NBA Power Rankings Poll Week 16: The Raptors make it difficult

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Before we get to anything else, let’s just say it: five games in one week is just way too many games. The Raptors had little choice, however, as their schedule was compressed after a COVID-19 outbreak postponed a previous contest (against Chicago), leading them into last week’s grueling three-games-in-four-nights plus another back-to-back too. That the Raptors made it out of that with a 2-3 record is, given everything else, incredible. That it could have just as easily been 3-2 or better is what makes it easily identifiable as part of this Raptors season.

To sum up: the Wizards game, remarkable; the Cavaliers game, a fun one!; the Lakers and Bulls games, inexplicable; and the Knicks game, frustrating. Look, it’s easy to despair now, as the Raptors find themselves at 21-33 through three quarters of the season (report card coming tomorrow) with little chance of a turnaround. It’s possible to find some solace in a nifty lottery appearance. And it was cool to see Khem Birch happily join the squad. But still, sitting in 11th is not that much fun, in and of itself.

Nevertheless, let’s see what the tone and tenor is like from this week’s round of Power Ranking missives and then decide how to feel.

First up, as always, we begin with the man who could go by only one name. That’s right, here is ESPN’s… Bontemps:

23. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 23)

At the end of February, the Raptors were 17-17 and had seemingly righted themselves after a rough start. Since then, the Raptors have lost 16 of their past 20 games — including yet another disappointing defeat against the Knicks on Sunday night — and remain two games behind the Bulls for 10th in the East. This has been a season the Raptors will be ready to forget the moment it ends.

Absolutely dead to rights, roll me up in a carpet, fire me out of a cannon, and whatever other macabre ending you could imagine. The Raptors really have gone 4-16 over their past 20, and, well, it is tough to come back from that.

Next up, the Athletic’s Zach Harper has his take to get in here on the Raptors:

20. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 21)

Good lineup: Kyle Lowry | Fred VanVleet | OG Anunoby | Pascal Siakam | Chris Boucher

Stats: 107.7 offensive rating | 104.3 defensive rating | +3.4 net rating | 68 minutes played | 5th most used lineup

Why it’s important: If you’ve read the Awards Rankings the last two weeks, you know how high on Chris Boucher I am. I love what he brings to the Raptors and the job they’ve done developing him. He helps keep this an elite defensive team with this lineup. If the Raptors end up re-signing Lowry, this lineup is big for the future. Even if they don’t, this four-man combo will see a ton of time.

Bad lineup: Kyle Lowry | Fred VanVleet | OG Anunoby | Pascal Siakam | Aron Baynes

Stats: 102.9 offensive rating | 107.1 defensive rating | -4.2 net rating | 114 minutes played | 2nd most used lineup

Question that arises: Why can’t this lineup score? This was supposed to be a very important lineup this season and the addition of Aron Baynes just hasn’t meshed for some reason. I can’t figure out why they look like the JaKarr Sampson Sixers on offense when this unit is in the game. It’s truly baffling to me.

Long entry this time around from Harper but that final question is now thoroughly moot. With the signing of Khem Birch for the rest of the season, and even the 10-day contract handed out to big dude Freddie Gillespie, it feels very unlikely we’ll see much of Aron Baynes for the season’s final 18 games.

Next up, with another thesis, here comes Dr. John Schuhmann from the NBA’s august pages:

24. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 26)

Gary Trent Jr. essentially won the Raptors two games last week, hitting the buzzer-beating game-winner against the Wizards on Monday and scoring a career-high 44 points (on 17-for-19 shooting) against the Cavs on Saturday, a much more comfortable win needed to keep that season-long point differential above zero. In his 10 games with the Raps, Trent has shot 41% from 3-point range, while everybody else on the team has shot 30%. When they haven’t been blowing teams out, the offense has been rough, and the Raps got blown out themselves in their best opportunity (Thursday against the Bulls) to put themselves in position to compete for a play-in spot.

Toronto has had Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet on the floor together for just 19 total minutes over their last nine games, and Pascal Siakam continues to struggle when he can’t get to the basket. He did have a three-game stretch last week where he totaled 46 points in the restricted area, but Siakam is 29-for-105 (27.6%) from outside the paint since late February and with the game in his hands on Sunday, managed a worse outcome than having his shot roll off the rim.

Nothing else to add here except: it’s hard not to love Gary Trent Jr. The guy just seems like such a gamer and I’m ready to believe in him above almost anything else.

Finally, we turn to CBS Sports’ Colin Ward-Henninger, who needs no introduction (but is getting one anyway):

22. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 25)

The bright spot for the Raptors’ week was an improbable offensive explosion without their three top scorers in a win over the Cavs, but overall Toronto went 2-3 in a strenuous stretch of five games in seven days. Gary Trent Jr. had one of the most efficient offensive games in NBA history in the win over Cleveland, scoring a career-high 44 points on 17-for-19 shooting, including 7 for 9 from 3-point range. Kyle Lowry returned from a six-game absence in Sunday’s loss to the Knicks, putting up 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes — so much for easing back into things.

Here’s the point I’ve reached: I don’t want the Raptors to out-and-out tank, but I’m fine with them giving up on a playoff push. That doesn’t mean they need to give up on games, but it does mean trying things, and giving guys a free chance to prove themselves. Let Malachi Flynn spread his wings, run the offense through Trent Jr., allow OG Anunoby to shoot the ball more, etc., etc. The Raptors still have much to look forward to, but that includes: the end of this season.

Now, onto the poll.

Poll

Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 16 of the Power Rankings?

  • 15%

    No, but [in a very low voice] I’m shook

    (6 votes)

  • 37%

    Yes, and I’ve shifted my mind to other things

    (15 votes)

  • 2%

    No, I’ve also shifted my mind to other (far worse) things

    (1 vote)

  • 45%

    Yes, let’s just admit this is a fake season! Yay!

    (18 votes)



40 votes total

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