Much like this Raptors season, the Power Ranking Poll never made a ton of sense. It started as a straight-up referendum on ESPN's Power Rankings and then grew to include a couple of other major publications. I've since calibrated it to be an emotional bellwether of the regular season, week by week. (And an opportunity to use the goofiest pictures of the Raps I can find.)
As we've muscled through each game with the team, I feel like we've ridden the highs and lows of the regular season together. It's been an emotional journey, everyone, filled with rankings as high no. 3 and as low as... well don't worry about that. But now we're at the end, the final Power Ranking Poll. [single tear]
For one final time, we look to our gracious leader, Marc Stein of ESPN, to start us off:
Last Week: 14
|Given the seemingly precarious health of backcourt stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, along with the slippage that finds the Raps ranked No. 24 in defensive efficiency, it has to be a relief that both the No. 3 seed and the first 50-win season in team history remain very much in play.|
Some things are fair about this write-up and others are not. Stein is right in noting that Toronto does have a shot at 50 wins (which once felt like a lock, and then felt impossible) and the No. 3 seed (which felt easy throughout the season). But what's this about the precarious health of DeRozan? Dear man, DeRozan has been the straw that stirs the Raps' drink for a solid month now. Amir Johnson meanwhile...
13 - Toronto Raptors
LAST WEEK: 14
RECORD: 48-32 (3-0)
DeMar DeRozan is averaging 24.3 points per game since March 1, a huge spike from the 16.7 he was averaging before the All-Star break. Toronto's offense has been among the best in the league all season, but it'll need second-half DeRozan in order to make noise in the playoffs and get out of the first round for the first since 2000-01.
Mr. Dollinger, we may have been cracking jokes, but what you've said here is true. The Raps need the best player in the second half of the season to be their best player in the playoffs. With the defense as bad as it's ever been, the Raps may as well go full-on bombs away and try to offensively blow every team off the court. For that, Toronto needs DeRozan.
And finally, without further ado, John Schuhmann on NBA.com with his erudite musings:
13 - Toronto Raptors (48-32)
Last week: 15
Pace: 95.4 (20) OffRtg: 108.3 (3) DefRtg: 105.0 (24) NetRtg: +3.3 (9)
The Raptors haven't solved their defensive issues and are 12-15 since the All-Star break. But they have a potent offense and they're relatively healthy. They have home-court advantage in the first round and a 5-1 record against potential opponents Washington (3-0) and Milwaukee (2-1). Maybe this is the year they finally win a seven-game playoff series.
Oh don't tease us like that John. Don't you do it. The Raptors have been bad since the All-Star break, we all know this. But we need that first round seven-game series win. A team can only be mercy killed in the playoffs so many times before a city snaps. Commentators are talking about the Raps getting knocked off by the below-.500 Bucks. This cannot be. It cannot. Leave the "End of Days" talk to Leaf fans, Raptors fans still want to believe.
Now, having said goodbye to our patron saints of the Power Rankings. Let's go to the final poll of the season. God speed, everyone.