Let’s admit it: the Raptors are not looking like a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference right now. It’s only two games, and there is a lot of time left in this bizarre 2020-21 season — but facts are facts. Toronto a la Tampa is 0-2 and off to their worst start since the beginning of the Kyle Lowry era.
Naturally, this week’s Power Rankings reflect this situation. As you’ll recall: the premise here is simple. Each week we gather a subset of the weekly Power Rankings floating around out there and we review their assessment of the Raptors. Are they treating Toronto fairly... or not? Some would say there is no higher calling, that of checking the work of the Power Ranking People (PRP). In that spirit, we carry on.
To start us off once again, here’s the take from the venerable ESPN machine, care of Tim Bontemps:
15. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
A pair of disappointing losses to open the year have Toronto two games under .500 for the first time in seven years. Is that a sign of regression for the Raptors or just a sloppy start? A showdown with the Sixers and a rematch with the Pelicans this week will provide an opportunity to find out.
This is a fair glass half-empty/glass half-full assessment. On the one hand, it does seem like the Raptors are still figuring things out, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the upheaval both with the roster and the team’s geographical location. On the other hand, taking on the Sixers without Marc Gasol feels depressing right now; and the idea of another showdown with the exuberant Pelicans has me looking at the numbers 0 and 4 and not feeling particularly pleased. It could get worse, is my point.
Next up, the chaotic stylings of Zach Harper at the Athletic. What’s he saying this week?
22. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
Week 1 overreaction: The exodus of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka was too much for the Toronto Raptors to overcome! The defense has been rough in the first two games, but it will most likely settle down. I doubt they’ll give up 40 percent from 3-point range to every opponent. I am very intrigued by this bench unit from Nick Nurse so far. Norman Powell, Matt Thomas, Chris Boucher and a sprinkling of DeAndre’ Bembry. It feels a little barebones, but Boucher has also flashed some fun rim protection. Maybe Bembry can be a playmaker for them off the bench?
Why are they ranked here? They look pretty bad through the first two games, but I’m not worried long-term. They just had to take the drop with the overreaction climbs.
A sizable drop, but one that’s couched in a reasonable assessment of this week’s output from the Raptors — and their likely long-term prospects. I like that Harper explains both sides of the thinking here, and it’s fair to flip back-and-forth yourself. Still, as we head into 2021 it is indeed valuable to maintain some perspective. Thanks for that, Zach.
In at third, we welcome the return of law and order with Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA dot com. Carry on, professor:
17. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 10)
After the departure of Kawhi Leonard last year, the Raptors found their new selves pretty quickly, winning 15 of their first 19 games behind an elite and cohesive defense. With the departures of both of their centers this year, the learning curve may be a bit steeper. The main defensive issue in the Raps’ 0-2 start was a familiar one: The Pelicans and Spurs combined to shoot 33-for-76 (43%) from 3-point range. They weren’t a very good defensive rebounding team last season, and the San Antonio game was lost when they couldn’t grab a board in the final minute. The Raps are back at the top of the league in opponent turnover rate (20.7 per 100 possessions), but the rim-protecting anchors were important cogs, and there are adjustments to be made without them. Of course, if there’s a group that can figure it out on that end of the floor, this is it.
Speaking of familiar, Kyle Lowry played almost 39 minutes in the opener and Pascal Siakam played 43 on Saturday. The Raps did have two two-day breaks before Games 2 and 3 (Tuesday in Philly) and are tied with three other teams for the fewest back-to-backs (5) in the first half of the schedule. But they’ll have just two more two-day breaks going forward and Nick Nurse will need more from his bench. The Raps were outscored by 21 points in Lowry’s 22 minutes off the floor over the first two games.
Much to unpack here — the shooting allowances, the rebounding, the turnover rate and lack of rim protection, being able to figure it all out. What I want to focus on is that little tossed-off tidbit at the end: Lowry really is that important to the Raptors once again.
And finally, we turn once again to Colin Ward-Henninger, whose name i’ve not forgotten, on the venerable pages of CBS Sports:
21. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 8)
The Raptors struggled mightily on the offensive end in their season-opening loss to the Pelicans, then gave up 119 points in a loss to the Spurs on Saturday. Chris Boucher has been a bright spot early, putting up a monster game of 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in the loss to the Spurs while filling in for Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who the Raptors lost in free agency. Toronto should remain competitive this season, but it looks like the starters will once again bear a significant minutes load with a short rotation.
A record-setting 13-spot drop. Looking up at almost two-thirds of the league. Still lamenting the absence of Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Well, happy new year and all that, there’s only way to go now: up.
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 1 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, what good is perspective if we don’t use it to be more optimistic?
Yes, a one-week sample is all we’ve got to go on: and it’s not great
No, and frankly I’m already counting the ways in which it could get worse
Yes, we’re still doing this gimmick, eh? OK, see you in the new year