If this doesn’t sound too untoward, I found myself thinking about Marc Gasol’s hips this past week. I was trying to formulate some way of commenting on them, on his ability to use them to direct traffic on the court, or just in how he seems to roll his hips while walking. Watch Gasol when he lumbers back to the bench after a break in play, for example. It looks like he shouldn’t able to move as fast or as sharply as he does, almost like he’s got two left feet on the dance floor and a centre of gravity that slides up and down his torso.
But then he tracks a point guard on the perimeter, keeps a hand on his man, times his move one way or the other, and it always looks like the exact right thing to do in the split second he does whatever it is he’s doing. Anyway, Gasol’s hips are just one of the cool things to note about the Raptors after this past week. Another thing: a tidy 3-0 week and a roster full of healthy rotation players.
For this week’s Power Rankings Poll, there is much to think about in regards to the Raptors. They’ve suddenly moved back into third in the East, and seem to be bearing down on the Heat for second. What’s more, they’ve yet to even achieve their final form (they’ll need Pascal Siakam to regain his for that to happen), but they’ve been very good and fun to watch — and now we get to see how they’ve fared in this week’s Rankings.
First up, here comes ESPN rolling through with Andre’ Snellings out in front:
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)
The Raptors are finally getting healthy, with Fred VanVleet joining Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell in returning to the lineup. The Raptors have won three straight games by an average of 16.0 points, and they play seven of their next eight games against teams well under .500. The only above-.500 team in that stretch is a home game against the 76ers, a team they have split their first two games against this season.
Just like the Raptors, Snellings is heading towards his peak level of performance. It... it is just unfortunate that this apex is positively Perd Hapley-esque. Still, a positive assessment!
For our next trick, we move on to Zach Harper of the Athletic for his reading of the tea leaves:
4. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 8)
All-Star(s) in the mix: Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry. Siakam is going to be voted in as a starter. It’s entirely deserved as he’s proven his mettle as a No. 1 option on a very good team. Lowry is going to confuse some people here, but there are a couple of reasons I believe he could and should make it. First, he’s been very good. His shooting percentages are down and he’s missed a few games, but Lowry has played very good basketball and has the averages to back it up. Secondly, he’s an All-Star regular in the East. When it comes to coaches voting for reserves, that kind of stuff matters. They like to go with the veterans they know when it’s deserved. Some of that is the idea that younger or first time guys need to knock these vets off their perch. Some of it is also that coaches are often a little lazy with how they vote for this stuff. I think Lowry is in.
Why is this team here? The win over Washington isn’t that impressive, although the Wizards do put up crazy points most nights. The win over Oklahoma City was pretty incredible. Yes, they almost blew a 30-point lead, but they went into OKC and mostly dominated a good team that is playing great basketball as of late. That’s reason enough for the Raptors to start moving their way back up as they get pretty close to completely healthy.
Kudos to Harper for saying what we’re all thinking: Lowry is definitely an All-Star this year. The case to be made is already there and the only thing working against Lowry is the fact that he missed a few games in November (and one in December) and the team did quite well without him. Nevertheless, Lowry has been everything for the Raptors — or to put it another way: he’s been exactly what they’ve needed at all times. See: Good, The Raptors Are.
Next up in line is, as always, the doctor: John Schuhmann of NBA dot com. Johnny, what you got?
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 12)
With Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet having made their returns from injury last week, the Raptors are healthy again. Gasol shot 13-for-18 in his first two games back, VanVleet shot 11-for-16 in his return on Saturday, and the champs have scored more than 123 points per 100 possessions over a three-game winning streak.
Their new reserves have been plucky and the 14.1 points per 100 possessions the Raptors have outscored their opponents by with Terence Davis on the floor is the fifth-best mark among 284 players who have averaged at least 15 minutes in 20 games or more. But they will continue to depend on their seven returning rotation guys. They’ve outscored their opponents by 8.9 points per 100 possessions (allowing just 101.0 per 100) in 1,618 toal minutes with five of those seven guys on the floor.
One of the Raptors’ two wins within the top six teams in the East was at home against Philadelphia, and the Sixers are back in the Six on Wednesday.
As per usual with Schuhmann, this blurb runs the gamut. The Raptors got the best news possible with the return of Gasol and VanVleet — and both players have actually whipped since their return. He also highlights the brightest of bright spots on Toronto’s deep bench (Terence Davis). And finally, the doctor clarifies two key issues going forward for the Raptors: getting those core seven players back in sync completely — and getting back to dealing damage to the top six teams in the conference. Neither has completely happened yet. But we wait to see it.
And finally, to bring up the rear, here comes Colin Ward-Henninger from CBS Sports:
8. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 10)
Toronto picked up wins over the Thunder, Wizards and Timberwolves this week, but more importantly, it’s finally starting to get healthy. Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell played in all three games this week, while Fred VanVleet scored 29 points against the Wolves in his first game since Jan. 4. The Raptors have played well short-handed all season, so it’s exciting to think what they might be able to do with a full, healthy roster.
Buddy, “exciting” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Raptors fans are talking themselves back into a run to the Finals, and you know what: it’s not a crazy dream. There, I said it. Let’s goooooooooooo!
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 14 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, 3-0 means 1.000 — how many times do I have to say that?
Yes, just happy to have the Raps healthy
No, being healthy just means there’s a chance of becoming UNhealthy again
Yes, can you imagine what the Raptors will look like when they get all their guys back? Wow, I mean... whoa.