Power Rankings Poll Week 4: Hard times against good teams

The Raptors can’t buy one against good teams. Let’s see how the experts react.

It’s early, it’s early, it’s early.

Being reasonable about the Toronto Raptors seems excessively difficult after yesterday’s loss to the Boston Celtics sans Kyrie Irving. Plenty of the issues on the court could’ve been avoided (or so it seems). Jonas Valanciunas coming in and wiping away his team’s momentum in the first half. A baffling rotation that’s got Fred VanVleet playing in the clutch. An offense that seems wholly centred on DeMar DeRozan taking jumpers in the fourth. That’s what we collectively saw on Sunday afternoon, and separating that from the whole of an early season is hard.

But you have to! The Raptors are a young team, with plenty of young players, trying to sort out a rotation and build a new identity on offense. These things take time. They’re also trying to do this while playing through their most difficult stretch of road games all year.

There is hope, and the experts either see it or they don’t (looking at you, CBS Sports). Let’s see how the week shook out in the rankings.

We start with ESPN, where Jose De Leon keeps it cool even after Sunday’s shenanigans.

6. Toronto Raptors

2017-18 Record: 7-5

Last Week: 6

The Raptors beat the Pelicans on Thursday and had the most success of any team limiting the dynamic duo that is Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins this season. The two combined for 38 points on 37 percent shooting against the Raptors, their season lows in both. They play for the second and final time this season on Wednesday.

Next up, Kenny Ducey at Sports Illustrated’s The Crossover continues to see the Raptors on the rise.

9. Toronto Raptors (7–5)

Last Week: 12

The Raptors looked poised to finally put an end to Boston’s winning streak, but ran out of gas in the second half. That might continue to happen as they search for production outside of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The two can only do so much.

Alright, Ducey! I’m not sure about the inclusion of Lowry in this equation — as he hasn’t carried much of the scoring load, it’s been the other pieces contributing — but his point about DeRozan is solid.

Now for the effervescent John Schuhmann, who is also forgiving of the Raptors loss on Sunday.

8. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 10)

Record: 7-5

Pace: 100.8 (16) OffRtg: 107.9 (5) DefRtg: 103.5 (16) NetRtg: +4.4 (6)

The Raptors can take care of business, but are 0-5 against teams that are currently at least two games above .500, because they couldn't close in Boston on Sunday. They've still had the league's biggest increase in assist rate from last season, but looked like the old Raptors in the fourth quarter against the Celtics. They didn't record a single assist in the period, living and dying with DeMar DeRozan isolations. They rank in the bottom five defensively in November, they lost one of their best defenders (Norman Powell) to a hip injury on Sunday, and they play five of their next six games against teams that rank in the top 11 offensively. Visits to Houston and New Orleans on Tuesday on Wednesday are also the Raps' first back-to-back of the season.

Ah yes, that famous Winnipeg song by Burton Cummings is a great way to describe the Raptors’ season so far. Also shout out to Schuhmann for always finding positives in the stats: even though old habits die hard, the Raptors are passing more than last year. The rest of this is somewhat negative, but hey, the ranking is rising.

Finally, we finish on curmudgeonly CBS Sports, who have yet to join The Reasonable Resistance. Here’s Chris Barnewall:

13. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 18)

Toronto's new offensive system helps them, but they just can't stick with it in clutch situations. DeMar DeRozan got a good look in the final moments against Boston, but it was still that isolation offense everybody is used to. Same ol' Raptors.

Look, I’ll give these guys points for not having the Raptors eight-friggin’-teenth in the NBA (even though they’ll certainly be a top-5 seeded playoff team??), but saying “same ol’ Raptors” doesn’t jive with Schuh God’s numbers. Leave it to the station that airs Young Sheldon to have a loose grasp on what people want.

Now, to the poll.

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