As a Toronto Raptors fan — at least, as a longtime fan — it’s easy to get used to disappointment, and to keeping your expectations low. There’ve been more bad years than good, after all! (And some of those bad years were really bad.)
So when pleasant surprises do come along, even small ones like seeing the team make a jump in the Power Rankings, it’s best to lean in and enjoy it! As such, I am savouring the small back-to-back-to-back moments of joy I had when seeing that the Raptors were at 14, 14, and 12(!) in our three rankers’ minds this week.
And why shouldn’t they be? The Raptors went 4-0 last week and have won six straight, and sure, they weren't playing the cream of the crop, but wins are wins and the team is healthy and playing the right way.
At which point it’s also worth remembering: enjoy this! We all know how quickly a fun stretch can be snatched away, whether by injury or COVID or bad luck or whatever. Forget about the opponents, and the hardship exceptions, and the empty arena, and take in the joy that comes from watching your team win games.
[coughs] what were we here for again? Oh yeah, power rankings! Let’s start at the top, or as close to the top as the Raptors have been for a while, with John Schuhmann at NBA.com.
12. Toronto Raptors (previously: 18)
It might be time for the Raptors’ broadcast to ease up on their Fred-VanVleet-for-All-Star campaign… so they can launch a VanVleet-for-MVP campaign in its stead. Mr. Bet on Yourself has averaged 31.2 points on 47/44/96 shooting for what has been the league’s third-ranked offense as the Raptors have won six straight games... For the season, VanVleet (11-for-20) is one of two players (Kyle Kuzma is the other) who’ve shot 50% or better on at least 15 clutch 3s. He was 8-for-34 (24%) on clutch 3s last season.
I edited out some of John’s rundown of VanVleet’s stats, because if you’ve been watching — and as John alludes to — the broadcast has been smashing you over the head with them. That doesn’t make them any less impressive! But, maybe it’s time for Devlin and co. to take it down a notch.
VanVleet still has a huge on-off differential for the season, but their last four wins have come with the Raptors outscoring their opponents by 35 points in his 46 minutes off the floor. VanVleet’s minutes have been staggered with those of Siakam, who’s averaged 23.7 points, 11 rebounds and 6.2 assists over the streak, with 33 points in Milwaukee and 29 against New Orleans. In two games last week, the Raps used a jumbo lineup — OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Siakam, Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa — that outscored the Spurs and Bucks by 11 points in 10 total minutes.
I definitely feel like the Raptors are settling in to ideal rotations now, something which should only get better when Yuta Watanabe comes back (and as Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. get healthy). It remains hilarious to me that we’ve been saying all year that the Raptors’ lack of size is an issue, but all of a sudden we’re praising Nick Nurse’s use of a “jumbo” lineup. It’s all relative, right?
Let’s move on to ESPN, where Tim Bontemps is here to deliver some hard-hitting analysis:
14. Toronto Raptors (previously: 18)
That the Raptors, winners of six straight, are now three games over .500 when their best three players — Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam — have played only nine games together is a sign of their upside if they can keep their team healthy over the second half of the season.
Oh, the team is better when all their good players play? You don’t say! Come on, Tim, that’s the kind of depth I deliver here at HQ. I turn to the bigwigs at ESPN for real insight! Like whether or not the Pistons are a contender now that they have Bol Bol on the team. (By the way, you wanna see a jumbo lineup? Tacko Fall is out there, just waiting to be picked up by the Pistons. Make it happen, Dwane!)
Finally, we check in with Zach Harper at
The New York Times The Athletic; not only does Zach give the Raptors a nice bump, he’s also moved them up in his “teirs” for the first time, from “The Play-in Gives Them Hope” to “Playoff Hopefuls.” Hooray!
14. Toronto Raptors (previously: 18)
Don’t look now, but the Toronto Raptors have been surging. Sadly, they’re used to dealing with guys being in and out of the lineup. It helps having OG Anunoby back in the mix, and the core of Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and Chris Boucher has mostly played during this 15-game stretch. But it’s VanVleet who is playing at an All-Star level right now. You could make the argument he deserves to start for the East, but the system isn’t likely to be kind to him unless Justin Bieber or Drake gets involved.
Now there’s a question. Why doesn’t Drake get more involved? One would have to think a Drake Instagram story would mobilize at least some of his followers into voting, or even a tweet would get enough RTs to make a dent in the lead (or at least get him ahead of Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose, which, sheesh).
So there you have it — all three of our rankings pals have the Raptors in the top half of the league this week! Fair? Let’s hit the poll:
The Raptors are top-15 in the Power Rankings poll; is that the right spot?
Yes, they’re playing well, but the true tests will come on this road trip.
No, I think they’re top 12 with the way they’re playing.
Dammit, this is really f**king with our lottery odds.
Sounds right, but I’m sure Adam Silver will find some other way to screw us over.