Hey all, it’s our first Power Rankings summary of the new year. A lot has happened in 2016, including the loss — for now — of our beloved polls. This means the original purpose of this column (tracking the level of disrespect of the Raptors) has been sort of short-circuited. Worse things have happened, but here we are.
Anyway, the Raptors are undefeated in 2017, which is nice. But they lost their last two games of 2016, and watched as Patrick Patterson — easily the third most important player on the team — went down with a knee injury. The talk around this has been optimistic: Patterson is listed as questionable, which means he could be back soon. In the mean time, the Raptors soldier on... and we prepare to read the first batch of Power Rankings of the year.
As the sun rises on this new column, let us greet our Ra, Marc Stein of ESPN and his first batch of rankings.
5. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 23-10
The Raptors are assured of no worse than a .500 mark on their six-game road trip entering Tuesday's finale at San Antonio thanks leadoff wins in Utah and Portland and Kyle Lowry's 41-point eruption at Staples Center. Along the way on the Raps' travels, DeMar DeRozan passed Chris Bosh (10,275 points) as the leading scorer in franchise history, putting DeRozan on a short list with Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James and Memphis' Mike Conley in terms of active NBA players who hold that distinction. Back to Lowry: He's up to 45.6 percent shooting from deep after starting the season as a career 36-percenter.
So many underrated things to note here. First, DeRozan is on his way to becoming our Dirk — in both his statistics and his singular game. We have to salute that. Second, Kyle Lowry gonna ignite the world with his shots. Gotdamn I love it. Third, the Raptors are going to finish at least .500 on their annual new year’s road trip. Not bad.
Now we check in with Jeremy Woo of SI (is he hungover? We’ll never know) and see where he’s at on the Raptors:
5. Toronto Raptors (22–10)
Last Week: 3
Net Rating: +8.9
Patrick Patterson’s injury sucks, but I also don’t quite buy the hard argument (based largely on on/off numbers) that he’s irreplaceable to the Raptors. These guys will soldier on.
OK, let’s unpack this quickly. First, I didn’t make any edits to this blurb, despite the fact the the Raptors are now 23-10. Go figure. Second, the argument that Patterson isn’t irreplaceable is rather laughable. He definitely is irreplaceable right now because, surprise, the Raptors do not have another non-rookie power forward on the roster. They’ll soldier on — but it won’t be easy.
We’ve got to turn to the sober mind of Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA.com for a real answer. Let’s see it.
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
Pace: 97.8 (19) OffRtg: 113.8 (1) DefRtg: 104.8 (15) NetRtg: +8.9 (2)
The Raptors broke their "We only lose to the really good teams and the Kings" rule for the first time this season, falling in Phoenix after losing Patrick Patterson to a knee injury on Thursday. But they just needed a couple of days off to figure out their new "Lowry + bench" unit and with Jakob Poeltl replacing Patterson, that group made the difference (plus-14 in less than seven minutes at the start of the fourth quarter) in Sunday's win over the Lakers. Kyle Lowry scored 41 points, shooting 6-for-7 from 3-point range and completing his transformation into the new Steph Curry.
Kyle Lowry took Stephen Curry's place on the USA roster last summer & somehow got Steph's ability to shoot off the dribble, too.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) January 2, 2017
Pull-up 3P%...— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) January 2, 2017
As per usual, Schuhmann gets it. Jakob Poeltl’s in there and Lowry’s just gonna shoot the lights out for the rest of the season. Who’s worried?
Finally, we turn to Matt Moore, our erstwhile overlord from CBS Sports, for his take.
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
The Warriors game was acceptable, the Suns loss seemed pretty random. Toronto's schedule is tougher the next week, but then evens out again. This is the end of their last multi-game western road trip. I'm keeping them up here this week, but if they slip this week, there will be consequences.
Is... Is Matt Moore threatening the Raptors? The team cannot allow this aggression to stand. If nothing else, they must stay the course so as to avoid the wrath of... CBS Sports.
Anyway, good luck and godspeed to everyone in 2017. The Raptors are still on track. Let’s get your feel for the team this week — after getting ranked at no. 5 by everyone — in the comments.