It's taken a long time to get here -- the end of the regular season -- but after 82 games, we can look back on the 2015-16 Raptors as a team that--wait, what? There are still two games left? Good god, when is this thing done? I can't believe it. How much more regular season basketball could a person possibly watch? Enough is enough!
OK, I've calmed down and given it a second thought. You know what, NBA basketball is fun to watch so it's no big deal. What's two more games? That's two more chances to watch these Raptors, led by All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, strut their stuff before the pressure-packed games of the post-season. So who's on deck? Two entertaining and exciting teams, no doubt. Let's just take a look at the schedule here and -- the Sixers and the Nets??? Come on!
Dammit, I want the playoffs and I want them now. Let's get to the final Power Ranking Poll of the season. I'm getting too old for this shit.
Up first, for the final time, our spiritual leader, Marc Stein of ESPN:
Last Week: 6
|Lasting relief will come when they know that Kyle Lowry's elbow woes won't be an issue during the playoffs, but the Raps had a very productive week, thanks partly to the ongoing flashes they're getting from rookie Norman Powell but mostly because they know for sure now that they can't see the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago, don't forget, inexplicably won all four regular-season meetings with Toronto.|
The big man's final ranking of the Raptors comes in at number five. And while I like what Stein gets at here vis a vis Lowry's elbow and the emergence of Norman Powell, I could have done with the Bulls shots. Look, the Bulls are dead and buried. The only think left to do is light a cigarette, exhale graciously, and be content. Uh, wait, what were we talking about?
Before things get any weirder, let's bring in young gun Jeremy Woo from Sports Illustrated to shed some light:
6) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 5
RECORD: 54-26 (3-1)
This team is for real, at least for now, and looks ready to add the franchise's first playoff series win since 2001. Whether a deep run is in store or not, the case for DeMar DeRozan to stick around has been made in full.
The padawan's final ranking of the Raptors comes in at number six, which I'm not convinced is entirely fair since the Raptors consistently beat up on the no. 5 Clippers. But whatever. Woo does get one thing right: DeRozan will be a Raptor for the foreseeable future. And will definitely have his number retired one day in Toronto. Book it.
Now, the man they call John Schuhmann, the man of block and stone, the professorial legend of the rankings, is here from NBA.com:
5) Toronto (54-26)
Last week: 5
Pace: 95.3 (29) OffRtg: 106.8 (5) DefRtg: 102.8 (11) NetRtg: +4.0 (7)
The Raptors finished with a winning record against each of the other East playoff teams and are the only team in the league with a better record against teams that are currently over .500 (28-11) than against teams currently .500 or below (26-15). They have the resume to make a deep run in the playoffs and their defense is much better than it was a year ago. But can they adapt when the opponent takes away their initial offense?
The doctor's final ranking of the Raptors comes in at number five. Feels right. And his stat up there is the kind for which we need Schuhmann. It's true, qualitatively, that the Raptors tend to play up or down to their competition (a close loss to the Warriors here; a ding by the Knicks there). That we can now back this up with numbers is refreshing. We'll just ignore that zinger about the offense. The Raptors' offense will be fine. You'll see.
And finally, you love him, you hate him, but he will always be Matt Moore of CBS Sports. Let's hear it:
6) Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 6)
(A-minus) -- Bounced back from severe disappointment last year and instead of bursting under the pressure, they responded. They integrated new players and revamped their identity to be more balanced defensively. Dwane Casey deserves some second and third-place COY votes which is hilarious, considering how many Raptors fans blamed him for last year's exit.
The city's antagonist's final ranking of the Raptors comes in at number six, inexplicably behind the Hawks. Still, what Moore says there is correct. Toronto has bounced back in a huge way and appear to have a ton of momentum on their side. It's a great time to be a Raptors fan. And you've got to love that Moore still found a way to take one last jab at Raps fans on the way out. Mad respect.
Now, let's go to the poll.