So much for this being a weekly Monday afternoon column, eh? When Daniel Reynolds retired from Raptors HQ this past summer, I decided to keep this weekly bit going because I so enjoyed reading it over the years. But Monday afternoons are busy at my “other” job and so it hasn’t worked out!
Of course, there’s no rule that says this column has to come out on Mondays, just because most power rankings do! So we’ll try and get back on track weekly, with this now being a Tuesday column. Wish me luck.
Speaking of luck, the Toronto Raptors sure could use some right now, especially in the health department. Eleven Raptors have gone into the league’s health and safety protocols in the past two weeks, all of which led to the embarrassing spectacle that was their 45-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.
Toronto should see some players return this week, and although they’ll need time to get some conditioning back, the Raptors, once healthy, are in good position to make a playoff push. Despite everything, they’re still just two games under .500 and are a half-game up on the New York Knicks in 10th place, aka the final play-in spot.
Do the Power Rankings reflect this positivity? Let’s see!
We’ll start with John Schuhmann at NBA.com. John has the Raptors ranked at 19, which is mostly where they’ve hovered for most of the season, in that 17-20 range, and hey, he does seem to be leaning into the positivity!
19. Toronto Raptors (previously: 17)
A week ago, the Raptors were 5-2 in December, with the league’s fifth-ranked defenseover the first 19 days of the month. They had gotten OG Anunoby back from a 13-game absence and they had the opportunity to reach .500 for the first time since they were 7-7.
Of course, John goes on to note that that’s when COVID hit the team. John closes things out with, well, kind of a dour note:
The Raptors still somehow rank as a top-10 defense in December, and they’re scheduled to play seven of their next eight games at home. But it’s a fairly tough stretch in regard to the opponents and things get really road-heavy after that.
Yeah, I’m not ready to look ahead to that stretch of games just yet!
Next, let’s check in with Zach Harper of The Athletic. This week, Zach’s honing in on each team’s “big three,” and for the Raptors, he’s chosen Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam. (OG Anunoby seems a tough omission, but he’s missed a good chunk of games.)
20. Toronto Raptors (previously: 19)
Unfortunately, we’ve only seen these guys together for 16 games this season, and despite the positive net rating, the Toronto Raptors are just 6-10 in those games. But it’s not their fault when these three are on the floor together. They’ve managed to produce the defense you expect out of this Toronto group and a pretty solid offense to go with it. The Raptors are once again just bitten often by the unavailability bug. I’d love to see a season in which the Raptors are at full strength.
You and me both, Zach!
Finally, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps puts us back on that positive path! Tim has chosen to ignore all health and availability issues and just focus on the defense, which has reverted to form after an awful November:
19. Toronto Raptors (previously: 20)
Toronto has been true to its preseason defensive expectations in terms of playing fast, athletic and small. The Raptors are among the bottom five teams in the league in opposing offensive rebounding rate and they are among the top five teams in the league in forcing turnovers. If Toronto can improve the former, and keep the latter, the Raptors can move up from the middle of the pack in defense and make a push to return to the playoffs.
Tim’s note about opponent offensive rebounding remains very true, and was never more emblematic than when Tacko Fall gave the Cavaliers 197 straight possessions on Sunday (numbers approximate) by dominating the offensive glass. Isn’t there a 7-footer out there waiting for that hardship call-up!?
Anyway, all things considered, the Raptors at 19 or 20 at this point in the season is pretty good, in my opinion. On to the poll:
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in week 11?
This poll is closed
Yes, fair given the solid play early in the month and current health issues.
No, given the health issues and solid play, they should be higher!
Playoffs!? No thanks. Send me back to the lottery!
Nothing matters, and all of this is 100% Adam Silver’s fault.