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Toronto Raptors Are an ATM Machine This Season

T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Predictions

Chances are probably pretty good that you don't pay a lot off attention to the Toronto Raptors. You really should. They have been a very profitable bet all year. They share with Phoenix the distinction of having covered the most games this season - 26. That's almost 58 percent of the games they have played. They've also been on a bit of a tear recently. They've won seven of their last ten games (and covered six of them) to move back into the lead of the dismal Atlantic Division. If they keep playing like they are now, there is no reason that they can't stay at the top and make it into the postseason. They have been a very good team to bet on, and it seems reasonable to believe that they will continue to be just as good, or better, down the stretch. Here are six good reasons why you, as a bettor who likes to make money, should be paying attention to the Raptors:

Under machines - No team has gone under more times, or over fewer times, than the Raptors (15-29). The last time they went over a total was on Jan. 7, a span of 11 games. The team is neither exceptionally good nor exceptionally bad on either side of the ball. In fact, they are right about average on both offense and defense. The team's success on keeping it under is in part due to the public perception that this isn't a particularly good team. That gives the total a few extra points and keeps the team on the bottom side. More significantly, though, the team has tightened up dramatically when they don't have the ball. They have allowed an average of seven fewer points per game over the last 11 games than they have over the whole season.

Chris Bosh - Bosh would be a much bigger star if he had been drafted in a different year. He had the misfortune of coming out the same year as LeBron, Melo and D-Wade. Still, people are starting to recognize that he certainly belongs in the conversation with those classmates - he was voted as an All-Star starter this year. Bosh is just plain good. He leads his team in points, rebounds and blocks. He's exciting to watch, and he dominates the court and gives his team confidence when he is playing. When he returned from an injury that sidelined him for 12 games the team responded by going out and covering eight of nine.

The team without Bosh - As important as Bosh is to the team, it was very positive to see how the team responded when Bosh missed those 12 games. Despite the gaping hole in the lineup, the team still managed to win six of the games. For a team that is struggling to get to .500 on the year, it is very promising that they were able to maintain that pace without their only true star. To me, that says a couple of things. First, it shows that they have a bench that plays together well and is cohesive. That will help down the stretch. Second, it tells me that this is a team that is only going to get better. They have some potential that will get realized with time.

Conference record - The Raptors are terrible against the Western Conference, but the same can be said about most of the teams in the underwhelming East. They are much better against their own conference, though. They are 15-9 against the East, which is a better mark than more than half of the teams in their conference. That means that they have the ability to be competitive against their own kind. More importantly, the team is an impressive 7-2 against their own division. That's not only the best division record amongst the teams in their division by a large margin, but it's tied with Chicago for the best division record in the whole conference. There's one promising note to mention about their performance against the West as well - though they are just 7-14 straight up against the West, they are a much better 11-10 ATS. That means that they aren't good, but they are better than people think they are. That's something to build on.

Home record - The Raptors are 14-7 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Only three teams in the Eastern Conference have more wins at home. The Raptors are a truly terrible road team, but they can get it done at home. A team needs to be able to win at home if they want to accomplish anything, and Toronto's winning percentage at home is among the elite in the league. That's no reason for a grand celebration, but it at least is a sign that the team has something going for it.

Developing players - Besides Bosh, and arguably T.J. Ford, this is a team that is entirely lacking in household names. There are a lot of players on the team, though, that are talented and are only going to get better. The most obvious member of that category is Andrea Bargnani, last year's first overall draft choice. The Italian is still wildly inconsistent, but he's showing sparks and unquestionably has the skills. Anthony Parker, who was the MVP of the Euroleague the last two years, is the only Raptor to start every game this season, and he's getting more consistently impressive. Joey Graham, Jorge Garbajosa and Jose Calderon are all other players who have their best days ahead of them as well. These players mean not only that the team is going to get more entertaining to watch as time passes, but also that they will get more competitive and more interesting to bet on.

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