There’s just no stopping the momentum of the Toronto Raptors.
A darling of “wait, they have the third-best record in the entire league?” tweets over the past week, an 11-game win streak is starting to solidify the discussion that, yes, they might actually be able to pull off another deep playoff run.
Injuries continue to mount challenges to this team, though. With Norman Powell now out indefinitely with a broken finger and Marc Gasol continuing to deal with a hamstring issue, it seems like there should be some trepidation for future success. Thanks to a fairly easy schedule, it hasn’t hurt them yet.
The power ranking powers will also be reminding you throughout their blurbs that this is trade deadline week. Coming into the year, the Raptors were an intriguing subject for this week — with three major contracts that could be moved in Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol, there was an idea that any blow-up would be easy to accomplish if the season went south.
Of course, it’s been the exact opposite. The Raptors are now firmly buyers on the trade market, and seem to be sniffing the possibility of adding a piece if the price is right.
With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at where Toronto stacks up. Starting with Andre Snellings over at ESPN.com, we’ve got some great news to report.
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
The Raptors have won 11 straight games and jumped to the second seed in the Eastern Conference with the third-best record in the NBA. They lost Norman Powell to a hand fracture on Friday; Powell has been a key player who averaged 17.5 PPG in the 11 games he played since his previous injury. But the team has been nigh unbeatable since the return of Pascal Siakam, who won his second Eastern Conference Player of the Week award of the season.
Straight facts, homie! The Raptors are indeed invincible over this stretch and Pascal Siakam has a lot to do with it. I don’t hold the historical record of this column, with our main man Daniel Reynolds off on vacation, but I’m going out on a limb to say this is the highest ESPN has had the Raptors all season. Someone report the word to Stephen A. Smith.
On to The Athletic’s Zach Harper, who fairly took last week off after the sudden news of Kobe Bryant’s death. The rankings are then being updated after two weeks and Zach’s theme this week is whether teams are buyers or sellers at Thursday’s deadline.
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Buy or sell? I will hesitantly say buy here. While I fully believe in Masai Ujiri to use his executive genius however it needs to be used when it comes to creating cap space, I’m a little hesitant about any move that could impact their long-term plan. That plan is trying to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021. I think most trades they could make right now would probably end up taking on money in some form past the 2021 summer. Ujiri can still easily move that money elsewhere whenever they need him to, but the Raptors are in a great position to get back to the NBA Finals. The Bucks are the only team definitely in their way, and everybody else feels like a hypothetical.
One hypothetical move is them acquiring Dewayne Dedmon for some big man depth. Marc Gasol has been in and out of the lineup throughout the season, and the Raptors just don’t have a lot of options with their interior if someone goes down for an extended period. There would be several ways to go about this. They could move Norman Powell to Sacramento for Dedmon. Powell is having a fantastic season, but has dealt with a lot of injuries, including a fractured finger most recently. Raptors fans probably wouldn’t love this deal initially, but they have the depth on the wings to replace Powell. Also, Powell might pick up a player option that impacts the 2021 summer cap space while Dedmon is just $1 million guaranteed. Or the Raptors could throw a second-round pick with a combination of Patrick McCaw, Stanley Johnson and Dewan Hernandez for Dedmon. But that’s just my idea for getting them depth inside.
Phew, lots to work with here. Zach is on to something with any win-now move — the Raptors have lined themselves up perfectly for the summer of 2021 and a run at the Greek Freak. To quote a smart man:
This has been the best case scenario. Lowry on a friendly extension, the bigs performing well enough to keep the team together, and even more rookie contracts performing above expectations.— John Gaudes (@johngaudes) February 2, 2020
This is an extremely attractive spot for a certain 2021 free agent. https://t.co/9QZCLadq1j
As for trading Powell for Dedmon, no thank you. The Raptors bench has been surprisingly good, but I’d say it’s too early to have Terence Davis be your best creator off the pine. While there’s been hustle galore from Patrick McCaw and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, I think we’ve seen enough miscues to know what happens when either of those two don’t have Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet on the floor to prop them up.
Sign me up for the second scenario here from Zach, then. We don’t need second round picks. We don’t need the draft at all!
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 6)
Talk about scorching hot. The Raptors easily handled four inferior opponents this week to run their win streak to a franchise-record-tying 11 games. The offensive distribution has been incredible, with seven players averaging double-figures over the streak, including five over 16 points per game. They’ve had the third-best offensive rating and defensive rating in the NBA over the last 11 games, and now own the third-best record in the league.
I like the trend we’re on here. The Raptors have been brilliant when it comes to depth scoring, for as much as Siakam has impressed. Every player in the rotation, it seems like, has had a “moment” this season — a game that’s singularly been theirs. It’s a great time to be alive.
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 8)
The Raptors’ 11-game winning streak is the second longest in the league this season, is tied for the longest in franchise history, and has Nick Nurse going to the All-Star Game. The Toronto offense ranks second (behind Damian Lillard) over the course of the streak and had its second most efficient performance of the season (129 points on just 97 possessions) against Chicago’s 10th-ranked defense on Sunday.
The champs can’t seem to stay healthy. Marc Gasol is dealing with a hamstring issue again and Norman Powell broke his hand one night after making some big plays - a three, a steal and a dunk - down the stretch of a win in Cleveland on Thursday. But the Raps haven’t lost much in turning to Serge Ibaka (who has shot 62% over the last seven games) or Terence Davis (who scored a career-high 31 points on Sunday). Ibaka’s revival under Nick Nurse is just as amazing as Davis’ emergence as a contributor for one of the best teams in the league after going undrafted.
Always got to bring us down, Dr. Schuh. While the reality that this part of the schedule has been easy and the injuries are piling up, the Raptors got ranked under the dang Boston Celtics this week, who won exactly two games. Not cool, man.
So, now we must go to the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 16 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
Yes, simply look at our resume
No, what have the Lakers done lately anyway
Yes, our #PROVEEM games against the Bucks will come soon enough
No, who even needs doctors anyway??