The Toronto Raptors are a much different team than they were last week. The addition of Marc Gasol cut the roster down to ten players, as Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and C.J. Miles said their goodbyes. Since then, the Raptors have reportedly signed Jeremy Lin for some bench scoring punch, Chris Boucher for some Montreal steak spice, and Malcolm Miller to break in case of emergency.
From here on out, it’s almost like evaluating a whole different team. Gasol’s influence, whether he’s with the starters or the bench, presents plenty of new opportunities — and, some would argue, potential drawbacks — for Toronto. Lin’s ability to score is notable, but whose touches is he taking away, and how will that work in the long run? We all have some unhappy memories of Lou Williams in 2015.
This isn’t to dog the moves the Raptors have made. It’s an exciting time to be alive, as an influx of talent should help Toronto in the Eastern Conference arms race. When it comes to Power Rankings, that’s of note too — everyone else at the top of the East seems to be getting better, ready for the stretch run.
So how are the Raptors doing after remaking their roster and a 3-0 week? Let’s go to the rankers.
We start with the master of fine wines himself, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 4)
Not to cede any ground in the Eastern Conference arms race, the Raptors added Marc Gasol at the deadline at a relative bargain. What might be just as auspicious for Toronto was Kyle Lowry’s week, one of his most productive of the season as the Raps picked up three road wins. Lowry averaged 18.3 points, 8.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds for the week on an effective field goal percentage of 57.7.
Yes, let’s not forget about the guys who are already here! Ask any group of Raptors fans, and I’m sure the consensus is — Marc Gasol or not — that a productive Kyle Lowry doing Lowry things is the most important thing for Toronto in the playoffs. Last week was reassuring, especially in the caffeinated win over the 76ers.
Next, we go to Khadrice Rollins at Sports Illustrated:
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 7)
If Pascal Siakam isn’t one of your five favorite players in this league right now, I don’t even know how you’re reading these Power Rankings right now. Because you literally must be missing eyeballs and a brain. In which case, you need serious medical attention and immediate access to this man’s game film from Thursday in Atlanta. I can only provide one.
And shoutout to Fred Van Vleet for also posting a career high with 30 points that same night.
With a win over the 76ers last week and the addition of Marc Gasol, I wanted to buy back in on the Raptors being one of the top two teams in the East. Unfortunately, two other squads had better trade acquisitions.
Rollins, at the end there, is alluding to the 76ers and Bucks, who he has ahead of the Raptors in this week’s polling. While I seem to remember a few examples where Kawhi Leonard wiped the floor with Ben Simmons, who am I to argue? Philadelphia certainly doubled and tripled down on having big personalities in their locker room. We’ll see how it goes for them.
Off to John Schuhmann of NBA dot com:
4. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
The Raptors’ new five-man bench unit was a minus-8 in a little more than 11 minutes at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. But you could see a formula -- Marc Gasol as the offensive fulcrum, with four athletic guards/wings around him -- for success with that group. And Toronto’s regular starting lineup may have turned things around (after getting outscored by 9.4 points per 100 possessions in just 16 games together over a two-month stretch), registering a plus-16 in 39 minutes in wins in Philadelphia and New York last week. So it will be interesting to see if coach Nick Nurse continues to maximize minutes for the two separate groups or mixes and matches more going forward (as was the idea early in the season). Gasol played less than three minutes alongside Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard on Saturday, but could help the All-Stars’ offensive cohesion, with Leonard having assisted Lowry just 15 times (in 921 minutes on the floor together) all season.
Phew, I know I’m not the regular on this column, so let me be the first to say — nine? The NBA doctor himself had the Raptors at the back end of the top ten?
Well, Schuhmann has seen some of what Marc Gasol has to offer and he likes it enough to bump the Raptors up five spots. He gets at the question at the top of most people’s minds right now, too. Where will Gasol best fit? With the starters or as a bench maximizer? These are answers only Nick Nurse knows.
Finally, we go to Reid Forgrave and CBS Sports:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Another gutsy move in the Eastern Conference arms race came from the Raptors, who added Marc Gasol for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a future second. (They also traded away Greg Monroe.) Big-time move by Masai Ujiri, who confirmed that he’s all-in on the 2019 playoffs. The Eastern Conference semifinals and finals are going to be bonkers.
How dare Forgrave put the Monroe trade in brackets. We will all miss Blake Murphy’s drawings of a moose in his game notes and this is a big loss for the Raptors family. Otherwise, basic facts and a number three ranking. I’m a fan.
Now, on to the poll.
Are the Raptors being fairly ranked in Week 17 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
Yes, these moves are LIT
Yes, except for the weird one where Philly is ahead
No, I demand a larger sample size
No, Marc Gasol’s handsomeness should be worth 2-3 ranking spots