Fred VanVleet is an All-Star, Pascal Siakam is the player of the week, and the Toronto Raptors have won six straight games, all against solid Eastern Conference competition, to move them into sole possession of sixth place with a 29-23 record.
The job isn’t done yet – there are still 30 games to go, and there’s a very important trade deadline just a couple of days away. But it’s worth pausing for a moment to reflect on all of the things that went wrong for this team and consider how impressive it is that they are where they are. After last season’s debacle in Tampa, losing the GROAT to free agency, a slow start to this season, and another COVID outbreak, 29-23 isn’t just good – it’s amazing.
But as always, we must inexorably move forward, so let’s get right to the power rankings, shall we? We’ll start with Zach Harper of The Athletic this week. Zach has been ranking teams in tiers all season, with the Raptors planted firmly in the “play-in game gives them life tier.” When they won six straight games last month, Zach briefly moved them up to the “Playoff hopefuls” tier – and that’s where they find themselves again this week. He’s also got them as “sellers” at this week’s deadline.
12. Toronto Raptors (previously: 15)
Sellers. Stick with me on this. I simply mean this from the standpoint of trying to find a home for Goran Dragic, and hopefully not just having to resort to waiving him and getting nothing in return as he moves to the buyout market. The Raptors are in a pretty good position. They’ve played pretty good basketball as of late. Their core is pretty much young enough that you should want to just see how they react and adapt to the rest of this campaign. Then you tinker in the offseason. I don’t think there is a move that puts them over the top, and I wouldn’t want to give up anyone from the core. So the answer is really neither, unless you’re shopping Dragic and able to move him for anything.
I have to say I’m with Zach here – I don’t see anything really happening this week. Maybe they’re able to move Dragic, but I don’t think it’ll be a major move; I think maybe they get a guy we all think will bolster the bench, but who Nick Nurse buries in the doghouse after one subpar game. And I think that’s fine – as Zach says, this is the time to test out what you have, see how they perform when the games start to really matter, and tinger inthe offseason.
Over at ESPN, they’re “celebrating” trade deadline day by looking back at the deals that shaped each team. And Tim Bontemps (who finally has the Raptors moving to 13th, after a month stuck at 14) took the easy way out:
13. Toronto Raptors (previously: 14)
There have been few more impactful trades than Toronto’s acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, which allowed the Raptors to finally claim the first championship in the franchise’s two decades in the NBA. That Leonard ultimately stayed in Toronto for only that season — and went to the Clippers right after winning the title — doesn’t change its significance, nor the impact it had on the Raptors both in the moment and moving forward.
Geez, Tim, be a little more obvious! Obviously Kawhi’s impact was huge, but four years later, how is it really impacting this current roster? Meanwhile, Gary Trent Jr. is sitting right there! The guy has been on fire lately and the guy they got him for, Norman Powell, just got unceremoniously dumped by the team they traded him to.
Anywho, moving on, let’s see what the master John Schuhmann at NBA.com has to say this week:
8. Toronto Raptors (previously: 14)
Whoa! 8! Top 10!? Not gonna lie, I did not see that coming.
There aren’t supposed to be any stretches of four games in five nights anymore, but postponements had the Raptors playing four in five last week. Though they continue to play a short rotation, they won all four and now have a five-game winning streak that includes three victories over the first and second-place teams in the East (Chicago and Miami) and two over the Hawks (who are otherwise 8-1 over the last three weeks). The Raptors rank sixth defensively (107.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the winning streak, even though those five games have come against opponents that all rank in the top seven on offense.
One can always trust John to put performance in context. The Raptors’ defense was not living up to its billing earlier in the season, by any means, but now it’s getting better — and it’s getting it done against really good offences.
All five games were within five points in the last five minutes, and the Raptors’ defense allowed those offenses to score just 64 points on 72 clutch possessions. OG Anunoby shot 9-for-15 (including 4-for-5 from 3-point range) on clutch shots and Scottie Barnes had big second-chance buckets against both Miami and Chicago. All-Star Fred VanVleet leads the league with 16 clutch 3-pointers, with the last three of those having come in overtime in the first game of the winning streak nine days ago. He’s 16-for-35 (46%) on clutch 3s and somehow just 4-for-24 (17%) on clutch 2s.
The clutch reps are huge, and should be a good indicator that this team can handle the intensity of a playoff race — and, hopefully, a first round series.
Now — what say you? Are the Raptors ranking fairly this week?
Are the Power Rankings treating the Raptors fairly this week?
This poll is closed
Hell yeah, top 10 all the way, baby!
12 or 13 is fair, but 8? You crazy for this one, Schuhmann.
This win streak is really f--king with my tanking plans.
Siakam didn’t get selected as an All-Star injury replacement? You screwed us again, Silver!