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Bulls vs. Raptors Preview: A Showdown in Toronto

What should you look for in tonight's showdown between our top two teams in the Eastern Conference?

It may be early in the season, but tonight's meeting between our number-four ranked Chicago Bulls and number-five ranked Toronto Raptors will surely have the feel of an Eastern Conference playoff game. Both teams came into this season with hopes of winning the Eastern Conference, and so far this year they haven't strayed from that path. If the playoffs were to start today, they'd be the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. In fact, according to our metrics, both the Bulls and Raptors have at least an 85% chance of making the playoffs and at least a 5% chance of winning the NBA title. Let's take a look at just how even this matchup is.

nERDRecordOffensive Eff.Defensive Eff.

As you can see, the Bulls have a very slight edge in team nERD while the Raptors have the edge in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. But the two are more evenly match than even these numbers indicate. As of today, our numbers like Toronto (47.9 projected wins) to finish with only .6 more wins than Chicago (47.3). As you can see, these head to head matchups - even this early in the season - can be crucial when it comes to playoff seeding. So let's dive deeper into this Thursday night matchup.

The Backcourt

Like the numbers indicate, both teams are pretty evenly matched across the board. When it comes to the guards though I'd have to give the edge to the Raptors even with Derrick Rose listed as probable for tonight's game. When healthy, D-Rose is one of the best point guards in the league. He's averaging over 17 points and nearly 6 assists in 27.5 minutes per game.

But with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan playing at such a high level, it's hard to pick an injury-plagued guard, even when he plays alongside such an efficient shooting guard in Jimmy Butler. Lowry and DeRozan possess a total nERD of 21.7 between them to go with their 39.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.4 assists per contest. Rose and Butler only boast a better assist total per game (9.1). Edge to the guards north of the border.

The Frontcourt

Both frontcourts have a very similar makeup. Each have a handful of contributors at the forward positions. At center, the edge is apparent. When healthy, Joakim Noah may be one of the best centers in the game. But he has been riddled with injury and sickness in the early parts of this season, as evidenced by his nERD of -0.1. If he is finally back to full health, he should outplay Valanciunas downlow - despite his nERD of 5.7.

At the forward position, it's not an easy call. There's several key players on each team. However, our metrics give the Raptors the advantage. Toronto's four key contributors at the forward position have a combined nERD of 20.8 compared to Chicago's 18.0. With that being said, it does not appear that there is a sizable advantage for either team in the frontcourt. But, Pau Gasol is the deciding factor. Since joining the Bulls this season, Gasol is playing really good basketball - averaging over 18 points, 11 boards and 2 blocks per game. Advantage "Da Bulls."

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