The Raptors are beginning to occupy by some netherworld of the mind, a middle space between winning and losing, a limbo. I’m here to tell you this is not an enjoyable experience. The winning is nice, don’t get me wrong, even when it comes on a random Sunday afternoon against a deflated Clippers team. A win is a win and all that.
But the losing now takes on elemental importance, creating as it does a foreboding narrative of eventual doom. Even though the number of Ws still outrank the Ls by over a 2-to-1 margin, this is how we feel about the Raptors. This is the binary Toronto finds itself in, even though the situation isn’t quite so dire. This week amounted to little more than a coin flip for the squad. They played poorly and lost against the Bucks, executed against LA and won, and that’s it. But in losing the way they did, we’re already looking to our misery in May, or finding joy in trade scenarios. And the win? Well, that just not enough anymore.
So how are the Raptors actually doing after a 1-1 week? As always, we go to the Power Rankers to decide.
What does the team of calculators over at ESPN have to say? Let’s go with Kevin Arnovitz:
4. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 4)
When Kyle Lowry was gratuitously snubbed as a reserve for the 2014 All-Star Game, word around the league was that he was being penalized by coaches for his reputation as a difficult customer. Five years later, he was selected as a bubble candidate, not having a particularly impressive season statistically. This demonstrates how far Lowry has come as one of the game’s most highly respected game managers, one who impacts play in numerous areas on both sides of the floor even when he’s not scoring.
This blurb should finish with: then he sat out a game with a sore back (again) and sent the entire city of Toronto into a panic. I’m all for getting Lowry his credit where credit is due — he is, to me, an All-Star player, no doubt — but I’m also for getting Lowry some rest. The hopes of the Raptors literally rest on his back.
Coming up next, it’s Sports Illustrated and the insight of one Khadrice Rollins:
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 6)
Toronto has lost three of its last five and the most recent of those defeats came by 13 at home to the Bucks. I don’t want to call the Raptors a paper tiger in February, but until they improve their 6-7 record against the other top five teams in the East, it’s going to be a bit harder to keep the same faith in the Raptors that I had back in November and December.
Speaking of which, we can look forward to a lot more defeats against top level teams if Lowry sits out for another extended stretch. Without a doubt, the common denominator in any tough Raptors loss has been Kyle’s performance. There have been some wins that have come at the (massive) hands of Kawhi Leonard and his sheer elite talent. But when Lowry is off it becomes that much harder for the Raptors to survive. I’m really bumming myself out here.
Meanwhile, Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com keeps the Toronto takes steady once again:
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
On Thursday, the Raptors became the second team to outscore the Bucks in the paint (54-36) this season. But that was the only positive thing to take out of the game that gave Milwaukee the season series and a three-game edge in the loss column atop the Eastern Conference. The bench has been more of a concern this season, but the Toronto starting lineup was outscored 30-13 in its 10.1 minutes on Thursday and has been outscored by 9.4 points per 100 possessions in 156 total minutes over the last two months. Lineups with Fred VanVleet in place of either Kyle Lowry or Kawhi Leonard have been much better and continuity remains an issue (with Lowry missing the Raps’ win over the Clippers on Sunday, the Raptors’ two All-Stars have played just seven games together since Dec. 9). But that Milwaukee loss (the Raptors’ worst offensive performance in a game that both All-Stars played) has to have GM Masai Ujiri thinking about a tweak to the roster. Another big pre-deadline game (in Philadelphia on Tuesday) will provide another data point.
It’s all a problem, isn’t it! The Raptors scored in the paint (without Jonas Valanciunas, which is wild) but couldn’t hit any threes (which should be a staple with this team). They have Kawhi and Kyle, but can’t get them on the court together. And then when they do get out there in combination, Toronto doesn’t look quite right. We can remember positive events from a couple weeks ago, but forget it all when things don’t go the Raptors’ way. This, my friends, is torture.
Let’s bring it home with CBS Sports and our guy Reid Forgrave:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Just watch Masai Ujiri get incredibly crazy at the deadline and swing a deal for Anthony Davis (which would make the Raptors the only team in the NBA with a chance to upset a healthy Warriors team). It feels far-fetched, as do most trades for Davis. This team’s championship window may only last through this season, depending on what Kawhi Leonard does in free agency, so Ujiri is incentivized to go for it with a big move. But it’s hard to see a move that really makes much sense for one of the most complete teams in the NBA, other than flipping, say, Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas for Davis. Trading a first-rounder to add depth could work, but for a team that isn’t sure of its direction if Leonard leaves in free agency, that would also bring some risk.
On the one hand, Reid gives the Raptors the three-spot again, which is nice. On the other, hoo boy, a lot of loaded statements in there! I agree that if a trade materializes for Anthony Davis, you’ve gotta do it. I know it would suck to trade Siakam and OG (and Jonas too!), but Davis gets the Raptors right up to the top in terms of ceiling. As the news trickles out though, it appears as though Davis would not re-sign with Toronto (bummer), and that the Lakers are still pulling the strings on a potential deal. We’ll see.
In any case, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 16 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, just wait until everyone is healthy and then you’ll all feel sooooo foolish
Yes, and, in point of fact, I appreciate ESPN giving the Raps the benefit of the doubt
No, did someone say DOOM???
Yes, but this coin flip could go either way