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Toronto Raptors

Heat Check: Would the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James beat this Toronto Raptors team in the playoffs?

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Pascal Siakam and LeBron James (NBA Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, in hopes to sweep the season series versus Cleveland for the first time since 2000-01.

You could call it revenge for three early playoff exits three years in a row courtesy of the Cavaliers, but the revenge might not taste as sweet without the satisfaction of beating LeBron James.

So that got us thinking - would this year's Raptors team be able to defeat this year's fully healthy Cavaliers team in the playoffs if they had LeBron?

The debate got so heated that we had to take it to NBA 2K19 to get some sort of closure, in which the Raptors handled the Cavs with ease in a five-game gentleman's sweep. But those results still could not get everyone on the same page.

So here you have it - would the Raptors take care of this year's fully healthy Cavs plus LeBron in the postseason?

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Are we really doing this?

I get that the Cavaliers swept the Raptors last postseason and LeBron has historically had Toronto's number, but this Raptors team is different in so many ways. For one, they have Kawhi Leonard, who I trust much more in the playoff setting than DeMar DeRozan. Secondly, they are far better equipped to match up with LeBron.

According to NBA.com, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam guarded LeBron far more than anyone else on the Raptors in the playoffs. It's not that they're bad defenders - they're both incredibly valuable on that end of the court with their size, length and speed - but Anunoby was a rookie and Siakam was a sophomore. Instead of relying on them to do most of the heavy lifting, the Raptors would be able to throw multiple defenders at LeBron, from those two to Danny Green and Leonard, the latter of whom has had more success guarding LeBron in his career than most.

That doesn't mean they would completely shut down LeBron, because we all know that's impossible. But I do think the four of them, plus Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka would be able to prevent LeBron from going supernova like he did last postseason, which, given the supporting cast he'd have in this situation, wouldn't be enough for the Cavaliers to beat the Raptors.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Conventional wisdom takes the Raptors. Rational and logical reasoning leads to the Raptors. Almost every sign when factoring in wholesale changes to the rosters, especially in Toronto, points to the Raptors.

I'd still take LeBron James.

Sometimes, the mental edge and vice-like grip that a player holds over a team is simply insurmountable. The Raptors should have beat the Cavaliers last year. Top to bottom, they were the better, more complete team. Prior to the start of the series, ESPN's Basketball Power Index gave the Raptors an 88 percent chance of winning the series.

88 PERCENT!!!!

Instead, they got swept.

Assuming full health - which includes Kevin Love - expecting a LeBron-led Cavaliers team to lose a playoff series in the East would be a "have to see it to believe it" scenario, especially against a team he's simply owned.

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Every part of me wants to say LeBron and this year's Cavaliers. We've seen it time and time again that he absolutely dominates the Raptors, especially in the postseason.

Betting against LeBron is never a smart decision, or at least I told myself that this year when I predicted his Lakers would end up in the Western Conference Finals - and I was clearly wrong about that. So therefore, I'm taking the Raptors.

I know history repeats itself, but this year's Raptors team is different. And I know we heard that last year when they won a franchise record 59 games only to get swept by their kryptonite in the second round, but when I watch this team this season it has a completely different feel to it.

Even with how dominant they were last season, I never considered that they would reach The Finals. This year is a different story - Kawhi Leonard can take them to that next level.

Between Leonard, this year's version of Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol protecting the rim, I like the hypothetical idea of Toronto overcoming their woes against LeBron.

This year's Cavaliers team has plenty of issues, but defence is arguably the biggest of them all. I can't buy into LeBron jumping on this roster and making them so dominant offensively that their defence wouldn't play a factor in a seven games series against the Raptors.

Plus, losing Kyle Korver, JR Smith, Jeff Green and George Hill plays more of a role than you think. I know how that sounds, but wait til you see LeBron drive the lane and draw the entire defence, only to have nobody to kick out to on the perimeter.

Yeah, give me the Raptors.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): As much as it pains me to say, I'm going with LeBron.

I've been wrong about this before too many times and I refuse to let myself bet against anything LeBron vs the Raptors related again.

In 2016 when the Raps made the Conference Finals and won two games of a series that was supposed to be a sweep, it felt like they were playing with house money - LeBron took care of them in six.

The following year in 2017, after letting the inferior Bucks push them to six games, the Raptors once again felt like underdogs going up against the King. However, most weren't expecting a clean sweep which it ended up being.

Last season was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be the year. The Cavs and LeBron were on a down year and coming into the semi-final series vulnerable after Indiana had pushed them to a seven-game series. Everything was there for the Raptors, every metric pointed to it being the year Toronto finally overcame the mountain until LeBron James broke their hearts again. Clean sweep and two of the four weren't even competitive.

I know this year's team is different - by the way, I heard that before. I know Kawhi Leonard has probably done the best job of guard LeBron James in the past. I know there's a new coach, I know Pascal is hooping. I've also seen the Cavs play this season and know how bad that roster is. I told myself I'll never bet against LeBron James in a seven-game series against the Raptors ever again.

The good thing about this is we won't find out how things would turn out this year.

Carlos Herrera Luyando (@carhluy43): I know, I know... never underestimate LeBron James.

But the physical power and youth combined with the experience, strength and roster depth of this Raptors team can compete with any NBA team.

These guys are great on defense and have great offensive players who can score on anyone. It is so hard to stop LeBron, but Kawhi has done it before as a member of the Spurs.

OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam are having great seasons, along with Leonard who leads the team in scoring.

I know you should never underestimate LeBron, but the depth of the Raptors' roster would give Toronto the W.

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