayward (left hip strain) is probable for tonight’s game. Now, let’s take a collective sigh of relief.

What to expect out of this game is beyond me. Toronto has been bad, but they’re not actually bad, so maybe they right the ship tonight? It’s gotta happen eventually. If the Hornets can hit shots tonight and keep up the intensity on defense they should be able to win, but if Hayward doesn’t play the chances of that happening drop significantly.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is off the board, which means the Toronto Raptors will be shopping come NBA free agency in 2021. We explore the top 10 unrestricted free agents.
The Toronto Raptors were devastated to learn that their plans for the 2021 offseason were dashed when Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a five-year supermax contract worth $228.2 million to remain a part of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Raptors were clearly making decisions to construct their current roster in hopes of making a splash in next year’s free agency. It’s believed that that meant bringing Antetokounmpo to Toronto, which seemed like a realistic proposition based on his relationship with Masai Ujiri. It’s hard to blame the superstar for signing the extension that has given him the biggest contract in NBA history.

As unfortunate as it is that the Toronto Raptors didn’t get their man, it’s probably even more frustrating for GM Bobby Webster who designed contracts to provide the team cap space to go shopping next offseason. It’s why Cheap Marc Gasol Jersey and Serge Ibaka weren’t offered multi-year deals to return.

With the cap space that the organization has created for next year, they will need to remain focused on filling their shopping list. We break down the top ten unrestricted free agents for the Raptors to acquire once the 2021 free agency window opens.

In order to keep the surprises to a minimum, let’s first get out of the way that Blake Griffin will not be on the list. Though he is a player the Toronto Raptors would like to have to play in their starting five, he has a player option that will certainly not be waved. He is certain to play the final year of his deal that will pay him $34,234,964. The same is true about Chris Paul who will earn $39,932,648 if he doesn’t opt-out and with that much money due to him, it would be shocking for him to pass on it.

Another player that wasn’t even considered for the top 10 is Paul Millsap. There has been a great deal of buzz around the potential for the 35-year-old power forward retiring. Still a presence in the NBA, Millsap isn’t the same player he once was.

While you may not find them in the top 10, the group remains strong. Here is the complete list:

To be blunt, the Toronto Raptors weren’t exactly frontrunners to land Giannis Antetokounmpo in the event that he decided to not sign his supermax extension from the Milwaukee Bucks. Be that as it may, the Raptors have recently had a bit of luck in obtaining talent. They’ve had two of the best two-way players in recent years in Cheap Kawhi Leonard Jersey and Cheap DeMar DeRozan Jersey.

Both of those players have been removed from the picture though, which left the Raptors relying on their remaining weapons for the 2019-20 season. Behind the sterling efforts of Cheap Pascal Siakam Jersey, Cheap Kyle Lowry Jersey, and Cheap Fred VanVleet Jersey, they finished with a 53-19 record that left them 2.5 games behind the Bucks for first place in the Eastern Conference.

While the Raptors are surely set on dedicating the next few years to the development of Siakam, they’ll also need some additional talent should they look to obtain another championship in the near future. As it stands, the skill level they pose wouldn’t get them over the hump in the East anymore.

A better portion of the same roster still exist coming into the 2020-21 season, but there are some weaknesses that could be addressed.

Trade Targets: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Vucevic

The Raptors were able to retain one of their better talents in Fred VanVleet this offseason, but it cost them nearly all of their big man talent. Both Marc Gasol and Cheap Serge Ibaka Jersey departed for LA and are now inner-city rivals.

As it stands, the Raptors are left severely depleted in the frontcourt at the center position. The front office was able to snatch Cheap Aron Baynes Jersey out of the free agency pool, and he was one of the better options that came at a reasonable price. He’s also coming off a career year with the Phoenix Suns, averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Still, Baynes certainty within the Raptors system remains an unknown. Prior to his blossoming year in Phoenix, Baynes struggled to find that same success with either the Boston Celtics or the Detroit Pistons. With that in mind, Baynes could’ve possibly just been a thriving player in Suns head coach Monty Williams’ system.

Karl-Anthony Towns could quickly grow tired in Minnesota in the upcoming season. The Timberwolves’ biggest move was re-signing Malik Beasley, and that’s just turned into a PR debacle as of late. If Minnesota is really in win-now mode, they did nothing to convince KAT that he should want to stay with the franchise for much longer.

In order to acquire Towns, the Raptors would need to unload basically all their non-Siakam assets such as Cheap Norman Powell Jersey, Cheap OG Anunoby Jersey, Cheap Chris Boucher Jersey, and Cheap Terence Davis Jersey. On top of that, they’d definitely need to give up all their first round picks for the next half decade. But being able to acquire an in-prime KAT to pair with Siakam would be well-worth any pricetag.

The same could be said for Nikola Vucevic, albeit to a lesser extent. The Orlando Magic didn’t hold back in 2019 when they signed the 7-foot center to a four-year, $100 million contract. For Vucevic or any player of his caliber, turning down that amount of money is hard to do. Now that the deal is done though, it may be time for Vucevic to consider the possibility of playing on a higher contender that can allow him to make a deep playoff run.

The Raptors were able to thrive for a good portion of their recent seasons by having interchangeable centers at their disposal through Ibaka and Gasol. Now, they primarily have Baynes to run the frontcourt while having Cheap Alex Len Jersey show up the bench unit.

Making a move for a legitimate, All-Star solidified center could be one of their better bets at competing in the coming years.

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The Toronto Raptors continue to get disrespected thanks to the most recent 2020-21 Power Rankings.
NBA.com released it’s 2020-21 Power Rankings ahead of the upcoming season and your Toronto Raptors ranked 15th.

In-between the Raptors were the Phoenix Suns (14th) and Indiana Pacers (16th). When are people going to figure out that Canada’s team is arguably the most consistent franchise of the past five seasons and a capable top-five team in the NBA?

Before I get into the reason why the team deserves to be higher on this list, let’s look back at the history of this franchise.

The Raptors have won the Atlantic Division six of the past seven seasons and have won 50 or more games in five straight seasons. The team has also never finished worse than sixth in the entire league in winning percentage within those five seasons.

Toronto is getting close to reaching a culture of excellence like the San Antonio Spurs and year-after-year the team overachieves their pre-season rankings. It’s becoming comical that certain folks still disrespect this team, despite being incredibly consistent.

Toronto Raptors are not shy to disrespect
Even when the Toronto Raptors won the NBA Championship, they were huge underdogs and critics claimed that they only achieved greatness because the Golden State Warriors were injured. Then, those same people said the team might even struggle to make the playoffs after Kawai Leonard left.

Let me remind you what happened last season.

The Toronto Raptors rallied to a .736 winning percentage (best in franchise history) and finished second in wins league-wide. The team may have lost to the Boston Celtics but it was in a hard-fought seven-game series that could have gone either way. If the Raptors made a few more shots, they’d be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals and could have found a way back into the NBA Finals.

Within the rankings on NBA.com, the Raptors are currently listed as the sixth-best team in the Eastern Conference. No offense, but I can’t see a world where this team finishes worse than fourth. And that’s the worst-case scenario.

Here are the teams ahead of the Raptors:

Milwaukee Bucks
Brooklyn Nets
Miami Heat
Boston Celtics
Philadelphia 76ers
Of those teams, the only one that I legitimately see surpassing the Raptors are the Bucks. They still have the back-to-back MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a number of key starters returning, plus the addition of Jrue Holiday helps.

Besides the Bucks, how are the Raptors not in a better position than those other teams? Sure they’re missing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, but their core of Cheap Pascal Siakam Jersey, Cheap Kyle Lowry Jersey, and Cheap Fred VanVleet Jersey are back and the youngsters should only improve. They also have Nick Nurse, who’s the best coach in the NBA, and you know he’ll get the most out of his bench players like he did last season.

The Miami Heat may have made the NBA Finals last season, but that could have been a fluke. We’ve never seen Jimmy Butler like that before and who knows if we will again.

In terms of the other teams ahead of Toronto, the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum may be a top-20 player in the NBA, but they lost Gordon Hayward. Personally, I’d still take the winning experience and core of Toronto over them in a series.

The biggest question mark to me is the Brooklyn Nets. I can understand that a Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving duo is fun to talk about, but I can’t see this working. Durant hasn’t played a meaningful NBA game in 1.5 years and Irving is always a distraction. Just because it looks great on paper, doesn’t mean it’s going to translate to the floor.

This is a star-driven league and sure, a Siakam-VanVleet duo doesn’t move the dial like some other tandems. However, if the Raptors have taught us anything, it’s that a team-game is more important than one individual. Leonard may have been a huge reason why the Raptors won a championship, but he’s not the only reason.

The team has a collection of talent that will make them successful, instead of one superstar. If you want a perfect example, look back to Game 3 of the Second Round last year. Of all people, it was Cheap OG Anunoby Jersey who kept the Raptors’ season alive, nailing the game-winning shot at the buzzer. The team has a collection of talent and doesn’t have to rely on one superstar to win a ball-game.

NEXT: Toronto Raptors can make it back to NBA Finals
When the Raptors face adversity, they perform at their highest level and as the only team not playing in their home arena to start the regular season, they’re already battling hardship. Don’t sleep on the Raptors. Like every year before this, they’re going to surprise you.

Toronto Raptors team president Masai Ujiri will enter the final season of his current deal. Talks about an extension have stalled this off-season. In a conference call with media, Ujiri admitted that they just haven’t had the time. There have been a lot of other things on his plate which has sidetracked progress between him and the Raptors organization.

Via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.com:

“There’s just been so much [going on],” he said. “Honestly, it’s not a matter of not doing it, I think there’s just been so much [and] I’ve pushed it [back] until, I think, we get through a lot of this. There’s just so much going on with this relocation, and the focus, I don’t want to be distracted that way.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has obviously impacted the entire league, Toronto is arguably the most affected among the 30 NBA teams. The league needed to find the 2019 NBA champs a temporary home with the Canadian government restricting travel to the country. Ujiri obviously needed to be spearheading the process and that may have taken up a lot of his time. Eventually, the Raptors settled in on Tampa as their stopgap home for this campaign.

Apart from their short-term relocation, Ujiri certainly needed to make decisions with free agency. Toronto lost two key big men in the off-season in Cheap Serge Ibaka Jersey and Cheap Marc Gasol Jersey, and the former Executive of the Year needed to find replacements to fill in for their departures. Eventally, the Raptors signed Cheap Aron Baynes Jersey and Cheap Alex Len Jersey to replenish their front court depth this 2020-21 campaign.

It’s certainly in the the Raptors’ best interests to keep the Nigerian-Canadian executive for the long haul. Ujiri is, in fact, considered the mastermind responsible for Toronto’s historic run to their first ever NBA championship in 2019.

Nonetheless, it seems like both sides want to keep their relationship going. It’s just a matter of finding the right time to strike the deal and sign on the dotted line.