With LeBron James now plying his trade in the Western Conference for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference has never been more wide open.
James takes with him a near decade of dominance which includes eight straight trips to the NBA Finals. Now teams like the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors can see a realistic path to a championship series.
NBA Championship updated- Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) July 2, 2018
Trail Blazers 100/1
For the Raptors, LeBron James has been the biggest obstacle in their quest for their first-ever Eastern Conference title. James and his Cavaliers have ended the last three Raptors playoff runs, going 12-2 in the process.
And it wasn't just in the playoffs, James boasts a 41-10 record all-time against Toronto in the regular season - averaging 27.6 points, 7.7 assists and 7.2 rebounds in those contests.
Even before LeBron became LeBron, he was torching the Raptors. He became the youngest player in league history to score 50 or more when he went off for 56 points at just 20 years of age in 2005 against the Raps.
Masai Ujiri and the Raptors' front office built their team, with finally being able to beat LeBron in the playoffs in mind. They looked like they were going to get the job done this season. The deepest team in franchise history, a new playing style and the confidence and swag that only the number one seed in the Eastern Conference could posses heading into the post-season.
A quick four-game sweep at the hands of James and the Cavaliers looked to be a knockout blow that the franchise might not have recovered from, leaving former head coach Dwane Casey to wonder what the team's fortunes would have been if James wasn't in their path.
"We want to be the organization who knocks that gate down," Casey said after the series loss. "For whatever reason, we got the unlucky draw every year of going against him."
Now the Raptors just like every other team in the Eastern Conference won't have to get that unlucky draw until the NBA Finals - or maybe not at all.
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