The long All-Star break for the Raptors is a good thing. The team as a whole needed the rest, they also needed some time to get Patrick Patterson healthy, and they of course needed time to acclimate Serge Ibaka to Toronto. The Power Rankings, coming to you a day late (because I too needed a break), reflect the shortness of this week. We’ve got a mere two entries to get to, and a lot of hope sitting in wait.
How were the Raptors assessed this week? Let’s take a look.
First up, man of the people Marc Stein of ESPN, literally opened the doors to the people to give them a voice through some tweets.
8. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 33-24
Previous ranking: 12
Toronto: 1) Man, we're good! 2) Hmm, this isn't good. 3) Wow, we are not good. 4) Serge Ibaka! Maybe we're good again! #ESPNPowerRank— sean (@west_4th_st) February 17, 2017
Why Stein decided on these two tweets, rather than the plethora of Raptors Twitter voices out there, I’ll never know. But that’s neither here nor there. The first is not a bad take on the Raptors emotional cycle as of late, and the second is facts only. (Please note that the team is up four spots by Stein’s assessment too.)
We’re just going two-for-two this week as both Jeremy Woo and Matt Moore opted out of the Power Rankings treadmill this time out, so we’ll close on Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com, and the consummate voice of reason.
11. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
Pace: 97.6 (22) OffRtg: 110.9 (4) DefRtg: 106.0 (16) NetRtg: +4.9 (5)
No team needed the break more than the Raptors, who went 5-11 (and ranked 24th offensively) over the last month. With some rest, with Patrick Patterson hopefully recovered from his knee injury, and with the addition of Serge Ibaka, they'll try to hit the reset button with important home games against the Celtics and Wizards in the next 10 days. Ibaka hasn't really played big on either end of the floor this season, but could combine with Patterson to give the Raptors a more versatile frontline late in games. With Cory Joseph struggling and Patterson banged up, Jonas Valanciunas has been on the floor for 64 percent (82 of 129) of their clutch minutes, up from 57 percent last season.
There’s an interesting throughline here to consider. Schuhmann ends his blurb by mentioning JV’s clutch minutes, which are up. But the preceding sentences provide context as to why they are up: the Raptors have had a dearth of reliable options to play in crunch time. With Ibaka now in the fold — and Norman Powell ensconced in a proper role (and Patterson hopefully all the way healthy) — we now know how this rotation is supposed to be.
And Schuhmann isn’t wrong: the big tests are coming. If the Raptors show up against the Celtics and Wizards, we’ll have much to be happy about.
Onward to next week.