As we approach the 50-game mark of the season, we also approach the “you are what you record says you are” mark of the season. At this point, every team has had time to gel, every team has dealt with injuries (and COVID, these days), they’ve had long road trips and homesteads and yada yada. We know what most teams are.
And the Toronto Raptors, at 25-23, are very much a middle-of-the-pack team. When they fire on all cylinders, they’re good enough to beat just about anybody. But their margin of error is super-slim, meaning their floor is low enough that just about anybody can beat them, too.
It’s not the worst place to be in; it certainly leads to plenty of close and exciting games! in their last 12 contests, all but one has been a two-possession game in the final minutes, including, of course, Saturday’s triple-OT victory over the Miami Heat.
But close games are often little more than coin flips, which leads us all back to... a near-.500, middle of the pack record.
Do the Power Rankings agree? Let’s see! [Note: Rankings are released on Monday, so before the Raptors beat the Atlanta Hawks last night.]
We’ll start with Tim Bontemps at ESPN, who’s had the Raptors in the number 14 spot for a while now. This week, they’re... oh.
14. Toronto Raptors (previously: 14)
While Toronto won a thrilling game in Miami in triple-overtime Saturday night, it was another reminder of the heavy minutes the team’s leading performers are playing each night. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are first, second and third in minutes per game this season, while rookie Scottie Barnes is 12th. At some point, Toronto might have to be concerned about the strain that’s putting on them. For now, though, the Raptors will be content with continuing to move up the East standings.
Moving up the East standings, but not yours, eh Tim? We certainly can’t argue with Tim’s thought that this team needs help because its starters are playing insane minutes. After all, you know what else happens around the 50-game mark? The trade deadline! That’s every team’s chance to go from “we are what our record says we are” to something new and different.
Over at NBA.com, John Schuhmann also has thoughts about Toronto’s starters and their workload:
12. Toronto Raptors (previously: 16)
Before Saturday, the Raptors had four players in the top 11 in miles traveled per game. And then those four players, along with Gary Trent Jr., each played more than 53 minutes in the Raptors’ triple-overtime win in Miami, the seventh time this season that Nick Nurse has played fewer than nine guys. Fred VanVleet (2.90), Scottie Barnes (2.77), Pascal Siakam (2.71) and OG Anunoby (2.67) now rank first, second, sixth and seventh, respectively, in miles traveled per game.
Nurse only trusts a few guys beyond his starting lineup, but that starting lineup — as a five-man unit — hasn’t been great. It’s been outscored by 4.9 points per 100 possessions, a mark which ranks 26th among 34 lineups that have played at least 150 minutes.
This starters -4.9 statistic has been making its way around for a week or so now, and it is an interesting one to see. You know what’s even more interesting? Replace any starter with Chris Boucher, and the lineup is much, much better. The worst “Boucher with four starters” lineup (with Boucher in place of Trent Jr.) has a -0.2 +/- per game, and the rest are all on the positive side. Boucher in place of Anunoby? That group is +5 per game, in 92 total minutes.
Trade OG and promote Chris, you heard it here first.
Finally let’s see what Zach Harper of The Athletic has to say. This week Zach’s hook is to see which players from each team should be at All-Star weekend; he has Fred VanVleet as a lock, and is out on Pascal Siakam (too few games, which I say, pfffffff). But I like his thinking here:
15. Toronto Raptors (previously: 17)
Any other weekend participants? We need Scottie Barnes included in a lot. Skills challenge? Get him in there. Is he a creative enough dunker? If so, he needs to be in that. Let him MC the weekend? I’m here for it. We just need as much Barnes personality as possible. VanVleet being included in the 3-point shootout would be a good addition too, especially if he’s an All-Star as I think he should be.
Scottie’s energy and enthusiasm does seem to be the perfect for fit for All-Star weekend, in which no one takes anything too seriously. I only hope to to see him in the actual game one day, so he can throw 47 straight no-look passes without worrying about getting benched.
And now, on to the poll. Are the Raptors being ranked fairly this week?
At 24-23 at the time of the polls, were the Raptors ranked fairly?
This poll is closed
Yes. They’re firmly middle of the pack.
No, too low. The injuries and COVID situation did a number on them. They’re better than their record.
No, too high. The have no depth and the starters can’t carry them.
I don’t know, but getting multiple Raptors at All-Star weekend is just one way Adam Silver can make up for all the crap he’s put us through.