If there is but one thing we can definitively take away from the end of an NBA regular season it is this: hoo boy, are they ever long. We’ve only spent about seven months with this one, and yet it feels like we’ve been at it for years. Now, with just two games for Toronto left to go, it’s the final edition of the 2017-18 Power Rankings Poll.
For us Raptors fans, the season is long enough for us to forget many of the indelible moments, both big and small, that make it all worthwhile. There were specific games — like Toronto’s win over Houston — or certain moments — the insane Jonas Valanciunas buzzer-beater dunk against the Bucks — and they all came together to produce one thing: the best Raptors team in franchise history. That’s another thing we can take away from the end of the season.
There were disappointments too, of course. The Raptors didn’t beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland, Oklahoma City muscled them off the court twice, and they gave away games to the Mavericks and Clippers. There was even that time when Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Knicks hung a 28-0 run on them — yes, that really happened.
And yet, and yet, and yet: we’ve made it to the end (almost) anyway. The Raptors are the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time ever. The team is maybe set to win 60 games. And, perhaps most importantly, we’ve watched this wild journey take shape in real time — however long it took — to deliver us to this very point. There’s so much to remember, to forget, to look forward to, to expect. It all together feels quite (fun and) good — we can take that away too.
Now, let’s get to the rankings.
First up, the computer machines of ESPN and their sentient host, a returning Jose De Leon, calculate a take:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
The Raptors will be a No. 1 seed in the playoffs for the first time in team history. They are 0-9 all-time in the first game of the playoffs, going 0-5 at home and 0-4 on the road in those games.
But they do have that Game 1 win in the second round of the 2001 playoffs, so there’s that. What does your computer say to that, huh?!
On to our dude at Sports Illustrated, Rohan Nadkarni, what’chu got?
[Not so far; this space will be updated at the appropriate time. Yikes, what a way to go out.]
Next up, once again we turn to the Doctor, John Schuhmann, of NBA dot com:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Pace: 100.0 (13) OffRtg: 111.0 (3) DefRtg: 103.2 (5) NetRtg:+7.8 (3)
You couldn’t have asked for more from the Raptors this season. They changed up their offense, improved on defense, developed the best bench in the league, and were the East’s most complete team from start to finish. Their loss to the Cavs on Tuesday was only close with a late, inconsequential run, but the Raps still haven’t lost a game that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter since Dec. 27. (Read that again.) Now, we see if the improvements translate to the playoffs. Over the previous 20 seasons (going back to 1997-98), 17 teams have ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but only seven of those 17 reached The Finals.
What I like about this blurb from the Schuh, is that it encapsulates how awesome the Raptors have been, and provides us with a token of perspective. By being very good for (almost) 82 games, the Raptors have given themselves a good chance to go far in the NBA playoffs. But this outcome is by no means guaranteed — and we just have to accept that. Such is life.
Finally, one final time, we get the final words from CBS Sports’ Chris Barnewall:
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 7)
Toronto have the top seed in the Eastern Conference locked up and yet no one is confident about its chances of reaching the Finals. A matchup with the Bucks would be the best-case scenario for Toronto, since it already beat Milwaukee in last season’s playoffs. Could this finally be the year the Raptors look impressive in the first round?
I say: [deep breath]
Now, on to the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 25 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, number 1 in franchise history, therefore 1 = 1
Yes, being ranked in the top 3 feels quite fair; bring on the playoffs
No, [desperate sigh] yes, bring on the playoffs
Yes, wait, it’s been seven months? How long have I been asleep? I need to go make some calls