It was really cool how laissez-faire we all decided to be after the Raptors beat the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. It was just like, yeah, cool, nice, let’s get the next one. This may have had something to do with the absences of some key Spurs — Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gay(!), and Manu Ginobili — but it also suggested a certain strength in Toronto: we’re done being undone by mystique.
Which is why the Raptors are also done with getting too worked up about a so-so week in January. Toronto went 2-2 in the past seven days, with unfortunate losses to the Sixers and Timberwolves — both games they could have, maybe, almost, sort of, won. We could stress about this, or take solace in the fact that most “good” teams do not stress awkward losses in January. You think Gregg Popovich is mad Friday’s game got away from him?
So now it’s Monday, the Power Rankings are out there, and we have to decide just what exactly it means for the Raptors to be (fun and) good. Is there another level to reach? Is this prologue to something truly great? What are we setting ourselves up for? I admit, I’m decidedly less laissez-faire about that.
Nevertheless, on to the rankings.
First up, we embrace the return of Jose (Ponce) De Leon at ESPN and his thoughts on the Raptors:
4. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
DeMar DeRozan will be making his second straight All-Star start and will be appearing in his fourth All-Star Game overall. Chris Bosh and Vince Carter are the only Raptors players with more selections (both with five).
The ESPN machine stays undefeated.
To add a little more life to the proceedings, here’s the very late addition from Rohan Nadkarni at Sports Illustrated, letting fly.
4. Toronto Raptors (31–14)
If they don’t make the Finals this season, it’s time to blow it up. No more excuses for Toronto.
That’s quite the leap.
Now here’s Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com fame with a cold glass of water:
4. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Pace: 100.7 (10) OffRtg: 109.8 (4) DefRtg: 103.1 (6) NetRtg:+6.7 (3)
The Raptors’ offense has had some hiccups over the last couple of weeks, scoring less than a point per possession in five of their last eight games. The offense has undergone a transformation this season, but they still need their role players to make shots. So it’s not good that Pascal Siakam (17 percent), OG Anunoby (17 percent), Serge Ibaka (20 percent) and Norman Powell (23 percent) rank as four of the eight worst 3-point shooters over the last month, nor that C.J. Miles has had some bad shooting nights of late. Continued struggles can break down the trust that the Raptors stars have in their teammates and make the ball start sticking again. There are some worrisome assist-percentage numbers (four games under 50 percent) in that January game log.
It is indeed a tricky balancing act for the Raptors as a group. They need DeRozan and Lowry to do much of the scoring work, but the stars must also trust the rest of the squad. Then again, as the good doctor points out up there, when the rest of the squad can’t shoot, trust dries up pretty fast. It’s OK to feel concerned, but we’ll likely forget all of this when one, two, or more, of those four names up there go off on a random hot streak from deep later this year (ideally in late April and May).
And finally, let’s give a hand to Chris Barnewall at CBS Sports, for a job... done.
6. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 4)
DeMar DeRozan was deservedly named an All-Star starter this week, one of many award races he should be involved in. Next up, Most Improved Player and even MVP. He probably won’t win them, but he deserves to be in the conversation.
At least this is better than the take provided by our friends at the Ringer this past week. Apparently DeRozan is not Fun and Good? Get allllll the way outta here with that trash, my man.
Now, on to the poll.
Are the Toronto Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 14 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, I am as obstinate as ever
Yes, though it is very nice to have Kyle Lowry back
No, all the shooters are trending in the wrong direction
Yes, but say it with me again: it’s January, it’s January, it’s January