At this point it feels like it is impossible to accurately assess the Raptors. Our pal Eric Koreen has declared the season mildly cursed, and I’m hard pressed to disagree. The Raptors went 2-2 this past week, without Kyle Lowry, and while the wins weren’t exactly pretty, they were still wins.
That’s about the most positive think we can say about the Raptors right now. They’re still finding ways to claw out wins. They sit in fourth now, a game back of Washington, three back of Boston (and 2.5 up on Atlanta). We won’t rehash the optimal post-season seeding here, you readers already know the truth. The clawing just needs to continue, for better or worse.
To that (better) end, we’re bringing back the Poll to the Power Rankings summary. As some of the more astute of you may have noticed, I’d dropped it in recent weeks, owing to a change in back-end site matters. But the poll option was still there, lurking. And since it is still there, and the people of North need a pick-me-up, the poll is back.
Now let’s get to the Power Rankings.
Speaking of pick-me-up, let’s get ESPN’s cheer master Marc Stein and his take up here first, as always:
6. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 37-26
Kyle Lowry is averaging 22.8 points on 46.3-percent shooting from the field and a 41.7 percent success rate from 3-point range. All of those figures are career bests. It's obviously a huge blow, then, for the Raptors to be playing without their point guard for the rest of the regular season and trying to make sure they finish no worse than third in the East to ensure they can avoid Cleveland until the conference finals. Yet it must be said that DeMar DeRozan is doing everything he can to try to haul the Raps out of a potential second-round encounter with the reigning champs: DeRozan is averaging 30.0 PPG on nearly 50-percent shooting from the floor since the All-Star break sans Lowry. Behind 32 points, 13 rebounds and five assists Friday night from DeRozan, Toronto won at Washington to avenge a potentially costly home defeat to the Wiz two nights earlier.
You can practically hear the rah-rahing from here. Stein is into it. He hits all the key points here: the Raps miss Lowry, marvel at DeRozan, and would prefer to avoid LeBron. Message received.
Are there alternative facts to be gleaned from the take of Jeremy Woo at SI dot com? Let’s find out.
8. Toronto Raptors (37–26)
Last Week: 8
Net Rating: +4.7
Going the rest of the regular season (or at least most of it) without Kyle Lowry will be a challenge, but for what it’s worth Toronto is actually 5–2 without him this season. The deadline upgrades were shrewd, but now they have to hope scoring engine DeMar DeRozan doesn’t run out of juice: he was averaging almost 34 points since the All-Star break before an 11-point dud in a road loss to the Bucks on Saturday. The two-seed is still loosely in play, but at some point you gotta think about workload (especially factoring in last year’s playoffs and DeRozan’s summer with USA Basketball).
I, for one, am not about to start worrying about DeRozan and his workload. Why is it DeRozan is the only player in the NBA who gets these kinds of concerns? Are people sweating James Harden or Russell Westbrook’s minutes? Do people wonder if Kawhi Leonard can keep shooting over 50 percent? Why am I so mad right now?
Calm me down Dr. John Schuhmann, and give me the straight facts on the NBA mothership.
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
Pace: 97.4 (23) OffRtg: 110.6 (4) DefRtg: 105.9 (17) NetRtg: +4.7 (5)
The Raptors are 5-2 without Kyle Lowry (who is out at least until the end of the month after having wrist surgery), getting a game-winner from DeMar DeRozan in New York on Monday and quality minutes from their bench in Washington on Friday. Splitting the home-and-home with the Wizards kept them very much in a fight for the 3 seed, but both DeRozan (11 points, 5-for-13 shooting) and the bench (they were a minus-13 with at least one reserve on the floor) had rough nights in Milwaukee on Saturday. They've been outscored by more than 15 points per 100 possessions with Serge Ibaka at power forward, but are a plus-22.7 points per 100 possessions in 108 minutes with Ibaka at center.
Hmmm, Ibaka at centre you say? I don’t know if—[falls into a giant hole never to be heard from again]
Finally, my best internet pal who I’ve never said a bad word against in my entire life, Matt Moore from CBS Sports, is here. Let’s have at it:
10. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 13)
Good teams pull together when things get tough, and with Kyle Lowry out, things have definitely gotten tough. But the Raptors keep finding wins. Can DeMar DeRozan close with another brilliant run like his first month to help steal a top-three seed for Toronto?
[heard echoing up the aforementioned giant hole]
The one billion dollar question!