The Raptors have had a tough go of it lately. Of course, when you take it all in perspective, a 2-3 road trip, including one loss against an unbeatable juggernaut and another where you lose your starting centre to injury, is not a time for despair. I mean, not exactly.
For the Raptors, things were sort of supposed to go this way--minus the Jonas Valanciunas injury, naturally. And when you take an even further step back and glance at the situation league-wide, suddenly the 9-6 Raptors, who have played a total of 11 games on the road and sit at fifth in the Eastern Conference, appear to find themselves in a situation that feels, dare I say it, reasonable.
The worrying counterpoints here are obvious. The Raptors minus Valanciunas are about to embark on a six week Bismack Biyombo mission; Toronto reverts to DeMar DeRozan-led iso-ball in times of extreme stress; Kyle Lowry is shooting under 40 percent from the field; We may have to summon an exorcist to find out what has happened to Terrence Ross (and possibly Patrick Patterson); Luis Scola is as graceful a gentleman as he is an old one. All of these statements provide easy license for despair.
But the season, like life, is long. Let's just get to this week's power rankings and maintain our perspective.
First up, ESPN's Marc Stein does his best to drum up optimism:
Last Week: 10
|If you trust the plus/minus system old heads in this NBA use -- subtracting home losses from road wins -- Toronto is second in the league at plus-5 and thus better off than its record suggests. If you still can't help worrying about the Raps' 4-6 mark since that 5-0 start, as well as the loss of Jonas Valanciunas, all we can say is: DeMar!|
I would argue this is probably too optimistic a take. In fact, I'm fairly confident if Stein walked up from Lake Ontario on Yonge Street announcing to one and all the answer to the Raptors' problems, post-JV injury, is more DeRozan, he would not make it to King Street.
This, from Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated, feels more appropriate for the Raptors:
9) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 7
RECORD: 9-6 (2-2)
Home cooking. The Raptors have played 11 of their first 15 games on the road and are 1-4 in games decided by two possessions or less. Things should get easier, with eight of their next 10 at the Air Canada Centre. A small disclaimer: that includes clashes with the Cavs, Spurs and Warriors.
Again, the road-home split needs to be mentioned. It has been an arduous stretch for the Raptors. They've hung in for most of their games--with only the blowout to Miami constituting a hopeless loss. (Most of the others fall in the "frustrating" category.) And hey, maybe the Raps will be the ones to beat the Warriors on their second try!
Ever the realist, John Schuhmann of NBA.com gets at some of the pluses and minuses heading the Raptors' way:
8) Toronto Raptors (9-6)
Last week: 9
Pace: 97.3 (23) OffRtg: 103.3 (7) DefRtg: 99.5 (10) NetRtg: +3.8 (9)
Jonas Valanciunas has a broken hand and Bismack Biyombo is the only other center on the roster. So the Raptors will probably lead the league in dropped passes over the next six weeks. But they finished their road trip with a big win over the Clippers on Sunday and we've seen a little more of #FIBAScola of late. Luis Scola has averaged 17.7 points in his last three games, shooting 13-for-26 from outside the paint.
The Biyombo situation isn't going away, though there are options. The first is, as Schuhmann mentions, relying more on Scola. The second involves small ball lineups with Patterson and James Johnson. The third, also known as the Let's Get Weird option, involves big minutes for Lucas Nogueira. There are options, is what I'm saying.
And finally, let's get the cold water splash from Matt Moore at CBSSports.com:
14) Toronto Raptors - Last Week: 8
That Jonas Valanciunas injury really hurts. He's been very good (Toronto is plus-13.6 with him on the floor vs. off in net points per 100 possessions). This is going to be a lot of minutes Bismack Biyombo has to play.
Ain't nothing like the facts.
Godspeed, Raptors. Godspeed.
Now let's go to the poll.