Maybe this is what the Raptors are now. Last season, with few embarrassing losses to their name, we could pretend that Toronto would always be a competent winning machine, a team unable or unwilling to lose through humiliation. Sure, the team lost games — and without checking I seem to recall some lopsided defeats — but it never felt like they were beaten. It just felt like a brief period of readjustment before another win.
Anyway, it feels like I’ve said this before. This is also something that feels like it’s happening more this season, a certain repetition, like we’re trapped in the purgatory of being mid-tier (or worse) with the Raptors. It could also feel like this because we indeed trapped, home-bound due to a global pandemic. Hard to say for sure. Either way, the Power Rankings stop for no man, and we’re here again with a fresh batch of takes after the Raptors put together a disappointing 1-3 week. Let’s get to them, shall we?
First up, the erudite pose of Tim Bontemps at ESPN gets us rolling:
21. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 16)
Toronto continues to deal with a litany of injuries, and now OG Anunoby will be out with a calf strain. Still, the Raptors have won six of their past 10 and are slowly extricating themselves from the hole they dug at the start of the season. The question now: Is Toronto content to be a team that just makes the playoffs, or could it sell to improve in the future?
It’s a good question, that. One could say that the Raptors need to make a trade now, but it could just as easily be said that they should just ride the season out and see where things stand for next year when, presumably (hopefully), everyone will be back in Toronto at least. I have a follow-up question to add: are the Raptors really, right now, worse than the Knicks?
Moving on, let’s see what the joker of the Power Rankings, Zach Harper at the Athletic, has for us this week:
18. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
First-quarter grade: D+
Even without having a familiar home and the struggles of putting guys on the floor, Toronto has still been a disappointment so far. It felt like the Raptors had things turned around prior to this week. The relative slow starts for Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry have been just too much to overcome and find consistency with their offensive attack. Nothing is a lost cause here. They can still find their way into the top six in the East, but they have to start really churning out some wins here to grab momentum.
Needs a makeup assignment: It’s as simple as making shots. The Raptors are really bad at making shots inside the arc. They’re a bottom-five team when it comes to making shots inside of 3 feet. The Raptors don’t need to be elite at it. They were middle of the road in the championship season inside of 3 feet. But they’ve got to make offense easier for themselves.
Why are they ranked here? Considering the Raptors have 72 road games this season, it’s tough to kill them for losing in Tampa. But this was a bad week regardless of where they played.
I myself just put together a quarter-season report card for the Raptors so I feel qualified to say D+ is perhaps a touch too harsh a grade. That said, Harper is not wrong: all the talking about what the Raptors need to do is getting a bit absurd. If the Raptors want to be a top-6 team in the East, they have to win games. They’ve got the personnel to do that — at least in theory — now they just need to actually do it. Enough talk!
But not enough writing, as we turn now to the scientific angle from Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA dot com:
16. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 21)
Just when it looked like the Raptors had turned their season around and were playing something close to the level of defense that we expect from them, they lost three straight games, allowing the Pacers, Bucks and Kings (three top-10 offenses, to be fair) to score more than 122 points per 100 possessions. One issue with the Raptors’ defense this season has been fouls. They rank 28th in opponent free throw rate, with their opponents registering 30.4 attempts per 100 shots from the field. That number was 39.3 in their four games last week.
The Chris Boucher for Kia Sixth Man/Kia Most Improved/Prime Minister campaign has been derailed somewhat, with the 28-year-old averaging just 8.1 points on 36% shooting over the last seven games. Aron Baynes’ minutes continue to climb, but the Raptors have had to patch lineups together with Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby missing in each of their last five games and Norm Powell also out over the weekend. For a few minutes on Monday, they played a frontline of Anunoby and Yuta Watanabe.
Their defense got a little break with a game against the struggling Magic on Sunday, and Game 2 of the home-and-home series is Tuesday in Orlando. Then it’s two days off before the Raptors get their first shot at the Nets.
Let’s give the Raptors some slack for the losses last week. Injuries to Siakam, Anunoby, and Powell (plus Lowry before that) could not have come at a worse time, right as the Raptors were finding something resembling a collective footing. In that spirit, let’s just look past the next Orlando game, which will likely be similar to Sunday night’s contest — I’m feeling bold enough to make that prediction — and hope the team is whole when they face the Nets.
Finally, we turn to old pal Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports for a modest update:
22. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
Just when it looked like the Raptors were turning the corner, they hit another snag with losses to the Pacers, Bucks and Kings this week. Kyle Lowry returned to the lineup after a two-game absence, but both OG Anunoby and Norman Powell missed time later in the week, leaving the Raptors thin on the wing. Pascal Siakam averaged 24.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, but he went 1 for 7 from 3-point range in the four games.
I do sometimes wonder if Siakam’s cold-snap from three is a blessing in disguise. Obviously it’s important for him to have a working three-point shot, but it’s also important — perhaps much more so — to have Siakam going to the rim with calculated abandon. The Raptors need someone to do it, and Siakam is clearly that guy. Still, an 11-spot swing is too much Colin, come on now!
Anyway, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 6 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, it’s just the injuries!
Yes, and it’s not just the injuries
No, there’s nothing but injuries
Yes, frankly, there’s something to be said about the rate of injuries in the NBA and the compression of the schedule as a means to extract as much revenue out of an extremely compromised situation