One of the major factors the Toronto Raptors have going for them is the roster continuity they’ll have heading into the 2013-14 NBA season. Of the 15 players on the current roster, only five will potentially be leaving via free agency: Alan Anderson, Aaron Gray, John Lucas III, Mickael Pietrus and Sebastian Telfair.
With the core roster set to return next season for the Toronto Raptors, it makes sense to look at which players still under contract have been pulling their weight, and which players have left a lot to be desired.
Let’s take a look at each one.
2012-13 Statistics: 82 games played, 36.7 minutes, 18.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 44.5 field-goal percentage, 14.8 PER
2012-13 Salary: $3,344,250
Yes, DeMar DeRozan, and not Rudy Gay, headlines this power ranking. Gay may be the more flashy and recognizable player of the two; however, it was DeRozan who was the most consistent and aggressive Raptor this season. He played in all 82 games, upped his scoring average from 16.7 to 18.1 points, and was the team's go-to-scorer in the clutch for the first half of the season.
While Kyle Lowry struggled in a timeshare with Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani endured the worst season of his career and Rudy Gay was still playing in Memphis, DeRozan was a rock for the Raptors: Prior to the All-Star break, he led the team in scoring with 17.6 per with a 43.5 field-goal percentage.
By comparison, All-Star Paul George averaged 17.6 points with a 42.2 field-goal percentage before the break.
So while these power rankings may have a drastically different look next season, this year the top spot belongs to the always-aggressive DeRozan.
Rudy Gay with the big dunk.
2012-13 Statistics: 75 games played, 34.7 minutes, 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 42.5 field-goal percentage, 17.6 PER
2012-13 Salary: $16,460,538
Rudy Gay gets the nod for the No. 2 player on Toronto's roster. His scoring ability, combined with his athleticism, length and confidence, easily make him the team’s biggest scoring threat on any given night. And it doesn't hurt that he averaged 6.4 rebounds per game either.
However, despite his scoring prowess, Gay was not the team’s No. 1 player this year. While he did hit some big shots, he never fully jelled with the team the way many fans hoped he would. According to Eric Koreen of the National Post, the Raptors ranked only 23rd in offensive efficiency during Gay's tenure with the team, as opposed to 14th over the entire season.
Of course, that wasn't entirely his fault, as he was traded for only just after the All-Star break. And as teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat have demonstrated, it can take up to a full season for a team to develop the proper chemistry.
It’s clear that Rudy Gay has become one of the faces of the franchise; he was acquired to be the star the Raptors so desperately needed, and with time, he’ll get there.
But for now, there’s no shame in second
Kyle Lowry became a better passer as the year went on.
2012-13 Statistics: 68 games played, 29.7 minutes, 11.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 40.1 field-goal percentage, 17.5 PER
2012-13 Salary: $5,750,000
There’s no doubting that Kyle Lowry’s first season with the Raptors was rocky at best. Not only was he forced into splitting time with Jose Calderon, he also dealt with a plethora of injuries, which limited him to just 68 games played this season.
Still, Lowry’s talent level is obvious. Not many other guards can provide the all-around game that he possesses, not to mention the mental toughness he brings to the team. Consider his first two games as a Raptor: In the first, he had 21 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and five steals, and he followed that with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists the next game.
Sounds very LeBron-like, doesn't it?
Much of the misfortune Lowry endured was not entirely his fault; had Raptors management traded Calderon during the offseason, Lowry could have maintained his confidence while improving his chemistry with his teammates without having to look over his shoulder every time he had a bad game.
For Lowry to rise up in these rankings, he needs to first decide what kind of point guard he wants to be, and then take full control of the offense. As he goes, so too will the Raptors.
Amir Johnson was a warrior for the Raptors this year.
2012-13 Statistics: 81 games played, 28.7 minutes, 10 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.0 steals, 55.4 field-goal percentage, 17.3 PER
2012-13 Salary: $6,050,000
Amir Johnson was undoubtedly the defensive heart and soul of the Toronto Raptors this season. Whether through his rebounding, blocks or hustle, Johnson presented a standard for the rest of the team to strive toward. He rarely gave up on a play, and he fought through countless injuries to play in a total of 81 games.
While he may never become a lethal low-post scoring threat, he’s only 26 and still has room for improvement. He’s also a little undersized to be consistently playing center, so head coach Dwayne Casey would be wise to give Johnson minutes at the 4 as well.
The sky may not be the limit for Johnson, but he is the energy player every team loves to have; according to ESPN, Johnson led the team with 2.8 offensive rebounds a game, and his activity on the defensive end is the exact sort of disruption the Raptors need to catapult their fast-break offense.
JV had a solid first year.
2012-13 Statistics: 62 games played, 23.9 minutes, 8.9 points, 6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 55.7 field goal-percentage, 15.6 PER
2012-13 Salary: $3,374,640
While he is still very raw, he managed to show what sort of weapon he can be for the Raptors next season: a center who crashes the offensive boards, has range out to 15 feet and can block a few shots each game. That’s versatility.
Of course, he still has quite a ways to go. Despite his height, he’s not quite big enough to bang with the more physical centers in the league (only 231 pounds), and his rim protection definitely still needs work.
With a full summer of improvement and bulking up, you can bet Valanciunas is going to enter next year with the potential to be one of the best centers in the Eastern Conference.
2012-13 Statistics: 73 games, 17 minutes, 6.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 40.7 field-goal percentage, 33.3 three-point percentage, 10.5 PER
2012-13 Salary: $2,563,320
Although he was a lottery pick by the Raptors, Terrence Ross’ playing time this season was sporadic. Not only was he playing behind DeRozan and Landry Fields, but his minutes were also restricted by Coach Casey.
However, when given more minutes, Ross responded with solid numbers: In five games between March 6 and March 17, Ross averaged 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 three-pointers in 24.8 minutes.
Those numbers aren’t flashy, but they’re nothing to snuff at either. When you consider Ross’ shooting range, combined with his well-established dunking prowess, you have a prospect that should develop into a very dangerous scorer.
The biggest challenge for Ross next season will be trying to find minutes in a crowded wing rotation, but if he can continue to differentiate himself from DeRozan and Gay with his shooting and defense, he should be just fine.
It was a bad year for Andrea Bargnani.
2012-13 Statistics: 35 games, 28.7 minutes, 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 39.9 field-goal percentage, 30.9 three-point percentage, 11.3 PER
2012-13 Salary: $10,000,000
There’s really no way around it: this was the worst year of Andrea Bargnani’s career. Not only was his scoring way down (from 19.5 to 12.7 points), but his three-point percentage and rebounding were the lowest they've ever been.
Still, Bargnani doesn't deserve to be last on this list.
It’s not that he played extraordinarily poorly (okay, sometimes he did), but he also suffered through a large number of injuries. All in all, he only played in 35 games this year and never got into a rhythm offensively. Prior to the All-Star break, he was at least serviceable offensively (14.8 points), and if nothing else, his floor spacing provided precious driving lanes for the Raptors guards.
2012-13 Statistics: 29 games, 11.8 minutes, 4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 56 field-goal percentage.
2012-13 Salary: $665,000
Quincy Acy, the 37th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, hasn't quite gotten the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way for the Raptors. He had short stints of playing time in the games he played, but that wasn't many (just 29).
The good news for Acy is that there aren't a lot of expectations when you’re picked in the second round of the draft, so he still has ample time to find out how he can best contribute. If he can find his niche in the NBA, he should be a solid big man for years to come. He’s explosive, athletic and has a great motor.
Next season should be better for Fields.
2012-13 Statistics: 51 games played, 20.3 minutes, 4.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 45.7 field-goal percentage, 14.3 three-point percentage, 10.3 PER
2012-13 Salary: $6,250,000
Look, the good news is that Fields couldn't possibly play any worse than he did this season. Maybe it was the pressure of his whale-sized contract, the change of scenery or the injures, but Fields' game completely abandoned him. His 4.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 14.3 three-point percentage were the worst numbers of his career.
Thankfully, and mercifully, his career is still young.
Unfortunately, unless injuries open up time, there doesn’t appear to be a great window for him to contribute. DeRozan and Gay start at the wings, and Ross should be given as many minutes as possible. If Alan Anderson returns, Fields could see himself completely cut out of the picture.
Even if he manages to regain his form and average something closer to eight points and six rebounds a game, Fields just may be in a bad situation for the foreseeable future.
Linas Kleiza didn't play for much of the season.
2012-13 Statistics: 20 games played, 18.8 minutes, 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 33.3 field-goal percentage, 8.3 PER
2012-13 Salary: $4,600,00
In the final spot, we have small forward Linas Kleiza. After being shut down by the Raptors and told he wouldn't be playing in anymore games, Kleiza appears to be a serious amnesty candidate. Like Fields, he was another small forward who wasn't bringing enough production to the team.
The Raptors could try shopping him around the league, as he's reportedly denied rumors of his retirement, via The Canadian Press. Although he’s a long away from his 41-point explosion in 2008, based on this season's stats, it looks like he can still produce at a low-end level.
However, his tenure in Toronto should come to an end. It's time for both parties to cut ties and move on.