Christmas time means different things to different people — or, in some cases, nothing at all but a day off (and sometimes not even that). For the Raptors this year, it means some time away from the court, thanks to the NBA’s obvious anti-Toronto bias, and a thoughtful trip through Florida before kicking off the new year. But we’re not looking ahead just yet: this week’s Power Rankings are in, and we need to see how the Raptors fared.
Over the past seven days, the Raptors managed a 2-1 record despite competing without a plethora of players at different times. They managed a silly-as-hell win over Indiana with only starters Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, and then casually deconstructed the terrible Cavaliers in a less silly fashion. Naturally, things caught up with them and Toronto got blown out by a front-running Sixers team. Consider it a gift, Philly!
In any case, Christmas is just around the corner — let’s approach this week’s Power Rankings with a touch of good cheer.
First up, we gather at ESPN’s window tonight to sing carols at Kevin Arnovitz, who has his own sing-song ideas:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
I just want you for my own more than you could ever know. Make my wish come true, all I want for Christmas is you -- ”All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
The Raptors have a short but substantial Christmas wish list: the long-term commitment of Kawhi Leonard. The likelihood of Leonard gifting the Raptors his services for the foreseeable future will increase exponentially with the Eastern Conference title -- the small box inside the big box.
As you may be able to piece together here, ESPN decided to rank the league’s teams with their more sincere Christmas wish. I feel like this one was wasted though, as the Raptors don’t have to wish for Kawhi to return next season — we already know he’s staying.
Next up, Khadrice Rollins at Sports Illustrated has his yuletide take:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
Getting blitzed during the fourth quarter in Philadelphia on the second night of a back-to-back is not an indicator the 76ers are right on Toronto’s level. But it is a bit odd they chose to play Kawhi Leonard against the Cavaliers instead of looking to see if he could give the Raptors a 3-0 series lead over a team they will likely be close to in the standings come the end of the year. But at least the home fans got to see Leonard go off twice this week.
I see the point Khadrice is trying to make here, but I think it is way, way more fun to just have Kawhi looming in the Sixers’ collective mind’s eye. Even in his absence, that’s all we can talk about with regards to that game.
Per usual, Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com drops by to dispense some, well... it’s something.
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
The Raptors went 7-6 in a 13-game stretch in which 10 of the games were against teams currently over .500, 10 of the 13 were against offenses that rank in the top 12, and in which Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard played together only five times (with additional absences from five other guys in their top 10). The good news (considering last season’s biggest issue) was that their defense held up relatively well, allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions over the 13 games, up from 106.1 through their first 22. The best defense of the stretch may have come in the fourth quarter against Indiana on Wednesday, when they came back from 17 points down by holding the Pacers to 5-for-18 shooting (with five turnovers) in the final 12 minutes. The Raps’ next four games are against four teams with bottom-10 offenses.
When you consider it purely by their record, the 7-6 number is not great. But as the doctor explains here: the Raptors are doing this without many of their most prominent players. It’s meant something of a steeper learning curve for guys like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and even Fred VanVleet — yet they’re still getting it done. That too is a gift, folks.
And finally, a hearty merry Christmas to our guy Reid Forgrave at CBS Sports for these musings:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
The Raptors’ present: Perfect management of Kawhi Leonard’s health through the regular season so he can be MVP-level Kawhi during the playoffs. I’m not sure what perfect maintenance for Kawhi looks like. Maybe the news that Kawhi will start playing both ends of back-to-backs is a positive development; the race for the one-seed in the East will be tight, and home-field advantage could mean the difference between making the Finals and not. Or maybe erring on the side of caution and rest would be the smarter idea. Side note: I’m stunned that the Raptors are ranked only ninth in defensive efficiency; I expected that adding Kawhi (and Danny Green) while losing DeMar DeRozan would turn this into an elite defense, one of the best in the NBA. Maybe that’s what we’ll see once Nick Nurse fully unleashes Kawhi.
Ah yes, that’s something to remember: Kawhi isn’t even going full-bore yet (or so we assume). I do suspect he could have played in Philly on Saturday, but why not give Ben Simmons a break. At the very least, let’s assume that when Leonard gets to play more with Kyle Lowry, we’ll really have something on our hands here with the Raptors.
Now, on to the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 10 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, doing THIS with THOSE injuries? COME ON!
yes, and we’ll say so without capital letters
No, you’re not going to believe this, but I don’t care for Christmas either
Yes, getting a solid three ghosts of Christmas vibe from these other answers