Based on how their 2020 season ended, the Raptors of 2020-21 were a disappointment. Much of the reason for those deflated feelings, however, is due to things well beyond each individual player’s control. The team itself did not have much of a say in which players were brought to the squad or let go. They didn’t have much chance for input on moving to Tampa. And they certainly weren’t going out of their way to catch COVID and deal with the various health and safety issues that came from that. It’s disappointing, sure, but let’s keep our perspective here.
In that spirit, we arrive at the final batch of Power Rankings — modestly reduced. As far as I can tell, both ESPN and NBA dot com declined to get involved with a final 21st week of rankings. Maybe I missed something, but the brain trust at ESPN, including our guiding light Tim Bontemps, appears to have moved on; and Dr. John Schuhmann is already covering first round playoff matchups. Such is life in the fast-paced world of sports during a compressed season (and, really, the world in general).
That leaves us with just two rankings to review and some expanded space on which to project some feelings about this past Raptors season. It has not been easy to watch the team play this year, but play they did, right on to the end. And unlike some of their fellow draft lottery compatriots, confidence remains pretty high around the Raptors. They’ll be in Toronto again soon (hopefully by October) and their floor is still quite high.
In any case, after the most unlucky year perhaps ever for the franchise, it’s not crazy to think things for the Raptors will take a turn towards the better. Let’s review the Power Rankings and confirm.
First up, we give Zach Harper of the Athletic the chance to lead. Here’s his final take on the 2020-21 Raptors:
21. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 24)
Encouraging player from this season: OG Anunoby
It’s frustrating that Anunoby missed nearly 30 games this season, but when he did play, he showed some brilliant basketball. He increased his scoring average and didn’t sacrifice his efficiency. Anunoby’s defense can be otherworldly and create big issues for the opposing team. This is the Anunoby the Raptors drafted four years ago. He could rebound a little more and be a better playmaker for others, but getting this version of Anunoby moving forward would be huge for this team. Just need him to be healthy and remain on the court.
Player you want more from: Pascal Siakam
Maybe I should have gone with Kyle Lowry here because you want to see more of him for the Raptors, which means he re-signs this summer. But I’m going with Siakam here for a reason. He had a good season considering the circumstances. He scored well, he defended well and he was the best distributor version of himself we’ve ever seen. But he needs to be more consistent and more efficient as the star of the team. He has to be a much better 3-point shooter, and he can’t have these long dips in efficiency like we saw. As the top guy on the team, your job is as much consistency as it is production.
Feel good heading into the offseason? They have to feel good. The Raptors just endured the most hectic regular season of anybody, and we assume they’ll get to be home next season. Expect a productive offseason and a massive bounceback next season.
It’s something to consider here that the Raptors went 0-4 over the final week of the season and yet Harper still moved them up three spots. This is owing to a sense of cosmic unfairness that has bedeviled the Raptors this season. Yes, as Harper notes, Toronto wants more from Pascal Siakam — if only consistency, really — but it says something that they still had a chance to make the play-in game even after all the absolute disasters that hit them this year. As noted above, they do indeed have to feel good. Take some time, regroup, re-assess, and let’s look forward to 2021-22 together.
Now, in the hammer position, we thank goodness for CBS Sports’ Colin Ward-Henninger, who even late in the day did not miss a chance to let loose one more time with some rankings:
24. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 24)
Chalk the Raptors’ underwhelming season up to their temporary relocation to Tampa and a COVID outbreak just when they looked to be turning their season around. No matter what happens with Kyle Lowry this offseason, Toronto is set up to return to contention next season when things (hopefully) get back to normal.
That’s it. I literally can’t add any more words to it than that. In all, I’d hazard a guess that we are not likely to forget this year. We’ll make reference to these pandemic times for many years to come — both in the context of the Raptors and literally everything else.
Whole ways of being have shifted as a result of the past 15 months and counting, and we’ve become aware (or even more aware) of how tenuous much of life actually is for ourselves and many others. In the larger scheme of things, basketball starts to feel rather small by comparison. That we’re able to feel optimistic at all, however, is perhaps a sign that hope and belief remain, that things could indeed turn around in a grand way. If I may: I’m not worried about the Raptors at all here. They’ll be fine, and probably sooner rather than later. But I do hope that these times have informed and educated you on the world you’d like to see and how things ought to work so as to make sure everyone can live in that world with dignity. I realize this is a leap — we were talking about Power Rankings just a paragraph ago — but it’s also been something of a theme for this season.
The Raptors were a disappointment, life has been a disappointment — let’s hope for, and work towards, more in the future.
Now, one more time, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 21 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, but peace be with you, man
Yes, tough season, tough team, we carry on
No, but I’ll try to be less cynical (for now)
Yes, and while I’ll never quite understand what any of this was all about, ain’t that just how life is sometimes