It was a hair-pulling, heart-breaking week for the Raptors. A 1-2 record would have seemed okay a couple of months ago, when taxing road trips and powerful opponents illustrated the Raptors' identity as a good-not-great team. But in a week that saw the Raptors' start a stretch of eight straight games against sub-500 squads, one win seems like a disappointing haul.
There's no real reason to panic though. The Nets and Celtics are both fighting for the right to be bulldozed by the Hawks and/or Cavs in the first round of the playoffs. And while the Raptors are still playing to hold onto home-court in a seemingly inevitable series with the Wizards, Toronto's main goal is to get Kyle Lowry - and now Amir Johnson - healthy before the playoffs start in 11 days.
But still, damn you, Marcus Smart.
Here are the season's penultimate Raptors Player Power Rankings:
#1 - Lou Williams (Last Week: On the Cusp)
Weekly Stats: 22.7 PTS / 1.7 REB / 3.0 AST / +18.1 NET Rtg
My how far we've come. A mere fortnight ago, Williams was rocking goat horns following a spectacularly awful game-ending shot from the centre court logo at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Now, Williams, a legitimate Sixth-Man of the Year Award candidate, has ended DeMar DeRozan's reign atop the power rankings with a stellar all-around week. With a boost in playing time facilitated by Lowry's absense (31.1 MPG this week; 25.0 on the season), Williams excelled in the last three contests - particularly in crunch time.
Of Williams' 68 total points this week, 35 of them came in the fourth quarter or overtime. His shooting line in those late game scenarios: 11-17 FG (64.7%) / 7-12 3FG (58.3%) / 6-9 FT.
I still cringe every time Williams' launches one of his trademark ridiculous pull-ups, but if he's going into the playoffs on a hot streak like the one he was riding this week, those shots are more excusable.
#2 - DeMar DeRozan (Last Week: #2)
Weekly Stats: 27.3 PTS / 3.7 REB / 4.7 AST / 60.3 TS%
What else is there to say about DeRozan's play in recent weeks. Since March 1st, he's been an entirely different player, scoring with pleasantly surprising efficiency.
His massive 38-point performance against Boston provided a glimpse of a version of DeRozan that doesn't rely on heaving mid-range jumpers with defenders draped all over him. He ferociously attacked the rim:
|Less than 5 ft.||8||10||80.0|
|5 - 9 ft.||2||5||40.0|
|10 - 14 ft.||4||6||66.7|
|15 ft. +||0||4||0.0|
In addition to his 8 field goals at the rim against the Celtics, DeRozan went 10-12 from the free throw line. Like Williams, his shot choices can be mystifying. But it's comforting to know that DeRozan was able to get to the basket at will - especially against solid perimeter defenders like Avery Bradley and Smart.
#3 - Tyler Hansbrough (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Weekly Stats: 10.0 PTS / 7.3 REB / 81.8 FG% / 25.5 MPG
In the absence on Amir Johnson on Saturday, we were given 36 minutes of Tyler Hansbrough. That's not ideal. But did he ever run with the opportunity, potting 18 points and snatching 8 rebounds while continuing to add to his baffling NET Rating.
Three games is but a tiny sample, but his On/Off Court splits this week were astonishing:
|Raptors Efficiency (Last 3 Games)||OFF Rtg||DEF Rtg||NET Rtg|
|w/ Hansbrough on Court||126.2||103.3||+22.9|
|w/ Hansbrough off Court||104.5||124.4||-19.9|
The world may be coming to an end.
#4 - Jonas Valanciunas (Last Week: #3)
Weekly Stats: 16.0 PTS / 9.0 REB / 61.8 FG%
TSN's Josh Lewenberg wrote this week about the Raptors enacting the "Valanciunas Rule," which, according to Dwane Casey, states that the big-man isn't to touch the ball outside of 16-18 feet. The reasoning behind it is entirely sound - Valanciunas isn't a guy who needs to be handing the ball on the perimeter, and he is more than at home working in the low post.
But it's not like Valanciunas is utterly useless from mid-range either. This season he is 14-35 for a reasonable 40.0 percent success rate from 15-19 feet. That's too small a sample size to say whether or not Valanciunas can be a dependable mid-range shooter, but it would be a nice wrinkle to add into his offensive repertoire.
If the "Valanciunas Rule" is going to be strictly enforced though, the hope is that we'll see Casey's trust in his centre grow. We've covered Valanciunas' fantastic scoring efficiency many time before in these rankings; it would be nice to see Casey draw some plays up to get him the ball instead of implementing rules to keep it away from him.
#5 - The Rims that Patrick Patterson is Shooting on
Weekly Stats: 17.6 Opp. FG% / 15.4 Opp 3FG% / 4.0 PTS Against
Patterson's once great shooting stroke has performed a disappearing act akin to the one Kentucky's offense did down the stretch against Wisconsin (Sorry Patrick). Two weeks ago, Patterson made the rankings based on what appeared to be a return of his three-point shot.
This week squashed that illusion though. His 15.4 percent rate in the last three games brings his season total down to an almost-average 37.3% for the year - a dramatic slip of more than nine percent since the New Year. Without Patterson reliably hitting threes, the spacing he provides - particularly when James Johnson is on the court - is nullified.
Thankfully, Patterson remains a steady rebounder and versatile defender. But if Amir Johnson's ankle injury lingers, a Patterson-Hansbrough playoff crunch-time front court combo looms. That excites nobody except Nenê and Marcin Gortat.
On the Cusp
Greivis Vasquez: Racking up north of 33 minutes per contest this week, Vasquez continued his admirable Kyle Lowry fill-in job. His assist numbers were low (3.0/game), but what else would you expect from a back-up point guard sharing the court with Williams and DeRozan?
Stay tuned for next weeks' rankings where we'll name our regular season Power Rankings Champion.