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Power Ranking Poll Week 3: Really can’t stop Toronto now

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Unless you’re the Bucks, the Raptors can’t be beat right now. Toronto’s advice? Get used to it.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

So, fine, the Raptors failed the past week’s big test, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks last Monday in mostly sad fashion. Both teams were playing without their powerhouse do-it-all forwards, the Bucks collectively shot the lights out (as host to as many as three Raptor killers, how could they not?), and Kyle Lowry had his coldest night of the early season. (Seriously, he went 0-for-9 from deep; this feels like a wild aberration.) That’s just how it goes.

Where then would the NBA Power Ranking intelligentsia place our beloved home team? This has been the question the has bedevilled us for the last seven days, even as the Raptors racked up three more wins (against Philly, Phoenix, and LeBron). Toronto now shares their league best 9-1 record with the defending champion Warriors, the Bucks (8-1) still nipping at their heels in the East. If nothing else, we know who to keep our eye on now.

So what say these prophets of Power? Let’s find out.

First up, here comes wise man Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN to shed some light and wisdom:

2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)

Kawhi Leonard has yet to play in back-to-back games this season, as the Raptors are determined to exercise caution with their prized offseason acquisition. Toronto is now 2-1 without Leonard, including a shellacking of the Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday night ahead of Monday’s matchup at Utah. If the dominant Raptors are looking for some self-improvement, they can start on the defensive glass, where they’re currently a bottom-five team.

That last depressing statement is a bit misleading, at least on the bear face of it. The Raptors are more of a middle-of-the-pack defensive rebounding team, averaging 36.1 defensive rebounds per game (ninth), 10.5 offensive (16th), and a total 46.6 per game (11th). I say middle-of-the-pack because there are advanced statistics that suggest they’re not a true top 10 defensive rebounding team, as the mere counting stats suggest.

And because the eye-test doesn’t lie. Sometimes these Raps get pushed around on the boards — as we knew would be the case heading into this season. Now we’ll just have to see how much of an issue it is going forward.

Over at Sports Illustrated, thanks to explorer of both time and space Khadrice Rollins, we’ve got even more answers:

2. Raptors (Last Week: 1)

With or without Kawhi Leonard this team is good. With Kawhi they are the second-best team in the NBA right now. Without him, they can still go on the road and run the Lakers out of Staples Center through three quarters.

We got cheated out of seeing Kawhi vs. Giannis on Monday, but watching the two-time Defensive Player of the Year turn Ben Simmons into a walking turnover machine was a decent substitute. The more and more Leonard gets to leave his imprint on this unit, the scarier Toronto gets on that end. As teammates learn how to better work off the guy who can create steals with his back turned, forcing turnovers and closing possessions will be even easier.

On the other end of the court, Kyle Lowry has his hands on everything and is setting the tempo. His league-high 11.6 assists per game are about four more than his career-high, and with the way this offense is scoring and how effortless it is for them to jump into transition makes it seem possible he will finish with double-digit helpers.

Nick Nurse will likely need to lighten up Danny Green’s minutes as the season goes on, but the time being, his floor spacing and experience are major bonuses.

The longer write-up means I can go short here, so I’ll just make these comments per each paragraph: Yeehaw, you better believe it, boy howdy, come on!

Now we get to the heart of the matter, via our guiding north star, our oracle, our man in dad jeans, Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA dot com. What shall be imparted here?

4. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

The Raptors lost the game between the league’s last two unbeaten teams and then lost Kawhi Leonard to a foot injury. (Hopefully, team and player remain on the same page in regard to that.) But they handled the Sixers in their first meeting on Tuesday and are 2-0 on their four-game trip, having blasted the Lakers out of the gates (they led 41-10 with a little more than two minutes to go in the first quarter) on Sunday. Kyle Lowry leads the league in assists (11.6 per game) by a wide margin and he’s had almost twice as many assists to Serge Ibaka (34) as he’s to any other teammate (next is 18 to Pascal Siakam). Ibaka had a rough 2018 postseason, but appears much more comfortable as a full-time center (he’s played less than a minute with Jonas Valanciunas), shooting 57 percent after a 15-for-17 performance in L.A. He has shot 78 percent in the restricted area, where 38 percent of his shots have come from. That latter rate isn’t a career-high, but it’s up from just 18 percent over the previous two seasons.

Whoa! A mighty fall from Mount Olympus, according to the storied chronicler of our Power Rankings Age. Nothing the doctor says in the preceding paragraph is incorrect — in fact, see our previous yeehaw and boy howdy sentiments for our continued mood — but it’s worth noting that the Raptors have been placed behind both the Bucks and Nuggets in this computation. Do I think this is bogus news, a heresy, false words from an empty prophet?

Eh, no. It’s early. Let’s get to our last take of the week.

Bringing up the rear of our philosophical caravan, here comes CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave with his latest:

Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)

The Raptors have been extra cautious with Kawhi Leonard. He sat out Sunday night against the Lakers with a sore left foot, meaning he has sat for three of his first 10 games as a Raptor. It didn’t matter; the Raptors blew out the Lakers on the Lakers’ home court. The Raptors’ starting unit has been absolutely dynamite all season long.

There’s a word I like to use in this context: dynamite! The Raptors have indeed been dynamite. I was absolutely hollering as Serge Ibaka single-handedly (well, OK, with help from Lowry) disassembled the Lakers last night; I was blowing up when Kawhi decided to personally excavate the Suns as part of their sad rebuilding process; and you better believe I was happy to thump down the plunger on the explosive device connected to the tangible concept known as “The Sixers are dangerous.”

The Raptors are dynamite.

Now, let’s get to the poll.

Poll

Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 3 of the Power Rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    No, without Kawhi it’s not a fair ranking, sorry
    (208 votes)
  • 81%
    Yes, the Raptors are a top 3 NBA team, sorry
    (1539 votes)
  • 3%
    No, but I like where Schuhmann’s head is at, sorry
    (65 votes)
  • 4%
    Yes, not sorry but also, you guessed it, sorry
    (77 votes)
1889 votes total Vote Now