It’s fair to say that the Toronto Raptors aren’t being given anything more than a puncher’s chance to compete in the Eastern Conference this year, as the power rankings have generally not been kind to them. Given all of the turnover around the team, it’s easy to see why this is.
Kyle Lowry is now a member of the Miami Heat, the team may not have a long-term option at center if Khem Birch regresses, and the rest of the fringe playoff teams in the East made some headline-grabbing acquisitions.
The Raptors finished 11th in the East last year, though their performance was negatively impacted by their forced sabbatical to Tampa, injuries impacted almost every member of the squad, and some bad luck near the end of close games. ESPN doesn’t seem to think Toronto will improve by a wide margin.
ESPN ranked the Raptors as the 20th best team in the NBA and the 11th best team in the East. Teams like the Hornets and Pacers managed to jump over Toronto, while Lowry helped push the Heat all the way to the No. 8 spot in these rankings. Looks like Toronto will have even more doubters to prove wrong.
The Toronto Raptors are ranked low in ESPN’s Power Rankings.
Not only is this team filled with holdovers from the 2019 title team like Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam (who is injured, granted), but the Raptors were 16-15, good for fourth place in the East, at one point last year before the roof caved in.
Those last few playoff spots in the East are wide open, and ESPN is doing the Raptors a bit of a disservice putting them this low. They did add Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic while resigning Gary Trent Jr. for the next three years and drafting Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick. Does that sound like a team in flux or a rebuilding mode to you?
The Raptors might not be title contenders, but ESPN ranking them that low is effectively saying that despite drafting Barnes, adding Achiuwa, and bringing back Trent, the Raptors won’t see much, if any, improvement in the win-loss column. Does anyone really think Nick Nurse and Masai Ujiri will preside over a season as comically unlucky as 2020-21?
Even when the Raptors were vying for championships, they had legions of doubters, so this role is nothing new to them. If VanVleet takes over for Lowry at point guard with some degree of aplomb, Siakam returns from his injury relatively soon, and Barnes makes strides as a shooter, there is no way Toronto will end up one rank above 12th in the East.