Raptors vs. Suns Preview: VanVleet Gives Toronto Value

Austin Wang previews Friday's NBA game between the Raptors and Suns, including betting odds and a prediction.

Raptors vs. Suns Odds

Raptors Odds +6.5
Suns Odds -6.5
Over/Under 221.5
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Toronto Raptors continue their trip out west for the third of their six-game road trip against the Phoenix Suns.

The Raptors were once trending upward in the East, but that came to a screeching halt right before the All-Star break. They’ve gone 4-7 since then and reached a new low with two outright losses against bottom-feeders in the Magic and Pistons. With Fred VanVleet back in the lineup, the Raptors will look to finish this season strong.

The Suns just welcomed Devin Booker back from a four-game hiatus due to league’s health and safety protocols. His presence was huge in the big win against the Miami Heat, especially with Chris Paul still out with a thumb injury.

Can the Suns continue their strong dominant season on Friday? Or can the Raptors turn their season around and get an upset on the road?

Raptors Happy to Have VanVleet Back

OG Anunoby has been out for eight games with a fractured finger. He will be out of the lineup for Friday’s game and will be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks.

Needless to say, VanVleet’s return has a big impact on this team as the Raptors do not have much depth. Head coach Nick Nurse has consistently utilized a short seven- or eight-man rotation and has over-utilized his starters. VanVleet and Pascal Siakam lead the league in minutes played per game, so it was no surprise fatigue and injuries eventually came haunting.

VanVleet looked great in his return and proved he is indeed that valuable. He dropped 26 points and three 3-pointers in a much-needed win against the San Antonio Spurs on the road.

Precious Achiuwa has seen an uptick in playing time with Anunoby out and has really upped his game with the increased opportunity. He’s 11-for-22 from behind the arc in his previous seven games — an area that has not been prevalent in his career. If he continues to play at this level, it gives the Raptors some depth to a short rotation.

The Raptors are 28-13 (68.3%) against the spread against teams with an above-average Offensive Efficiency, per the Sports Query Data Language at Gimme The Dog. They are 22-11 (66.7%) ATS against teams that play at an above average Pace, per the SDQL. Both of these criteria fit the Suns. The Raptors have a tendency to use their strong defense and slow the tempo to get these opposing teams out of their comfort zone.

Suns Keep Chugging Along

The Suns have a healthy lead over the Grizzlies (No. 2 seed) and Warriors (No. 3 seed) for the top spot in the Western Conferende. With the top seed seemingly locked up, I question their motivation toward the end of the season as teams in this situation may get complacent.

Cam Johnson remains out with an injury. The other Cam, Cam Payne, has been filling in admirably for Chris Paul, notching three double-doubles with points and assists in the previous four games. He suffered an ankle injury against the Heat but was able to shrug it off and return for the game. He is not listed on the injury report, so we will consider him active.

The Suns have been such a great two-way team this season, ranking in the top four in both Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. They have a deep team at every position and once Paul returns, should be primed to take care of unfinished business from last season with a championship.

They’ve been able to continue the momentum without Paul, but they haven’t been doing it as efficiently on the offensive end. They are only 17th in Offensive Rating (113.5) since the All-Star break, an area that the Raptors can exploit with their stifling defense.

Raptors-Suns Pick

The Raptors kept it close in a 99-95 loss to the Suns on January 11 and that was with Paul active.

The market is down on the Raptors due to their recent play. However, getting VanVleet back in the lineup was huge. In addition, the Raptors have had success in these situations against the best teams. Also, I think there will be a letdown component with the Suns after a big win against the East’s No. 1 seed, Miami.

I’m grabbing the Raptors and the points at +6.

Pick: Raptors +6 (down to +4)