Saturday’s defeat at the hands of the Bucks did much to undo the standing of the Raptors this week. Yes, they sit at 4-2 on the season, but their offense is now ranked 13th in the league, their defense tenth. What’s more, despite decidedly stellar play from Pascal Siakam, there are still some growing pains for him to work out (e.g. his constant foul trouble). And we haven’t even talked about the minutes load of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet yet. It’s going well in Toronto, but trouble looms.
There are positives, of course — OG Anunoby looks great, Serge Ibaka is steady, Marc Gasol is rounding back into form — but it does feel like the Raptors are starting discover their limitations. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means the squad has to labour now to shore them up. To that end, let’s get a feeling for where the Power Ranking People have put the Raptors this week in the bigger picture of the NBA.
First up, ESPN checks in with Andre’ Snellings and his review of the week:
10. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
The Raptors remain one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference on the strength of their defense, which has held opponents to only 40.1 percent shooting from the field through the first two weeks of the season. Pascal Siakam was the best defensive player on the Raptors by many analytics last season, and he is supported by former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol and plus defenders across the board to form a stellar unit, even with two-time DPOY Kawhi Leonard on the West Coast.
The above does continue to be true for the Raptors, despite their recent slippage in defensive rating across the league. When they have to get a stop, they have some of the best personnel, team-wide, to do so. We can feel comfortable with that.
Next up, the stylings of Zach Harper at The Athletic. What’s he saying:
6. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
When Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green left for different Los Angeles teams, the Raptors knew that OG Anunoby was going to be thrust into a much more important role than we had previously seen him in. A healthy Anunoby was always going to receive a more fleshed out role this season, but the sense of urgency with needing him to contribute was heightened when Leonard and Green departed. Early returns of this version of Anunoby are pretty positive. He’s been a bit of a Swiss Army knife for the Raptors next to Pascal Siakam, and the only thing he’s not really doing is moving the ball or making the extra pass.
Everything else Anunoby is doing is exactly what they need. He’s getting deflections, forcing turnovers and blocking shots while also playing phenomenal defense most possessions. He fits so perfectly into what Masai Ujiri and Nick Nurse want him to do on that end of the floor. He’s been knocking down 3-pointers, showing believers in his jumper that their investment in OG stock was a fruitful venture. His rebounding numbers are good and he doesn’t try to do too much on offense. He just embraces the opportunities that get created for him as a safety valve. This season will set up how seriously the Raptors approach extending OG next fall when he becomes extension eligible off his rookie contract. So far, he’s making himself some money.
Well excuse me! I would argue that Anunoby is indeed moving the ball fairly well and making the extra pass when the option is there. The thing is: Anunoby is often the last man to get the ball, and it’s expected he’ll jack up (as the case usually is) the three. Anyway, we’re splitting hairs. If nothing else, Anunoby’s play has made it clear that Toronto will invest more in him, and they can count on some sort of growth. Maybe not a Siakam-like leap, but something worth keeping.
Paging Doctor John Schuhmann of NBA dot com, what’s the diagnosis?
10. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
When the Raptors beat the Warriors in The Finals, they apparently assumed Golden State’s third-quarter dominance. The champs have been outscored by 26 points over the other three quarters, but are a plus-55 (plus-34.6 per 100 possessions) in the third, having shot 55% from 3-point range in the first 12 minutes after halftime and having won all six of their third quarters by at least six points. A 40-29 third quarter wasn’t enough in Milwaukee on Saturday, because the Raps couldn’t get enough stops in the first half or enough buckets in the fourth. Their starting lineup is the first five-man group to eclipse the 100-minute mark and has scored 40 points on its 30 fourth-quarter possessions, but all other lineups have scored just 102 points on 118 possessions (86.4 per 100) in the final period. Patrick McCaw played his first two games of the season last week (to give Nick Nurse another reserve to trust), but knee pain kept him from playing in Milwaukee.
I love the idea of the Raptors absorbing the Warriors’ (former) abilities to sustain their run. Just as long as they don’t take on some of Golden State’s recent injury trouble — oh no, too late!
Finally, we turn our attention to the man so nice they named him twice, Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports:
10. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 15)
Pascal Siakam is averaging 26 points per game on 49-42-96 shooting. Let that sink in. Not suggesting they’re even close to the same player, but last season Kawhi Leonard averaged 26.6 points on 50-37-85 shooting. If Siakam can even approximate the numbers he’s put up so far, the Raptors have another bona fide superstar on their hands. With a veteran roster around him and Nick Nurse’s proven system, Toronto hasn’t actually taken a huge step back — at least in the regular season.
LET THAT SINK IN!!!
Now, onto the poll.
Is Toronto’s upward mobility in the Week 4 Power Rankings warranted?
This poll is closed
Yes. All is right with the world.
Yes, and there's plenty more where that came from!
Nope, I’m not letting one fluky win fool me!
Warranted? Why aren’t they number 1!? These polls are a disgrace