At a certain point, it’s hard not to feel a little silly in almost every column or post we here at HQ write about the Toronto Raptors. One day we’re high on the team, or this or that player on the squad, and the next day they’ve blown it, missed a key shot, dropped an imminently winnable game. This seems to be happening a lot this season — and I’m here to tell you it’s not not exhausting.
The past seven days saw the Raptors play four games, going 2-2 in their efforts. The two wins felt solid, even exciting in their way, or at least in how the Raptors handled business. The two losses? Well, there was a way to explain away the Celtics defeat, coming as it did at the end of a six-game road trip. There are fewer excuses as it relates to the loss against Minnesota. That was just disappointing, crushing even, a chance to make good totally squandered. (Hell, I went on the radio and said we’d now see the Raptors continue to exert their will against the bad teams of the league — what a fool I was!)
As always, even on Family Day, there’s no break from the weekly Power Rankings. Which means it is time once again to wonder about Toronto’s fate.
First up, the take in the machine, here’s Tim Bontemps at ESPN:
17. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 18)
Every time it feels like the Raptors are ready to take a step forward, they take at least one back. Look no further than losing at home to the lowly Timberwolves — playing without D’Angelo Russell — on Sunday night. It’s obviously a bizarre season for the Raptors, given they are playing the entire campaign away from home; but at some point, the old version of this team has to show up on a regular basis... right?
The multitudes of meaning in “... right?” As much as I hate to admit it, that has come to sum up much of the sentiment around the Raptors. At full-strength, with a solid core of players and a firm identity, it feels like the Raptors should be fine. But there’s always some issue to sort out, an injury to work through, some reason we can’t quite feel settled. It’s why we too find ourselves ending every Raptors-related sentence with a “... right?” of our own.
We carry on with Zach Harper of the Athletic who looks to have a particularly bright idea this week for the Raptors:
16. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 14)
Trade target idea: Bradley Beal
Masai Ujiri has never been afraid of making a big swing for the Toronto Raptors. And this would be a massive swing. While the Raptors have stabilized this season, they really need a lead scorer next to Pascal Siakam. It just makes his life so much easier, and having Beal as the top guy would catapult this team back toward the top of the East. A deal between these two teams would be pretty complicated because of OG Anunoby (poison pill contract) being involved and potential hard caps. Anunoby, Normal Powell, Malachi Flynn, Patrick McCaw and Stanley Johnson work under the cap, plus picks and pick swaps would likely go to the Wizards as well. But the Raptors with Beal would be a massive problem for the East.
Why are they ranked here? Losing to Minnesota wasn’t acceptable. They should have won that game and given themselves another winning week. They drop a couple of spots because of that.
Hah, yeah, the Raptors should trade for Bradley Beal! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? (I am, of course, being facetious; let’s just move on before I say something mean about Harper, the entire genre of trade speculation writing, and the idea of Toronto parting with OG.)
To cool things down, let’s see what the Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA dot com can add here:
19. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 21)
The Raptors had a 5-1 stretch through Wednesday in which they scored more than 124 points per 100 possessions, their best stretch of offense in three seasons under Nick Nurse. Pascal Siakam has been able to find his way to the basket, with 71% of his shots coming in the paint and a free throw rate of 39 attempts per 100 shots from the field over his last nine games, up from just 57% and 25 per 100 prior to that. With the Raptors down two to Minnesota in the final seconds on Sunday, Siakam got a point-blank layup… which rolled off the rim.
Of course, the Raptors probably shouldn’t have been trailing the Wolves at that point. But Minnesota was the second straight Toronto opponent to make 10 or more corner 3-pointers, with the Celtics now having done it against the Raptors four times in the last 6 1/2 months. The Raptors can be a feast-or-famine defensive team, forcing a lot of turnovers but yielding a lot of 3-pointers, and the scale has tilted a lot more toward famine than it did last season. Only the Bucks (7.9) have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions than the Raps (7.0).
The Raptors do miss OG Anunoby, who’s been out for the last 10 games, on that end. They’ve allowed just 103.4 points per 100 possessions in 254 minutes with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Siakam and Anunoby all on the floor, but 116.4 per 100 in 249 minutes with the other three on the floor without Anunoby. Indications are that he’s close to a return, maybe in time for the Raptors to face the league’s No. 1 offense on Tuesday and Thursday.
I do wonder if at some point the Raptors adjust their defense at all, as more and more commentators note how their aggressive schemes are leading to an increased number of threes being taken (and made) against them. The Raptors obviously have to feel like their defensive schemes are solid — even when bad luck strucks — but at what point do we admit it’s not just the cruel hand of happenstance working against the team? Would it even be possible for the Raptors to adjust on the fly? (Or does Toronto really, really just need OG Anunoby and Yuta Watanabe back on the floor?)
Finally, swinging in to close things out here, we welcome Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports:
15. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 15)
The Raptors won their first two games of the week, but ended on a sour note with a loss to the Celtics, then to the Wolves without D’Angelo Russell after Pascal Siakam missed a potential game-tying layup with seven seconds left. Siakam had a tremendous week before the tough luck, averaging 24.8 points on 58 percent 3-point shooting, while Norman Powell added 23.5 points per game on 55 percent 3-point shooting. Toronto finds itself in a jumble of Eastern Conference teams, as the Nos. 4 through 11 seeds are separated by just three games.
I like what Colin has done here. He kept the Raptors at 15 for the second week in a row. They’re exactly in the middle of the pack, and they remain immobile after another 2-2 week. It does indeed feel like that middle is in fact a sort of limbo. Maybe the Raptors will make a trade, maybe the influx of now healthy players will make a difference, maybe something else will change. And maybe then we’ll have an easier time assessing this team. Maybe... right?
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 8 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, they’ve been playing well minus some key guys, gimme a break
Yes, the Raptors just haven’t been consistently good enough
No, and now there’s a buzz about Andre Drummond? Bestill my heart
Yes, but only because watching the Raptors gives me something to do