In baseball, a pitcher's win-loss record was once thought to be the most important statistic in determining his worth. Get a pitcher with a gaudy win-loss record and he was automatically thought to be a good. Hey, he won more games than he lost, what more do you need?
Now however, the pitcher's win-loss record has come to represent everything wrong-headed about old-school statistical considerations and nonsensical causation. Today we ask about a pitcher's strikeout rate, or about the effects of his home ballpark, or his team's offense, or all kinds of funky sounding acronyms. These days we need to know a lot more than those simple win and loss numbers to decide on a pitcher's quality.
And so it goes with this Raptors season. In reviewing any one week segment, Toronto can give the appearance of strong play or a slump. Last week they were 1-3, this week 3-1. Their record of 42-28 suggests a team that is still pretty good. They've beaten opponents at both the top and bottom of the league and basically locked the Atlantic Division up in November.
Yet, as we've learned more about how this team operates, it's become obvious the Raps' win-loss record does not tell the whole story. We know now to look at more telling stats - assists per game, defensive rating, shooting percentages, usage rate and more. We gaze upon the wreckage that is most of the Eastern Conference and compare it to the glittering terrordome of the West.
In short, we know better.
The Raptors' standing in the Power Rankings this week got a bit of a bump. They won some games in convincing fashion (just don't look too hard at the opponents), and lost a key one - to their closest rival no less - just as easily.
As is tradition, I'll let ESPN's Marc Stein start us off:
This week's lone loss came against the Chicago Bulls, who have now beaten the Raptors three times this season in mostly humiliating fashion. Will Toronto save face by finally beating them on Wednesday? I'm holding out hope.
Meanwhile over at SI.com, Matt "Not Hollinger" Dollinger pops in a good word for Greivis Vasquez (we'll forgive the typo; it's an uncommon name):
12 - TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 16
RECORD: 42-28 (3-1)
Grevis Vasquez has been a valuable sub for the Raptors all season, but he's been even more effective as a starter in spot duty. Toronto is 14-7 with Vasquez in the starting lineup, during which he has averaged 10.9 points, 4.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds.
On the one hand, Greivis does help the Raps' move the ball and get up and down the court. He's never lacked for confidence either. On the other hand though, if defense is your team's problem, starting Vasquez will never help. Right Dr. John Schuhmann?
As Schuhmann again notes at NBA.com, the Raptors' defense is still the biggest concern:
15 - Toronto (42-28)
Pace: 95.9 (18) OffRtg: 107.8 (4) DefRtg: 104.6 (22) NetRtg: +3.2 (10)
DeMar DeRozan has scored more than 20 points in 10 of 11 games in March, but the Raptors' offense has been at its best with reserves on the floor. Their soft schedule has allowed them to win three out of four and stay in position to have home-court advantage in the first round. But time is running out for them to put their defense back together by April 15.
Last week: 17
It feels good to see DeRozan appearing as his old self (and all the good and bad that implies) after injury knocked him for a loop. But there's that mention of the soft schedule and the fairly easy chance at home court advantage.
Toronto has been through all of this before - in 2007-08 and 2013-14. The tone may feel different this season, but we have seen how this looks.
And sadly now... we know better.
Now, to the poll.