It was bound to happen sooner or later, what with the Raptors refusing to lose and climbing further up the NBA’s standings. Given their recent slight by ESPN, in which Toronto was placed 11th for the week, someone brought up the Power Rankings to Raptors coach Nick Nurse. Like I said, sooner or later, the ranking takes just have to collide with reality. I mean, that’s why we’re here, after all.
Fortunately, Nurse was able to take the swing — and counterpunch too:
Nurse: "I don't think there's any chip on our shoulders. We're not trying to prove anybody wrong we're just trying to prove ourselves right. We're gonna go out, try to play ya to the best of our ability & figure out how to get the win. That's all we're trying to do, get results."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 2, 2019
This is perhaps one of the best summaries I’ve seen of the Raptors’ current spirit. They don’t have to have a chip on their shoulder or prove anything to anyone. They’ve already done it! They’re the defending champions, for goodness sakes. Yes, the team is different, the ceiling a tad lower, but also: they’re 15-4 and just had a perfect week of basketball. What more could you want?
Or, in the words of the returned Serge Ibaka:
Serge Ibaka: “They can put us last, first ... our work is going to speak for itself.”— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) December 2, 2019
Let’s go to this week’s Power Rankers and see what controversy we may have in store.
First up, l’enfant terrible Andre’ Snellings of ESPN has his new take on the Raptors:
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
The Raptors, riding a seven-game win streak, continue to prevail with defense. Toronto has held five of its past seven opponents under 100 points, and the signature win of the week over the 76ers came with the Raptors holding All-NBA center Joel Embiid scoreless for the first time in his career. The Raptors’ stifling defense gives them a legitimate chance to defend their Eastern Conference title despite the departure of Kawhi Leonard.
Are we happy with Snellings’ about-face this week? I mean, he did jump the Raptors up into the top ten; they made the graphic and everything. Does that make us happy? I will offer a tentative yes — though I demand some sort of explanation as to one the Celtics get superior billing. We need answers!
No such quibbling from Zach Harper of The Athletic this week. With his positive-negative dichotomy, we arrive here:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
Positive takeaway: Pascal Siakam’s ascension last season was not a fluke by any means. We’re not seeing nearly the same level of efficiency from Siakam this year as we did last year, but that’s pretty difficult to keep going when you increase usage the way he has. But even with that drop-off in efficiency, Siakam has still proven that his leap last season was legitimate. It was simply a sign of things to come. The Toronto Raptors have had guys in and out of the lineup early on, putting even more stress on Siakam’s scoring. But he’s the real deal now and there shouldn’t be the same questions about him moving forward.
Negative question: Is the offense actually sustainable? They’ve remained one of the top offenses in the league despite their summer losses. A lot of that comes from being the best 3-point shooting team in the league. They generate quality shots possession after possession with their ball movement. But the Raptors don’t get to the free-throw line probably as much as they should. If you expect the shooting to stay high, they’ll be fine. If it wavers a little, they’ll need to find easy points.
Well met, Mr. Harper. There’s no doubt that the ceiling on Siakam just continues to rise — there were a couple of golden moments last night against Utah that confirmed that alone — but true point with regards to the Raptors’ three-point shooting. It’s likely to wax and wane as the season continues, with some regression due at some point. The good news is, with Kyle Lowry set to return soon, we could be in for, uh, more waxing.
Does Dr. John Schuhmann agree with what’s been going on? Let’s check NBA dot com and see:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 8)
The Raptors remain pretty, pretty good. They’ve won seven straight games, picking up wins over the Sixers and Jazz last week, holding Joel Embiid scoreless and dropping Utah from fifth to 11th in defensive efficiency in one night with a rather ridiculous performance from the perimeter. They’re still just 3-4 in games between the 13 teams that are currently over .500, but they’ve joined the Bucks as teams in the top five on both ends of the floor, and they’re the only team in the league that hasn’t lost a game that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes. After the 77-point first half on Sunday, they’ve scored a league-best 118.4 points per 100 possessions at home, where they’ve had a much lower turnover rate (13.4 per 100 possessions vs. 16.5 on the road) and where they’re 9-0, with their schedule remaining home-heavy through the end of the month. A couple of good teams are at Scotiabank Arena this week, and their visit to Philly on Sunday will obviously test their ability to take the show on the road.
The Raptors have been so good as of late they’ve forced the doctor to give them a huge bump into the top three. For my money, this is where they should be placed at the moment. Beating the Sixers and Jazz this week lets the world know the Raptors are for real — and we’d be remiss in noting that Toronto’s losses to good teams (e.g. against the Clippers and Mavericks) have been tight and on the road. It’s tough to knock the Raptors off, is my point.
Finally, our new nemesis Colin Ward-Henninger, whose name is harder to remember than Giannis’, jumps in from CBS:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
The Raptors are on fire, and they’re just starting to get healthy again. Serge Ibaka rejoined the lineup for Sunday’s lambasting of the Jazz and Kyle Lowry should make his return soon, but it’s not like Toronto missed them at all. The defending champs have proven they can beat you in multiple ways, in offensive shootouts or defensive battles, and they’re now second in the league in both net rating and defensive rating with the fifth-best offense. Next week should be a good test with the Heat, Rockets and 76ers on tap.
Number two! All is forgiven Colin! We’ll cancel any and all nemesis-related events in the near future. You did it! Could the number one spot... be next?
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 7 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, the takes do not align!
Yes, and I appreciate Nick Nurse’s flippancy
No, and I appreciate Nick Nurse’s flippancy but for very different reasons (e.g. nihilism)
Yes, are people still reading this?