As always in these matters, let's try to maintain some perspective on the Toronto Raptors. Around this time last year, on this very day in fact, Toronto said good afternoon to the New York Knicks, won their sixth game in a row, and stood at 22-6. They were in first place in the Eastern Conference. What a time to be alive, as they say.
Do you remember any of that? I suspect not. The only memory we have of last season is 4-0 and Paul Pierce giving daps to Drake and much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Those first two months last year feel like the memory of a fever dream.
You probably see where I'm going with this. The Raptors of 2015-16 currently sit at 17-12. This is good. But we're not running through the streets losing our minds about playoff matchups and potential runs to the Finals, as we did last year (even if it was in jest). We're looking instead at a team that can be quite good when it wants to be, when the pieces are present and clicking, and the game starts to break its way.
Somewhere between the first two months of last season, and the first two months of this season, are the true Toronto Raptors. This semi-real version of the team has a full complement of players and can play a sharp game both offensively and defensively. The numbers back this up. And while there have been flashes, we are still waiting.
Now let's get to the rankings discussion with, as always, the big man Marc Stein of ESPN leading us off:
Last Week: 5
|Rough week for the Raps. On top of that unpleasant fall-from-ahead trip to Indy detailed in the Pacers' space, Toronto also had to stomach the DeMar DeRozan game winner that wasn't in what became an agonizing OT loss to one of the league's best home teams, as well as Kyle Lowry's 14 missed 3-pointers in the same game.|
Dammit Marc, when you line up all of those statements like that it makes my pseudo-baroque Raptors pep talk look like, well, a pseudo-baroque pep talk. If you skipped my opener, here's the short version: it has been a rough week for the Raps, as Stein confirms.
Moving on. I wonder if Jeremy Woo at SI.com truly grasps the power of understatement:
7) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 5
RECORD: 17-12 (1-3)
It was one of those weeks for the Raptors, who opened a 21-point lead against the Pacers and lost by 16, lost to the Hornets in overtime, rallied to beat the Heat convincingly the next day, then were sluggish against the Kings. Their constant lately has been DeMar DeRozan (20-plus points in seven straight), who remains a bit underappreciated nationally.
Throw the rest of this one out and just zero in on that very last bit there. I want to frame that little modifier and hang it on my wall. I want to use it as a book title. I want to ask if it can be installed in a museum. Have you heard about DeMar DeRozan? He may still remain a bit underappreciated nationally.
But what about Dr. John Schuhmann, PhD, resident professor of NBA.com:
10) Toronto Raptors
Last week: 5
Pace: 96.0 (25) OffRtg: 103.2 (8) DefRtg: 100.3 (12) NetRtg: +2.9 (8)
Friday's win in Miami was the Raptors' sixth (tied for the league lead with Atlanta and Golden State) on the road against teams currently over .500, but their offense struggled in losses to the Pacers, Hornets and Kings last week. DeMar DeRozan has been putting up big numbers and almost won Thursday's game in Charlotte, but Kyle Lowry shot 6-for-29 that night and got ejected in Sunday's loss against the Kings.
We're just going to pretend there is nothing wrong with Kyle Lowry. Onward.
Elbow drop, here comes Matt Moore of CBS Sports:
10) Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
The Kings loss was a rare one in that it was a bad loss. They've lost three of four, but most of their losses this season are in the "OK, that makes sense" variety. The Kings loss, at home, was bizarre. They really need Jonas Valanciunas back, but I would maintain there's no real reason for concern with this team. Their overall resume should give them some credit ... if they can manage as the schedule starts to get harder.
So as it turns out, maybe Moore was on to something last week when he pushed the Raptors back to ninth. We laughed, seeing as the team had just ripped off four straight wins. But now, after a 1-3 week and some bad losses, it makes sense. You know what else makes sense? The Raptors need of Jonas Valanciunas. That's real.
Anyway, on to the poll.