It's been another sub-par week for the Raptors, to say the very least. Their three game southern road trip didn't exactly go swimmingly.
After continuing their inexplicable run of poor play against the Hornets, Toronto fell to supernova Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. The trip wrapped up Tuesday night with a failed second half comeback attempt in San Antonio. All told: 0-3 this week.
These rankings are meant to focus on the positive though. Sure, the team is mired in a 1-9 slump that has cast a gloomy shadow over the whole season and called into question the very structure of what was once a celebrated team. But there must be some bits of happiness that can be gleaned from a second-straight horrendous week, right?
Let's at least try to find some. Here are this weeks rankings.
#1 - DeMar DeRozan (Last Week: #4)
Weekly Stats: 25.0 PPG / 3.0 RPG / 5.3 APG / 50.0 FG%
As frustrating as DeRozan's playing style can be to watch, he's found a way to turn his strange mix of mid-range jumpers, free-throws and almost zero three-pointers into an effective plan of attack for the better part of the last few seasons. And in the midst of the worst slide the team has seen in a while, it's been great to see DeRozan regain his vintage form. This week he averaged a cool 25 points per game on a better-than-normal 50 percent from the field.
He is a flawed player, and has a greater capacity to enrage fans than any other Raptors player. But for this team to make any noise in the playoffs, DeRozan needs to be playing like he did this week (with more free throw attempts mixed in).
#2 - Al Jefferson
This was a brutal week for the Raptors. As a result, very few members of the team seem deserving of a spot in these rankings, so forgive me for including an outsider this week. As he proved on Friday night, Jefferson is everything the Raptors' bigs are not right now. His 23 point, 13 rebound showing dwarfed the combined 15 and 11 total posted by Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson - enough to give the Hornets goliath the spot that Valanciunas held last week.
A quick note on Valanciunas. It seemed as though he was turning a corner with his interior defense. That is, until Enes Kanter repeatedly torched him inside on Sunday night. And this against the Spurs:
Quite a fall for last week's #2.
#3 - Kyle Lowry (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Weekly Stats: 23.7 PPG / 3.7 RPG / 5.0 APG / 50.0 3FG%
That three-game breather appears to have been exactly what the Raptors All-Star needed. While he's not quite playing to the other-worldly level he showed in the early parts of the season, Lowry's return to mere respectability at the point guard spot is a welcome site for the sputtering Raptors. Since returning, he seems to have re-gained his three-point stroke - he's shooting 50.0% from outside in his last three games, compared to the atrocious 24.0% clip he posted in the 10 games before he sat down to rest. Obviously that comes with the "small sample size" caveat, but it's pretty easy to see that Lowry has some of his edge back.
#4 - Terrence Ross (Last Week: On The Cusp)
Weekly Stats: 11.0 PPG / 3.0 RPG / 3.0 APG / 40.9 3FG% / Team-best +3.1 NET Rtg (Among Regulars)
Ross' third season has not gone as well as Raptors brass would have hoped. Despite the constant criticism of his game, his Per-36 offensive totals have not fallen off quite as drastically as you might expect:
But it's his lackadaisical defensive effort and maddening inconsistency that have led many to question whether or not Ross can be a contributor on a good team. This week he silenced some of his critics though. Upon his insertion back into the starting line-up, Ross shot well from deep and provided the secondary offensive punch (particularly against the Thunder) that this team so desperately needs. Now he just needs to do it regularly.
#5 - Umm...
Let's call this one a 12-way tie. No Raptors outside of DeRozan, Lowry and Ross managed to average double digit points this week. As a whole, the team was out-rebounded 150-111 on the three game trip. The defense? Let's not talk about it. For a team billed as one that makes up for its lack of top-tier talent with excellent depth, this was not exactly a banner week in terms of living up to that identity.
It's not all terrible though. The schedule will lighten up soon (the combined win percentage of the Raptors last 16 opponents is .410), and after playing nine of the last 11 contests on the road, there will be an even 9-9 home and away split. We may yet get a Player Power Rankings that features five actual Raptors players.
On the Cusp
Masai Ujiri: The Raps GM was as animated as ever at a Canadian Basketball forum last night. Whether you buy into his comments or not, it's clear he's not done shaping this team.
(Stats via NBA.com/stats)