The Toronto Raptors are taking a break. After winning six straight and asserting some supremacy — even as they worked in new players in Marc Gasol, Jeremy Lin, and Patrick McCaw — there are still some questions to be answered about this roster. When will Gasol be given the opportunity to start? Is that coming at all? Who will join the team to fill out the roster? How will Linsanity’s bench scoring blend with different lineups?
Trying to navigate this unknown is hard for Raptors fans, but it’s also proving difficult for the wisest of men, the NBA power ranking elite. All-Star Break is always an opportunity for rankers to step back and take a hundred-foot view of the league, made even more interesting as the teams at the top of the East stockpile weapons for the last three months of the season.
So, are the Raptors being treated fairly amidst all this chaos? Let’s go to the rankers.
We start with Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, who almost certainly has been to Bolivia:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
The Raptors have been one of the league’s most consistent winners this season, even with the load management of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry’s missed games. Now they’re without Fred VanVleet, a vital member of their rotation, for a few weeks. The pressing question down the stretch for the Raps: Can this high-IQ group that has endured sporadic absences find the cohesiveness necessary to win an Eastern Conference title?
Ah yes, the loss of Fred VanVleet. The rain on our collective parades. Luckily, Toronto has added some of this “high-IQ” talent at the point guard position in Lin, which is a bit reassuring. The larger question... yes, that’s on all our minds too.
Now, off to the land of pop-up videos and subscription requests, and our friend Khadrice Rollins at SI.com:
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
It’s looking like the worst-case scenario for the Raptors is going to be the two seed. With Kawhi leading the way and with the Bucks so inexperienced, that wouldn’t be the worst spot to be in. And if the Pacers could somehow hold on to the three, it might actually be a better spot to be in. What’s home court in the Eastern Conference finals compared to avoiding two of the Celtics, 76ers and Bucks in the playoffs?
Khadrice brings up a good point, and one that always becomes a discussion point after the All-Star Break: positioning. The Raptors would do well to hold on to the first or second seed, avoiding two matchups against the East’s elite. That makes the cohesiveness Arnovitz talked about even more important. Is there a power rankers hive mind?
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Bucks or Raptors? Who is the best in the East? Who knows? (Throw the Sixers and Celtics into the conversation if you want, but I believe the Raptors and the Bucks are a cut above.) I asked Bradley Beal over All-Star Weekend about what team he thinks has the best shot at beating the Warriors. He pinpointed the Raptors, and called the Marc Gasol trade the best (non-Wizards) deal of the trade deadline. He also predicted that the Warriors would not win another title. One other note: If you’re betting on who will take first in the East, take the Raptors. They have the easiest remaining schedule in the NBA, per Tankathon.com.
The easiest schedule?! Well, that’s reassuring. The west coast trips are finished and nothing coalesces a team faster than winning streaks. Thank you, schedulers.
The Raptors will resume action and start answering questions on Friday. For now, we head to the poll.
Are the Raptors being treated fairly in Week 18 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
Yes, we are killing it
No, I refuse to acknowledge rankings without Dr. Schuhmann
Yes, I love to take a step back and ponder
No, and why wasn’t Kawhi in the lineup at the end of the All-Star Game??