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Power Ranking Poll Week 19: The stretch run

The Raps have a few days off, then it’s time for the team to show us who they really are.

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Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Last week, I gave my updated predictions for 2021-22 Toronto Raptors season (while embarrassingly looking back at my preseason predictions. I have the Raptors finishing 44-38. At 32-25 currently, that’s actually a not-so great 12-13 finish over the final 25 games.

Here then, is how I see those 25 playing out:

(Yep, I have them losing to Dwane Casey’s Pistons... again!)

Now this isn’t a particularly deep exercise, I’m not giving you full thoughts or context here, just a gut reaction. But it’s a fairly tough schedule, with a brutal six-game road trip (and a stretch of 8-of-9 on the road), plus the team adjusting to playing with fans at Scotiabank Arena again (the Raptors were terrible at home early in the season). And their first six games are three pairs of back-to-backs! So I’ve also got it mostly chalk; you know the Raptors will surprise us against a good team and drop a silly one or two to a bad team (beyond the Pistons), but 12-13 seems reasonable to me!

Anyway that’s enough outta me, let’s get on to this week’s rankings. We’ll start with Zach Harper of The Athletic, who’s using net rankings by quarter to showcase how teams are doing in week 19 compared to how they were doing in week 9; the Raptors are +7.5 in third quarters as of week 19.

14. Toronto Raptors (previously: 11)

While the Toronto Raptors are on average going into halftime with a minor deficit, their third-quarter turnaround this season shows just how well the players are adjusting to the game in real time and how well Nick Nurse is helping make those adjustments with his coaching staff. The Raptors have looked very dangerous, and it wouldn’t shock me if they upset an unsuspecting team in the first round of the East playoffs. They can play in so many different ways. If they’re able to hold this kind of third-quarter dominance, it puts so much pressure on the opposing team to perform and adjust coming out of halftime.

OK, so, maybe Zach is more optimistic than I am about these Raptors! I actually do see the Raptors as having a decent chance of upsetting the Chicago Bulls, if that’s the way the seeds shake out, but Miami, Philly or Milwaukee? I don’t think I can get there.

Over at NBA.com, John Schuhmann has some good news about Thad Young’s early impact:

13. Toronto Raptors (previously: 10)

The Raptors are searching for a ninth guy for Nick Nurse to trust, and Thaddeus Young provided some good minutes as they went into the break with an impressive win (without Fred VanVleet) in Minnesota. Maybe the most interesting thing is that the Raptors have grabbed 89% of available defensive rebounds in Young’s 33 total minutes on the floor. And those 33 minutes have come against teams — New Orleans and Minnesota — that rank in the top six in offensive rebounding percentage.

John also shares three numbers he thinks are relevant, among them this gem:

The Raptors rank last in assist percentage, having recorded assists on just 54.5% of their field goals, a drop from 60.7% (14th) last season. Their eight assists at New Orleans last Monday were the fewest for any team in a game since the Raptors themselves had seven on March 11, 2017.

I guess that’s a byproduct of the fact that the team’s point guard is also the team’s best off-ball shooter, and that the team doesn’t have a single capable backup guard on the roster, an issue management was unable (or unwilling) to address at the trade deadline.

Let’s move along to ESPN, where Tim Bontemps is delivering more of that hard-hitting analysis you love:

13. Toronto Raptors (previously: 13)

Is it possible the heavy minutes the Raptors have been playing are starting to wear on them? Fred VanVleet dealt with some knee soreness before the break, and Toronto can ill-afford to be without him — or, really, any of their starting five — for any extended period of time.

It’s true! NBA starters are important players, news at 11. Freddy seemed fine over the weekend, and he’s got four days off here, so I’m not worried about the knee — but, yeah, obviously the minutes are an ongoing concern. Will Fred have anything left for the playoffs? Can the Raptors reduce his minutes load, or even give him some “load management” time? We’ll see!

On to the poll:

Poll

Rankings aside, what do you think of Josh’s 12-13 prediction?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    12-13? Reasonable.
    (68 votes)
  • 68%
    Ridiculous. They’ll be way better 45+ wins.
    (176 votes)
  • 3%
    Ridiculous. They’ll be lucky to finish at .500.
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    There’s still time to tank!
    (5 votes)
257 votes total Vote Now