Not for nothing, but after starting the season 2-8, the Raptors have gone 5-1 over their past six games (and 3-1 over the past week). Yes, that one loss was a rough one to the Miami Heat — isn’t that how it always goes? — but Toronto immediately responded, and then put together another satisfying shorthanded win against the Pacers. In all, they’ve jumped up in all sorts of league metrics, to say noting of their standing in the Eastern Conference.
So then, the mood around the Raptors is better these days. Not best — Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam are currently listed as out with injuries — but they are indeed better than they were in the early going of the season. For one, OG Anunoby is playing about as well as he ever has; for another, Aron Baynes is starting to find his wind and touch with Toronto; and the team is now enjoying contributions from formerly forgotten players like Stanley Johnson. No, this iteration of the Raptors isn’t magic — but they do look like they’ve regained some swagger and are having a bit more fun.
Now the test: what do the Power Rankings have to say this week? To tip things off once again, we go to the man of the hour, Tim Bontemps of ESPN:
16. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 19)
Things didn’t look good for the Raptors when they started the season 1-6, but now they’ve won five of their past six games — including a great win at Indiana on Sunday without All-Stars Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. Toronto is beginning to look like itself again. After cutting Alex Len, however, Toronto is still looking for another reliable center option beyond Chris Boucher.
In this accounting, the Raptors are still a middle-of-the-pack team which, in truth, is fair enough. That win without Lowry and Siakam was damn satisfying to see though. Now we just need to see if this team can come together and do it again (with Lowry and Siakam). Right now, some of the players they’re relying on (Boucher, as mentioned above, Yuta Watanabe, mega-man Stanley, etc.) don’t have a long track record of consistent play. We’ll see if the good vibes can last.
Not to rain on any parades here, but let’s check in with Zach Harper of the Athletic:
11. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 16)
Any regrets with this squad? I didn’t think scoring would be this hard for them. The Toronto Raptors are currently 15th in the NBA in offensive rating. Considering they were 14th by the end of last season, that isn’t exactly a big drop. However, the Raptors have really had to work to get to league average recently. The Raptors are still middle of the road in the halfcourt, but they’ve seen a huge fall in their transition offense this season. They went from third to 23rd in transition efficiency. Nick Nurse’s team needs to find ways to turn misses and turnovers into easy points. Otherwise, they’re fighting simply too much on offense.
Why are they here? Another positive week for the Raptors, and it looks like they’re pretty fine. Won five of their last six.
Hey, Toronto is knocking on the top third of the league here! Also, kudos to Harper for not going with the full “they probably regret Ibaka and Gasol leaving” statement in the above. What he does hit on is true though: the Raptors were lights out last year in terms of turning turnovers and defensive pressure into easy offensive opportunities. With the amount of players coach Nick Nurse is trying on a night-to-night basis, here’s hoping some of that juice can get back on the court this season.
Now the toughest test, what does Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com have to say?
16. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 17)
Things are going so well for the Raptors that Nick Nurse has trusted his starting center (Aron Baynes) to play more than 10 minutes in four straight games. The Raptors have won five of their last six, going 4-1 on a homestand and then getting just their second road win of the season by edging the Pacers without Kyle Lowry (who’s missed the last two games) and Pascal Siakam on Sunday. Expert poacher Fred VanVleet took the ball from Malcolm Brogdon and always-active Chris Boucher blocked what looked like a sure bucket for Domantas Sabonis to seal the victory.
OG Anunoby was already starting to bust out before he scored a season-high 30 points on Sunday. He’s seen a big jump in the percentage of his shots that have come from 3-point range (from 40.3% last season to 55.6%), and he’s 26-for-43 (60%) from beyond the arc over the last seven games. But he’s also had some really strong takes to the cup — against both big and small defenders — over this stretch, with the post-up against Sabonis shown below being a pretty good illustration of his strength. Anunoby is right there with VanVleet in regard to deflections and played a big role in keeping Luka Doncic in check in the Raptors’ win over Dallas on Monday.
Love this whole entry. Fred VanVleet has been great! OG Anunoby amazing! It’s fun to watch Chris Boucher block shots! Aron Baynes playing over ten minutes a game and looking passable! Cheers! This is what counts for effusiveness from the doctor.
Finally, let’s see what Colin Ward-Henninger comes in with this week in the hammer position at CBS Sports.
11. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 17)
Here come the Raptors. After a dismal start to the season, Toronto has won five of its last six games, including a 3-1 week capped by an impressive victory in Indiana with Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam unavailable. Nick Nurse said he felt his team wasn’t playing that poorly during the rough beginning, and that’s starting to translate to the win column. OG Anunoby broke out for a season-high 30 points on Sunday to finish off a strong week in which he averaged 20.5 points on 64 percent 3-point shooting.
A six-spot jump from CWH means the Raptors got an even split in this week’s rankings: 50 percent say no. 11, the other 50 percent say no. 16. Which one is real? I, of course, will contend that 11 is the floor of this team. They just have to finish the excavation, get a full squad, and then really start to build.
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 5 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, like you said in your pained construction metaphor: the build-up is coming!
Yes, a fringe top-10 team may be where we’re at with Toronto
No, and no further explanation
Yes, to maintain the balance here, I’ll also keep the spirit of brevity alive and shorten my answer. Wait, dang, this is too long