At long last, it appears the Raptors are emerging from the doldrums of mediocrity. Sunday's loss to the Blazers was certainly a masterclass of poor defending. However, sandwiched around that game were a pair of triumphs that offered what has been a rare sighting for weary Raptors fans since the calendar turned to 2015: a competent and complete Raptors team.
With the rapid inflation of the loss column appearing to slowing down, let's have a look at what will likely be the most positive version of the Raptors Player Power Rankings to date:
#1 - Kyle Lowry (Last Week: #3)
Weekly Stats: 16.3 PTS / 7.7 REB / 8.0 AST / 52.4 3FG% / 1 Awkward Looking Headband
Sometimes a short cat nap can work wonders, giving you just the right amount of rest of to get you through the rest of the day. Kyle Lowry's three game layoff two weeks ago is starting to look like a lot like a great, refreshing nap - on the full season scale.
Fresh off of his second triple-double of the season, and a week that saw him post a line of 16.3 / 7.7 / 8.0 with a 63.4 True Shooting Percentage and a fantastic +14.6 NET Rating, Lowry looks to be re-gaining his All-Star form. It's got to be the headband, right?
Headband Kyle Lowry is basically what Jonny Flynn was drafted to be.— Harsh Dave (@IamHarshDave) March 16, 2015
#2 - Jonas Valanciunas (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Weekly Stats: 14 PTS / 10.5 REB / 82.4 FG% / 1 Offspring Brought Forth
The only thing Valanciunas missed this week was Friday's game against the Heat. After returning to action following the birth of Jonas Jr., Valanciunas caught fire, not missing a shot until midway through Monday night's win in Indiana. All told, the new daddy shot 14-17 from the field, cementing him in third in the NBA in Field-Goal percentage (behind only DunkAndre Jordan and teammate Amir Johnson).
Offensive totals like that will only enhance the calls for the Lithuanian to get more run late in games. Before sending a tweet calling out Dwane Casey though, consider that Valanciunas had a -9.1 Net Rating this week. It's only two games, and he was a defensive presence regularly against the Pacers, but the hesitation to trust him down the stretch is still defensible.
#3 - DeMar DeRozan (Last Week: #1)
Weekly Stats: 20.7 PTS / 5.7 REB / 3.7 AST / 36.7 FG%
The only player to find himself in the Top-5 of every edition of these super influential rankings is DeRozan. He has found the form that made him an All-Star in 2013-14 in the last few weeks, and his performances are finally starting to translate into Raptors wins.
He lost ground on his wonderful 50.0 percent field goal shooting from last week - but made up for it by re-discovering his knack for getting to the line. He attempted 9.7 free throws per game this week, compared to the meager 3.7 he put up during last week's rankings-topping performance. This version of DeRozan is just fine.
#4 - Amir Johnson (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Weekly Stats: 11.3 PTS / 6.3 REB / 70.0 FG%
Johnson's 16 point, 14 rebound effort against the Spurs last Tuesday almost earned him a spot on last week's list. Seeing as that game was the first in a while in which he wasn't invisible, he didn't quite cut it. He's earned the fourth slot this week though.
Amid the discussion of Johnson's impending departure this summer, he's had a mini resurgence in his last four games. Like Valanciunas, his defense was sub-par this week (106.9 DEF Rtg), and his rebounding has continued to drop off, but it's tough not appreciate how hard he works - especially since his ankles seem as though they could shatter every time they hit the floor.
#5 - Tyler Hansbrough (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Weekly Stats: 5.3 PTS / 3.0 REB / 100.0 FG% / 1 Uncharacteristic Dunk
Say what you will about Psycho-T, but there are worse players to have at the 10th spot on your bench. Averaging nearly 20 minutes per game this week, Hansbrough found his way back into the regular rotation after looking to be on the fringe a week or two ago.
His numbers aren't astronomical, and he's far from being a freak athlete, but he occasionally throws down dunks like this that defy the laws of physics:
On the Cusp
James Johnson: Johnson played sparingly this week, averaging just 13.0 minutes played against Miami and Portland before riding the pine against Indiana. He did this against the Heat though, which warrants recognition:
He didn't "cock that joint back," but he definitely "banged on him."
What are you thoughts on this weeks Raptors Player Power Rankings?