We here at Raptors HQ refuse to get too sucked into LeaderGate, the ongoing imbroglio involving Kawhi Leonard and his former coach Gregg Popovich (featuring a deliciously well-timed, and also completely unnecessary, jab from current Raptors coach Nick Nurse). We’re trying to look forward here — and that’s stressful enough.
As Kawhi himself said: “I’m here with the Raptors.”
Here's Leonard's own evaluation of his leadership style: pic.twitter.com/XB8tNm0m30— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) November 26, 2018
Now, usually when someone begins a sentence with “It’s just funny to me” there is a moment when everyone — absolutely everyone — knows that what will follow will not be funny. This applies to the person saying the sentence and also to any active listener to said sentence. In this case, this law (call it a Social Media Debate Edict) holds true. Kawhi being forced to respond to out-of-nowhere barbs from cantankerous Popovich, who himself is clearly a tad choked with regards to how he handled the situation with Leonard, is not all that funny. In fact, it’s sad for everyone involved. Those two, and the rest of the Spurs, went through some things together — truly great things — and now, as with every bad break up: it’s all bad vibes. No one thinks it’s funny, everyone is still a bit mad, and there is absolutely no chance that anyone involved is now laughing, actually.
Since Toronto is, let’s say, the new partner in this relationship, the mood here is much happier. And of course there is a salve to be found in winning. The Raptors have been doing a lot of that lately. In fact, they just rattled off four wins this week, five in a row overall, to put their overall record back up to 17-4, good for first in the league.
What will the NBA Power Ranking Mafia — who for sure, to a man, think this is all very funny — have to say about this? Let’s find out.
First up, we turn over to Kevin Arnovitz in the ESPN offices to determine what they think:
1. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)
The Raptors had four games in which they were heavy favorites on the schedule this week, and they picked up four wins, making them the only undefeated team in the association in that stretch. Toronto’s 17-4 start is the franchise’s best, and the Raptors are one of only two NBA teams holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage under 50 percent (Clippers). The return of C.J. Miles only adds to Toronto’s incomparable depth.
It’s true the Raptors were favoured in games against Orlando (10-10), Miami (7-12), Washington (7-12), and Atlanta (4-16; woof). It’s also true that this is the best start the Raptors have ever had — with a team defense as good as it’s ever been. (The jury remains out on how useful Miles will prove to be throughout the season.) I have nothing new to add here. On to the next entry.
The gurus at Sports Illustrated, namely Khadrice Rollins once again, have some nice things to say:
1. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
Getting to play four games against the Southeast division is a great way to boost your record. The Raptors’ five-game winning streak has come against lesser competition, but it was still necessary after a three-game slump. You can only play who is on the schedule, and beating the teams you’re expected to will not always happen. But getting those wins following a few tough losses is sometimes all you need to get your mojo going.
I’ll add this: I’ve the Raptors four losses, only one really stands out as truly disappointing. The Bucks caught fire (and we didn’t get Giannis vs. Kawhi anyway), the Pelicans have some spectacularly bad matchups for the Raptors and could be a problem, and the Celtics got an amazing night from Kyrie (at home and in OT) just to eke out a win. Just that dumb Pistons game in which Toronto gave away a 19-point lead really sticks out. Winning the games you’re supposed to win does indeed count for something.
But what does the ever even-handed Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com university have to add? Let’s see.
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 4)
The Raptors have played the league’s easiest schedule to date and their current five-game winning streak has come against teams with a cumulative record of 33-65 (.337). Things are about to get tougher, because their visit to Memphis on Tuesday begins a stretch of 12 games where 10 of the opponents are no worse than the 11-8 Pacers. With OG Anunoby and C.J. Miles both returning from injuries over the weekend, their top 10 guys are healthy. But their bench unit - Anunoby, Miles, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and a center - was a minus-13 in 20 minutes against the Wizards and Heat. Their two starting lineups (with Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas at the five) have been two of the league’s four best lineups (among those that have played at least 100 minutes) and they’ve also been really good with VanVleet mixed in with starters.
The Raptors’ bizarre spirit quest within Schuhmann’s NBA rankings continues. This week they’re up to the third spot (from four) after an undefeated run of four games, and still sit unopposed on top of the league standings. They’re also, as noted, almost fully healthy (get well soon Norm). What is to come is still to come — what is... well, dang, what is is pretty good.
Finally, we haul ass over to CBS Sports and Reid Forgrave, who have a thing or two to say about the Raptors’ fortunes so far.
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
And the current NBA leader in both net rating and offensive rating is ... Danny Green? Getting a complementary player like Green in the Kawhi Leonard trade was a coup for the Raptors. Green is doing what he does, shooting 44 percent from three and playing elite defense.
Imagine ever believing Danny Green was just a throw in player! Who said this? Whooooo? I’m hollering right now. Anyway: CBS’s continued refusal to just put the Raptors ahead of the Warriors will really be put to the test this week. Let’s watch this space to see how they deal with the identity schism coming their way.
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 6 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, this is getting ridiculous!
Yes, this is getting boring!
No, this is getting obnoxious!