There have always been excuses ready for the Raptors’ struggles this season. They began the year with new players who had to acclimate themselves to Toronto’s style of play. There were injuries here and there, disrupting the lineup and rotation. And then there were the larger forces of the global pandemic, which moved the team to Tampa for the season, and then had them giving away a bunch of games in the absence of the core of their team.
Unfortunately, those excuses — except for the overall haze of the pandemic — are running out and the on-court product still has yet improve. This is a long way of saying: the Raptors keep losing, and it sucks. While the Raptors could maybe fix some of this in the short term (e.g. pull off some trade or whatever), it certainly does feel like whatever aspirations or expectations were there at the start of the year are now much lower. Contending for a title is out of the question, and the playoffs themselves are even beginning to feel like a weirdly exhausting proposition. Not impossible, of course — the Raptors are only four games out of sixth — but just a tiring thing to have to do right now.
Once again on a Monday, the Power Rankings will tell us that whole story, as they always do.
First, we turn to the grinning visage of Tim Bontemps at ESPN to provide us with his scoop:
22. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 20)
The Raptors have lost eight in a row, including a dispiriting loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday after blowing yet another lead in the final two minutes Friday against Utah. After plummeting to 11th in the East, we’ll see whether Toronto will decide to part ways with Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell between now and Thursday’s trade deadline.
A non-committal entry here from the usually declarative Timmy Good Times. The Raptors are indeed slumping and while it still somehow feels ridiculous to trade both Powell and Lowry, especially on what feels like the unfortunate whim of circumstance, it’s true the team should have to give it a second thought.
Next up, we turn to a broader assessment from our old pal Zach Harper at the Athletic:
22. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 21)
Who is ballin’ lately? Norman Powell
The Toronto Raptors have been in a really bad way lately, but Powell is thriving individually. Over the Raptors’ last nine games, he’s been out of control with his scoring efforts. In five of those nine games, Powell has dropped at least 30 points. His high during this stretch was the 43 he put up trying to will the Raptors to a victory over Detroit. Unfortunately, his scoring just hasn’t been enough to get the Raptors on the right track. His 27.4 points per game on 70.4 percent true shooting almost doesn’t make sense. That’s the true shooting percentage of a center who only plays around the rim and doesn’t shoot like Chris Dudley from the free throw line. Powell can’t be blamed for these losses.
Why are they ranked here? It just doesn’t seem like the Raptors can catch a break right now. Eight straight losses and 10 of their last 11. They could really use a great stretch to get back into it.
This really highlights what Powell does and how it is still only like the fourth most important thing for the Raptors (and what his trade value is somewhat hard to pin down). The team’s defense continues to an up-and-down mess, their rotation and bench players are very much a squad of trick-or-treaters at this point, and while the return of VanVleet, Siakam, and Anunoby has meant a lot (it should have gotten them that Utah win), there still appears to be a ways to go for them to (which is, to be clear, very understandable given the circumstances). The flip-side to this negative assessment though is this: what if the Raptors do catch a break soon? What if they win one game, and that leads to another, and so on. Is it totally against the odds that this could happen? Maybe — but maybe not.
Here now to throw some cold water on everything — for what is science if not a serious reality check? — let’s welcome Dr. John Schuhmann from NBA dot com to the table:
27. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 23)
The Raptors are finally #fullsquad. OG Anunoby looked great in totaling 32 points and seven steals in his first two games back, Norman Powell has been on fire, and their best-five lineup — Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Powell, Anunoby and Pascal Siakam — outscored the Jazz by 12 points in its 21 minutes on Friday. But their losing streak has hit eight games, because their bench, their defense and Siakam’s last-second luck all remain poor.
The Raptors (who had the league’s second best defense last season) are now in the bottom 10 defensively. They rank 29th on that end over the losing streak, having allowed almost 126 points per 100 possessions in Chris Boucher’s 210 minutes on the floor. They actually lead the league in opponent turnover rate by a wide margin over the last 19 days (two of the four times a team has committed 27 turnovers this season have come against the Raptors since the All-Star break), but they’re last in opponent effective field goal percentage, last in opponent free throw rate, and 28th in defensive rebounding percentage over the course of the streak.
The Raps’ last win came on Feb. 26 against the Rockets, and it’s losing streak vs. losing streak in Houston on Monday.
Twenty-seventh! My goodness, the doctor came in and immediately jumped off the top rope. There’s not much more I can add to this assessment other than to say: if the Raptors somehow do lose to the Rockets — only the most listless, unhappy team in the league — well, that may indeed be the end of line. We have to face facts at some point, and those links above really do tell the tale.
Finally, we come full-circle to the optimstic stylings of Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports — wait, what’s this?!
27. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 23)
The Raptors’ downward spiral continued this week with three more losses, including to the Pistons and Cavs, despite getting some players back from health and safety protocols. At 17-25, you have to wonder whether the front office will be more proactive in shopping Kyle Lowry, whose contract expires after this season. Lowry is one of the few difference-making assets as the trade deadline approaches, but trading him would indicate that Toronto is ready to hit reset — or at least the pause button — while its young talent continues to develop.
Et tu, Colin? That’s twice in one week a dude named Colin (or Collin, if you’re reading this as a member of the Sexton Fan Club; I know there’s at least a few of you sickos out there!) has decided to stick the fork in the Raptors. Just unbearable, really.
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 13 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, [a great yell is heard from the window of an old-timey insane asylum]
Yes, though I do not care to admit it one bit
No, but really I mean yes — I will ride this contrarian spirit right to hell!
Yes, and the weather sure is nice, isn’t it?