Raptors vs. Nuggets NBA Preview

Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors slips as he brings the ball up court. Rich Schultz/Getty Images/AFP

Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors slips as he brings the ball up court. Rich Schultz/Getty Images/AFP

The new-look Toronto Raptors should have the edge against the NBA odds this Thursday when they visit the weary Denver Nuggets.

 

Toronto Raptors vs. Denver Nuggets

Thursday, April 29, 2021 – 09:00 PM EDT at Ball Arena

 

No team in the NBA has had it rougher this year than the Toronto Raptors. It was bad enough when both Marc Gasol (Lakers) and Serge Ibaka (Clippers) left for Los Angeles in free agency; then the Raptors learned they’d have to play all their home games in Tampa. But after a slow start and injuries to several players, it looked like Toronto finally had all their ducks in a row – until Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby all landed on the COVID-19 list.

So here the Raptors are at 26-36 SU and 27-35 ATS, a far cry from where they were two years ago when they hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy. However, thanks to lowered expectations and the arrival of two new bigs, the former champs look like the right NBA pick for Thursday’s game against the Denver Nuggets (41-21 SU, 29-33 ATS), who will be playing on zero days of rest after holding off the New Orleans Pelicans 114-112 as 3.5-point home favorites in a rather bruising affair. They’ve opened as 4-point faves at FanDuel versus the visiting Raptors.

 

Khem And The Freddies

VanVleet, Siakam and Anunoby are still the backbone of Toronto’s roster, with VanVleet posting the highest VORP (Value Over Replacement Player, as per Basketball Reference) at plus-1.8. Unfortunately for VanVleet, the coronavirus appears to have caused him the most harm of the three, but Siakam and Anunoby have largely returned to form, and the Raptors have both Kyle Lowry and promising rookie Malachi Flynn available to take the pressure off their emergent leader.

As for that mess Gasol and Ibaka left behind in the paint, the Raptors finally have a solution. After getting poor results from both Aron Baynes (minus-0.8 VORP) and Alex Len (now with Washington), Toronto signed former Orlando Magic center Khem Birch following his buyout; the Raps are 5-2 SU and ATS since Birch was added to the starting lineup. Freddie Gillespie has also played solid defense in 10 games since coming up from the G-League, earning himself a two-year contract in the process. Their arrival cushions the blow somewhat from the loss of Chris Boucher (tied with VanVleet at plus-1.8 VORP) to a sprained left MCL on April 21.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are 7-1 SU and 3-5 ATS since Jamal Murray (plus-1.6 VORP) was knocked out for the year with a torn left ACL. They’re dangerously thin in the backcourt with Monte Morris (plus-0.3 VORP) and Will Barton (0.0 VORP) both out with strained hamstrings, and not expected to return for while; that leaves Facundo Campazzo (plus-0.1 VORP) and PJ Dozier (minus-0.1 VORP) to keep it together while Denver lean even more heavily on their impressive frontcourt. Toronto can beat the NBA odds Thursday night by using their balance and their extra day of rest to rake advantage. Bet accordingly, and enjoy the game.

NBA Pick: Raptors +4 (–110) at FanDuel

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