The Toronto Raptors, sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 13-7, have flown a little bit under the radar. But as we turn the calendar, the Raptors are the only East that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. And given their December schedule, the Raptors should remain in the top 10 on both ends of the floor for a while.
Though they'll be on the road for much of the month, the Raptors have the league's easiest December schedule, with only three of their games (two at home) against teams (Indiana and Philadelphia) that currently have winning records. The other 11 games are against the 13 teams that are currently below .500. Through November, Toronto is the league's only undefeated team (they're 5-0) against that group.
The Raps head west for a four-game trip, but the four opponents on that trip - the Grizzlies, Kings, Clippers and Suns - have a cumulative record of 29-55. Through Thursday, there are five teams that rank in the bottom 10 on both ends of the floor, and the Raptors play six games against four of those five teams, facing the Suns and Kings twice.
The toughest December game for the Raptors' defense will be its first one. They host the Pacers' No. 6 offense on Friday, Dec. 1. After that, their remaining December games are against offenses that currently rank 18th or worse, or are the 10th-ranked Clippers without Blake Griffin. After the Indiana game, the Raptors won't face a team that currently has a top-10 offense until Jan. 11, when they host the Cavs. They actually have the easiest December schedule in regard to both opposing offenses and opposing defenses.
The Raptors will have three back-to-backs in December, and the second game of each of those will be against an opponent that didn't play the day before. But they will also have three games in which they have a rest advantage, where their opponent is playing the second game of a back-to-back and the Raptors are not.
With Toronto, we always have to wait and see what happens in the playoffs. But these Raptors are playing a little different - they've had the league's biggest increase in assist percentage and its second biggest increase in the percentage of its shots that have come from 3-point range - and there's nothing wrong with playing well in the regular season. This month is when Toronto can do the work that secures a higher playoff position and, maybe, home-court advantage through more than one round.