Starting something new is usually difficult. Today is Monday, the beginning of the work week, and good lord if it has not been an incredible pain just to get going. And this is just arbitrary days of the week we're talking about here; I can't imagine what it takes to get an NBA season started.
The Toronto Raptors have played three games so far in their 2015-16 season. They've gotten off to sluggish starts in at least two of them, and an uneasy start in the third. Yet, they're 3-0. If there are any tensions on the roster, or inter-personal problems, or just general uncertainty, it's been hidden well, chalked up to the usual "we're just getting to know one another" nerves. In its own way, the Raptors are kind of inspiring. What is a Monday filled with early alarms, dreary conference calls, and, deep down, the throbbing notion of insignificance that pervades all of our actions, when your favourite NBA team--our team!--is undefeated?
They continue on. And so should we. Let's get to Week 1 of the Raptors Power Ranking Poll.
Up first, as always, the Godfather of NBA Rankings, Marc Stein from ESPN:
Last Week: 12
|Cautious optimism is what they're preaching north of the border, where the locals haven't forgotten how last season's Raptors bolted to a 15-4 start, which meant absolutely zilch come playoff time. Yet there's no denying that going into Boston on Friday night and beating their only real rival for the Atlantic Division felt rather satisfying.|
Stein hits all the right buttons here. Raptors fans (and Toronto sports fans in general) are a cautiously optimistic lot, mostly because it's felt like the past 20 plus years have been one long punch to the stomach. But I digress: it did feel great to beat Boston. Even better to beat Milwaukee--the supposed new upstart team of the East--last night, just FYI.
A big hello to Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who's apparently picking up where Matt "Not Hollinger" Dollinger left off last season. His take echoes the previous one:
9) Toronto Raptors
LAST WEEK: 11
Toronto started out hot last year and appears to be sprinting down the same path this season with three wins and the effective integration of several new players. However, their biggest off-season move may have been extending center Jonas Valanciunas, who could be a double-double guy this season and is still just 23.
Again, the hot start is mentioned. This time though, some specifics are delved into. The Raptors do in fact have Jonas Valanciunas who, at 23, is ready to be a double-double guy this season.
Now my favourite set of rankings, from NBA.com's John Schuhmann (who's name I can never spell from memory; sorry John), cuts to the quick:
8) Toronto Raptors
Last week: 13
Pace: 103.8 (10) OffRtg: 103.4 (8) DefRtg: 93.8 (7) NetRtg: +9.6 (7)
Jonas Valanciunas is getting to touch the ball a little more this year. Not only has DeMarre Carroll (16.3 points per game, 8-for-19 from 3-point range) fit in well with the Raptors, but Terrence Ross (12.3, 6-for-13) looks comfortable in his new role off the bench. The Raps are 3-0 against third-tier teams in the East, but play 10 of their next 12 games on the road and 13 of their next 20 against the West.
More updates on Jonas who has been touching the ball more lately, and proving that it is actually very difficult to guard a large Lithuanian man who would like to put this basketball through that hoop whenever he pleases. Schuhmann also rightly notes that DeMarre Carroll has been playing well, and that Terrence Ross, everyone's favourite Raptor, is doing things. Schuhmann is also a realist: this coming road trip will be the real test.
Finally, an added bonus, Matt Moore from CBS Sports (or as you know him, @HPBasketball) weighs in:
6) Toronto Raptors
This is just like last year in that the Raptors have come out of the gates red hot, only this time it's not a complete and utter fraud. They actually are this good, on both sides of the ball. The defense is better, their stars are better, the bench is better. I'm buying the Raps.
He's buying the Raps. We'll survive this Monday. Life will go on.
Let's go to the poll.