I have to admit, when Daniel Reynolds called me up from Writers 905 to do this column, touching the face of God for a week, I did not reveal to him my disdain for power rankings. I merely gave the email version of a head nod, choosing power over a moral compass. I wanted the column more than I wanted to be true to myself. I was a fraud.
Power rankings are silly, though. How are we to trust journalists to compound every statistic, every extraneous factor, and then rank NBA teams to their arbitrary scale? The fascist monologues that offer explanation for their run from #1 to #30 are meant to be taken as scripture. It's a rigged system, the 1% ranking and the 99% hoping for fairness and balance. I have utmost respect for Marc Stein, Matt Moore, John Schuhmann, and Jeremy Woo. I hope to sit in their seats one day, handling the reactions of thousands in the palm of my hand. I hope to tip the dominoes.
For now, I can only react. The Toronto Raptors came back strong this week after a 22-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers (a loss some took as franchise Armageddon), getting decisive wins (eventually) over Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington. That means that they lost their most meaningful game and got wins where they were supposed to, which is the ultimate Raptors week. As the tires spin and the team heads to foggy London, will the Raptors move up from their 6.75 average ranking from a week ago?
We start, as Daniel would, with Marc Stein of ESPN, who doesn't talk about basketball at all in his blurb:
Travel is quite exciting, though. As I look outside to a frigid Prairie tundra, I understand his angle here.
Moving on to a ranking with more specifics, Jeremy Woo of SI.com has the Raptors moving up a spot:
6.) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 7
RECORD: 24–15 (3–1)
The Raptors are second to just the Warriors with 13 wins on the road (out of 22 games), and their skewed schedule bodes well as they chase an East title. For comparison: the Cavs are 11–8 on the road, the Heat are 7–7 and the Bulls are just 6–8.
I like Mr. Woo's point here. The Raptors have been quietly excellent on the road all year. With a seven-game home stand imminent, they can also prove their worth at the Air Canada Centre in the near future. Also... chasing an East title?!
Meanwhile, the ever-pragmatic John Schuhmann of NBA.com uses his league-sponsored platform to look at the team from a hundred foot view. He also settles on moving the Raptors up a spot.
6.) Toronto (24-15)
Last Week: 7
Pace: 95.7 (27) OffRtg: 104.3 (7) DefRtg: 100.8 (9) NetRtg: +3.4 (7)
DeMarre Carroll is out for an extended period after having knee surgery, but the Raptors' numbers haven't been much different in games he's missed vs. games he's played. They take a three-game winning streak into London, having assisted on only 46 (42 percent) of their 110 buckets. DeMar DeRozan is the head of the isolation party, but better shooting and more trips to the line have him playing more efficiently this season.
Finally, Matt Moore of CBSSports.com keeps the needle where it is, focusing on the positives of a light schedule in the next six weeks.
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 7)
Toronto's back in the top 10 of both offense and defense per possession. They're 5-1 vs. their division with a four-game lead for the Atlantic, and their February schedule is soft. And hey, they get to host a huge party next month in their town. Things are going so well Drake may even show up at some of their games for once.
I forgive the ice cold shot at Drake, even if it hits a little too close to my heart.
So, that's an average of 6.25 from the Big Four. An improvement from last week! Let's get to the poll.