During the lead-up to Halloween this Thursday, it struck me that here in Toronto wearing a “Nick Nurse” costume is an effective and charming idea. While it’s true — save one garrish suit in honour of the departed Craig Sager — the Raptors’ bench boss doesn’t exactly stand out in a crowd, that also doesn’t mean the costume idea is a failure. Nurse’s sartorial choices do place him firmly in the boring mid-western milieu from which he emerged; but in that blandness, an entire world of possibilities comes into view.
Here’s just one from the past weekend, and it sets the tone for how the Raptors played — diligent, maybe a bit overworked, but trying their best.
Nick Nurse at the Halloween party. pic.twitter.com/13BCjYJyhA— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) October 27, 2019
Now let’s get to what the Power Ranking People have to say about the Raptors this week.
Up first, as per usual, we turn to ESPN and their latest spellcaster Andre’ Snellings. He says, and we quote:
11. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 13)
The defending champs have started the season by winning two of their first three games, led by reigning NBA Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam. Siakam is looking to make another leap, and is averaging just under 29 points and 11 rebounds for the first week of the season. Sporting a deep and veteran cast, the Raptors could be poised for a stronger-than-predicted defense of their championship this season.
Much like the Raptors themselves, Snellings is batting about .667 here. Toronto won two out of three and Siakam did play out of his mind good for most of that run. But “deep and veteran cast”? The Raptors just barely cracked their 8-man rotation for two of those three games — and the names beyond team veterans Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell do not ready so far.
Next up we get to Zach Harper of The Athletic (do we always have to capitalize the The?), known as a bit of a Joker online:
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
If you were wondering whether Pascal Siakam would be able to handle the attention of a defense treating him as the number one guy (a fair question), it looks pretty manageable for him so far. Through three games, Siakam is averaging 28.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He’s also posting a 59.5 true shooting percentage. Now, I’m not sure how likely any of these averages and percentages are to hold up throughout the course of the entire season. Maybe he’ll put up 28-10-3.5 all season long. It’s only happened 19 times in NBA history, so an overreaction to the early production does seem a little hasty. But the Raptors are counting on him to lead them in dramatic fashion each night.
As for the team, its going to need Fred VanVleet every single night. In the two games he’s been good, the Raptors have won. In the one game he was awful, they got edged out by Boston. Between VanVleet and Lowry, that second guy on the hierarchy is so key for them. It just allows everybody else to settle into a very manageable role, which is where this offense needs defined duties. Defensively, expect them to keep stifling plenty of teams. But the two point guards need to produce for Nick Nurse.
More Siakam praise, which will likely be nothing new in these august pages. What’s more though, is that Harper gets in some important messaging about Fred VanVleet. While it looks like he’s shaken off whatever ankle pain he suffered in the home opener, it will be critical for Toronto to keep FVV happy and healthy throughout the season.
Does Dr. John “Frankenstein” Schuhmann confirm any of these findings? Let’s see what his NBA dot com take suggests:
11. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 8)
Though the champs blew out the Bulls on Saturday, 33-year-old Kyle Lowry ranks second in the league at 39.7 minutes per game. Part of that is the need for overtime (after iso-Norm didn’t work at the end of regulation) against New Orleans on Tuesday, and part of it is coach Nick Nurse’s start-of-the-season lack of trust in anybody beyond his top seven guys. He incrementally expanded his rotation over the weekend and was rewarded by 25-year-old rookie Matt Thomas (2-for-3 from 3-point range, plus-18 in 20 minutes) on Saturday. The starting group held its own (plus-4 in 22 minutes) against the Celtics (who started Jaylen Brown at the two) on Friday, but starting all three of his playmakers — Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet — together makes it a little tougher for Nurse to manage the second-unit rotation.
The structuring absence of this paragraph is the Invisible Man himself, Marc Gasol. He’s the guy who’s supposed to anchor whatever lineup trots out there through his playmaking and defensive organization skills. Through three games, it’s been a not so great for Gasol. And while he doesn’t necessarily have to lose his starting spot, he ideally should be the guy who can help prop up bench units by making reads out of the high post. Will that old Gasol reappear though?
Finally — boo! — it’s time for Colin Ward-Henniger over at CBS Sports:
15. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 13)
The Raptors won an overtime thriller on ring night against the Pelicans, then lost to the Celtics before destroying the Bulls. As most predicted, the Raptors look like an incredibly solid team, whose ceiling goes significantly higher if Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet can continue to progress. They both look great so far, but it’s a long season.
This is some circular praise if I do say so myself. The Raptors will be good if their good players are good. Positively spectral! I’m haunted just by looking at it. We shall dwell no further.
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 2 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, I am about to go full King Kong here
Yes, and I approve of the Nick Nurse costume
No, but my costume was store bought
Yes, and they should make Halloween the last Saturday of October