All things considered, the emotional whiplash of this Raptors season is considerable but not as wild as its been in years past. The 2018-19 season was a funky bit of business to watch that went all over the place (but generally up) before landing on a title; who can forget the slow careen of 2017 and the exciting deadline day trades of that moment; and of course there’s 2014-15’s explosion and then implosion, a collapse that still stings to this day.
In that frame of reference, a seven-game win streak (remember that?), followed by a swoon against some quality opposition isn’t exactly something to get too worked up about. I mean, we will and did get worked up about it, but that’s just what we do. It’s why we’re here. We have to worry moment to moment if, say, OG Anunoby will make some kind of leap, or wonder when Kyle Lowry will snap back into his pre-injury form. That’s just what keeps us going in Toronto as the winter gets colder and the days get darker. Such is life, as I usually say.
We can also turn to this week’s power rankings to decide what use they’ll have for us. We shouldn’t really worry about them either — but we do. So let’s see if the Power Ranking People have anything noteworthy to say.
First up, everybody’s favourite, Andre’ Snellings from ESPN, has this knowledge to drop:
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 7)
The Raptors lost their fourth straight game against elite competition this week, falling by 20 points to the Clippers on an emotional night with Kawhi Leonard receiving his championship ring. This followed losses in their most recent matchups against the 76ers, Rockets and Heat — who have a combined win rate of 70%. The Raptors bounced back with a win over the Nets, and Toronto starts this week with three very winnable games.
Such a rich text.
Next up, let’s drop in on Zach Harper at the Athletic, who often does like to go long:
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
How’s the team playing? This didn’t feel like a good week for the Raptors. They barely beat Chicago before the Clippers utterly destroyed them. Even the win over a good Brooklyn team at home felt like they desperately needed Norman Powell to save them throughout the night. A win is still a win, but this Raptors team needs to use the next week to get themselves right. I want to see them back to dominating teams on the floor. A couple of weeks from now, they have Indiana and then a home-and-home against Boston. The Raptors need to probably go at least 2-1 in those games, if not 3-0. They’ve been such a good story, and maybe they just need Fred VanVleet back in the mix to fix this team’s trajectory. But the Raptors have slipped a bit lately.
Movable player before the deadline: They’ve got three expiring deals for three players who would be monster acquisitions at the deadline for any team looking to contend. Marc Gasol ($25.5 million), Serge Ibaka ($23.2 million), and VanVleet ($9.3 million) have all been integral parts to this Raptor’s success. Masai Ujiri is more likely to lean into this team being good than to start shipping off very good players. But if the Raptors want to get weird and aggressive at the deadline, they can swing a big sledgehammer with their expiring deals.
For this week, Harper applied a trade deadline lens to where Toronto is right now. His assessment of the Raptors over the past week is right on the money (there has indeed been too much Norm), but on the other hand his trade deadline assessment leaves something to be desired (not enough Norm?). I’d bet on Toronto being a buyer at the deadline rather than a seller. Just one man’s opinion!
We turn now to the venerable institution known as Dr. J. Schuhmann Esq. at NBA dot com:
10. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
Only the Warriors have been worse offensively than the Raptors (101.2 points scored per 100 possessions) since Thanksgiving. Kyle Lowry has shot 30% since returning from his thumb injury, OG Anunoby’s 3-point shooting has regressed (he’s 5-for-29 over the eight games), and Pascal Siakam’s efficiency has sunk with heavier usage. But this is still an excellent defensive team, maybe the best in the league in regard to rotating out to shooters. The champs rank second in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (49.6%) and sixth in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (47.4%). With Chicago and Brooklyn shooting a combined 26% from 3-point range, committing a combined 37 turnovers, and getting to the line for just 31 total free throws, the Raptors went 2-1 last week, despite scoring less than 94 points per 100 possessions over the three games. They’ll face three top-10 offenses this week, though all three could be missing stars (Blake Griffin, Mo Wagner and Luka Doncic).
[record scratch] Sorry, what’s that? Star... Mo Wagner? I haven’t watched much Wizards basketball (because why would you?) but I’ll have to see this to believe it. Also, Schuhmann is of course right, the Raptors’ offense has been stuck in the lurch for much of the past month mostly because they’ve gone ice, ice cold (after leading the league in three-point shooting). It can level off, but, much like the talents of one Moritz Wagner, we’ll have to see it first.
And finally, Colin of the Ward-Henningers (of CBS Sports) has a thought or two:
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
The Raptors appear to be getting back on track after a slight drop-off. They lost badly against the Clippers in Kawhi Leonard’s return game, but looked much better offensively in a win over the Nets. Fred VanVleet has missed the last few games with an injury, which could be a blessing in disguise since he’s among the league leaders in minutes played.
Me personally, I’d prefer to have FVV healthy, and see Toronto acquire another play-making guard. But that’s just me talking. At the very least, yes, it is nice to give Fred some time to rest. Maybe he can roll it into some family time over the holidays.
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 9 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, now stand pat and just watch the wave happen
Yes, and I concur with your trade stance
No, sell it alllllllllll
Yes, we’re all just treading water until summer 2021 anyway