Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings for Toronto Raptors
With a new general manager running the franchise and five new players ready to contribute, the Toronto Raptors upcoming 2013-14 season will surely be one to keep your eye on.
With just one player on the roster over the age of 30, this young Raptors squad will be looking to improve upon a season in which they just missed a berth in the NBA playoffs by four measly games.
There's a lot to be excited about with this team. Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas are entering their second seasons, Rudy Gay is set to come back better than ever after a recent eye surgery and several key offseason acquisitions, including Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin and Steve Novak, will be looking to make an impact as well.
Any drastic changes are likely out of the way, so the current 14-man roster the Raptors possess will be the one trotted out on the court on a nightly basis at the Air Canada Centre for the foreseeable future.
*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and Yahoo! Sports
14. Dwight Buycks
2012-13 statistics: N/A
2013-14 salary: $700,000
Depth chart: Third-string point guard
Short stints in the Developmental League as a Tulsa 66er and over in France with BCM Gravelines have led Dwight Buycks to a backup role with the Toronto Raptors in 2013-14.
Buycks is really just a project at this point in time. He showed promise with the Raptors in the Las Vegas Summer League, but the competition there is clearly subpar to what he will be experiencing during the regular season.
As the depth chart currently stands, Buycks is slated to be the team's third-string point guard, sitting behind both Kyle Lowry and D.J. Augustin.
The health issues of Lowry and inconsistencies of Augustin could open the door for Buycks to acquire some playing time, but that's in no way a guarantee.
13. Austin Daye
2012-13 statistics (Pistons/Grizzlies): 55 games, 12.3 minutes, 4.5 points, 43.3 percent from the field, 2.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.5 turnovers, 12.9 PER
2013-14 salary: $947,907
Depth chart: Third/fourth-string small forward
After spending the 2012-13 season with both the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies, small forward Austin Daye comes to the Toronto Raptors on a two-year deal worth $2 million with the second year only at the team's option.
Daye has only averaged seven or more points in a season once (7.5 in 2011) in his four-year NBA career. He's always been a guy who can come off the bench, defend the perimeter and put up garbage buckets here and there.
On a roster as stacked at the wing positions as the Raptors are, it's hard to imagine where Daye's minutes are going to come from.
Unless key members of the rotation find themselves on the sidelines due to injury, Daye will likely be firmly planted at the end of the bench for the majority of the season.
12. Aaron Gray
2012-13 statistics: 42 games, 12.2 minutes, 2.8 points, 53.3 percent from the field, 3.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 turnovers, 9.0 PER
2013-14 salary: $2,612,500
Depth chart: Backup center
Aaron Gray is the only true center the Toronto Raptors have on their roster that isn't named Jonas Valanciunas. That alone should guarantee the 7'0", 270-pound big man a secured role in the rotation.
The depth at the 5 spot is clearly one of the team's biggest issues. If Valanciunas gets hurt and has to miss an extended amount of time, Gray is really all they have to fill that void. The Raptors could play small ball, but in an Eastern Conference stocked with All-Star centers, that's going to be extremely difficult to do.
Gray can rebound and defend the low block with his large frame, but he's not someone who can be relied on to create his own offense.
Fortunately for him, when he's on the court the surrounding pieces are usually more than capable of putting up points to help compensate for his deficiencies in that department. If he can simply do the little things that don't necessarily appear on the box score to help the team win games, then that should be enough, regardless of his role.
11. Quincy Acy
2012-13 statistics: 29 games, 11.8 minutes, 4.0 points, 56.0 percent from the field, 2.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, 0.6 turnovers, 15.9 PER
2013-14 salary: $788,872
Depth chart: Third/fourth-string small forward
In a not-so surprising move by head coach Dwane Casey, second-year big Quincy Acy will be playing more small forward next season, as opposed to his natural power forward position.
Looking at some of the larger small forwards the Raptors are slated to go up against in the Eastern Conference, Casey believes that having Acy play/defend that position will pay dividends (via The Toronto Sun):
If you look at our conference you’ve got LeBron James who is a power four or a power three, Casey said. You have Carmelo (Anthony) who is a power three. With Quincy playing that position we can get him out there where he can defend those guys, get in front of them, use his strength and quickness to body those guys.
This little experiment just goes to show how high the coaching staff are on Acy. His work ethic is second to none and his willingness to get better and become a more integral part of the roster is something all of his teammates should admire.
Even with just 29 games under his belt, Acy has already endeared himself to the entire fanbase. If he's able to adapt and become a shutdown defender for coach Casey at small forward, that love will continue to grow.
10. Landry Fields
2012-13 statistics: 51 games, 20.3 minutes, 4.7 points, 45.7 percent from the field, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.8 turnovers, 10.3 PER
2013-14 salary: $5,225,000
Depth chart: Third/fourth-string small forward
It's safe to say that no one on the Raptors roster had a rougher 2012-13 season than former New York Knicks forward Landry Fields.
The 25-year-old only competed in 51 games, missing a majority of the season due to issues with his right elbow and hand. That certainly hurt his appeal with Raptors fans after signing what was considered an outrageous three-year, $19 million deal that summer.
His numbers fell across the board, but his nagging injuries were certainly a factor in his drop in production.
If the nerves in his arm can fully regenerate and he can somehow regain his shooting form, Fields will have no problem carving out a larger role for himself in the Raptors rotation.
If not, he will simply be an overpriced talent that's stuck withering away at the end of the bench.
Here's hoping that's not the case. The jury is still out.
9. Steve Novak
2012-13 statistics: 81 games, 20.3 minutes, 6.6 points, 42.5 percent from three-point range, 1.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.1 turnovers, 11.3 PER
2013-14 salary: $3,750,001
Depth chart: Backup small forward
By trading Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks, new general manager Masai Ujiri was able to address two key problems in one fell swoop.
Not only was he able to unload Bargnani—who was a problematic figure for the franchise—and his massive contract, but he was also able to acquire a player in Steve Novak, who can help the Raptors with their troublesome three-point shooting.
In 2012-13, Novak shot 42.5 percent from behind the arc, which was 10th in the NBA. His career 43.3 three-point shooting percentage is also good enough for sixth all-time.
The Raptors as a team only shot 34.3 percent from three-point range last season, so adding Novak will surely help that number improve.
Outside of his shooting, Novak provides little value in other aspects of the game. He's not a great rebounder, passer or defender. His main, and likely his only job is to get himself open to get clean looks at the basket.
There's nothing wrong with that. He's a one-dimensional player with a knack for simply shooting the basketball from long-range. There's a need for that on this roster. Shoot, shoot and shoot some more.
8. D.J. Augustin
2012-13 statistics (Pacers): 76 games, 16.1 minutes, 4.7 points, 35.0 percent from the field, 1.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.0 blocks, 0.9 turnovers, 11.0 PER
2013-14 salary: $1,267,000
Depth chart: Backup point guard
The point guard controversies in Toronto have officially come to an end. This is the first time in a long time where Jose Calderon—who now plays for the Dallas Mavericks—won't be suiting up for the team.
Former Indiana Pacer D.J. Augustin now takes over as the Raptors primary backup point guard. With all due respect, not a lot of fans—I would assume—are going to be calling for Augustin to be the starter anytime soon.
In 2012-13, Augustin put up the worst numbers of his career in a reduced role for Indiana. It was a far cry from the player who started 142 games over four seasons for the Charlotte Bobcats. As successful as the Pacers were, not a lot of credit went to Augustin because, frankly, he didn't deserve it.
Even with his recent issues, he's still a former top-10 pick who has proven in the past that he can be a more than capable point guard. A change of scenery could be the formula that takes Augustin back to his Charlotte days.
Dwight Buycks is waiting in the wings, so if Augustin brings his awful play from Indiana over to Toronto, he could easily find himself demoted in favor of the young upstart Buycks.
Let's hope that's not the case.
7. Tyler Hansbrough
2012-13 statistics(Pacers): 81 games, 16.9 minutes, 7.0 points, 43.2 percent from the field, 4.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 15.3 PER
2013-14 salary: $3,183,000
Depth chart: Backup power forward
"Psycho T" has arrived in Toronto.
On July 15, 2013, former Indiana Pacer Tyler Hansbrough signed a two-year deal with the Raptors to become their new backup power forward. The second year is a team option.
His big claim to fame amongst Raptors faithful was his UFC-style takedown of Jonas Valanciunas during a game back in February. It's that over-the-top physicality that fans hope he brings with him north of the border next season for his new team.
An enforcer in the paint is something the franchise has been lacking for several years now.
Hansbrough and starter Amir Johnson are basically interchangeable. Neither player can be counted on consistently enough to score the basketball, but what they can do is provide energy and take care of the dirty work around the basket.
That's why it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Hansbrough start on occasion for the Raptors, even if Johnson were to remain healthy. In eight starts last season for the Pacers, the team would go 6-2 with Hansbrough averaging a double-double of 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds.
6. Terrence Ross
2012-13 statistics: 73 games, 17.0 minutes, 6.4 points, 40.7 percent from the field, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.7 turnovers, 10.4 PER
2013-14 salary: $2,678,640
Depth chart: Backup shooting guard
As inconsistent as his 2012-13 season was, Terrence Ross will need to dig deep and find a way to turn his negatives into positives.
As a rookie, the growing pains were bound to happen. There were glimpses of greatness sprinkled throughout the year, but the bad far outweighed the good. There's a lot of work to be done.
It was hard to keep Ross on the court because he was such a non-factor on both offense and defense. His shooting was erratic and off-putting and his perimeter defense was non-existent. But hell, he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, so there's that.
Even with those shortcomings, Ross is still a valuable part of this team and its future plans. It's hard to give up on a guy during the embryonic stages of his career just because he came out of the gate a little lethargic.
The best-case scenario would be for Ross to eventually grow into the sixth-man of this team. His athleticism is out of this world and the potential is there for him to become an instant offense weapon in a reserve role, similar to what J.R. Smith is with the New York Knicks.
5. Amir Johnson
2012-13 statistics: 81 games, 28.7 minutes, 10.0 points, 55.4 percent from the field, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 turnovers, 17.33 PER
2013-14 salary: $6,500,000
Depth chart: Starting power forward
It can't be said enough just how valuable Amir Johnson was to the Raptors last season. However, would the team be better off with a more legitimate option as their starting power forward?
Johnson would lead the team in rebounds (7.5) and double-doubles (15), and finish second in shooting percentage at 55.4 percent. He would play through injuries and prove his durability by being one of only three players on the team—Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan being the other two—to compete in at least 70 games.
Still, it's hard not to imagine how the Raptors would be if they had a more capable scorer locked in at the 4 spot.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; Amir Johnson is better suited coming off the bench. That should in no way be considered a demotion. You can still average 25 to 30 minutes a night as a member of the second unit. There's nothing wrong with that.
Adding a 15-foot jumper to his arsenal was a pleasant revelation. It will help keep the defense honest, if nothing more.
4. Kyle Lowry
2012-13 statistics: 68 games, 29.7 minutes, 11.6 points, 40.1 percent from the field, 4.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 17.51 PER
2013-14 salary: $6,210,000
Depth chart: Starting point guard
Is Kyle Lowry the point guard of the future for the Toronto Raptors? Is he someone Masai Ujiri can invest in long-term as the floor general for this basketball team?
Playing on the last year of his contract which owes him $6,210,000, Lowry will be looking for his next big payday, whether it be in Toronto or on the open market.
Simply put, there's a lot to be concerned about with Lowry. He hasn't managed to stay healthy the past two seasons and his lack of a rapport with head coach Dwane Casey is exceedingly burdensome. His assist numbers have also slowly been on the decline since 2010-11, which is never a good sign for a starting point guard.
Lowrly is hugely proficient in all aspects of the game, but he doesn't quite stand out in one key area. He can score, rebound, distribute the ball and defend, but he doesn't do one of those things overly well.
Players tend to step up and produce during contract years, if only to earn themselves more wealth. There aren't any point guards creeping over his shoulder ready to take his spot, so the opportunities will be there for him to capitalize and cash in.
Whether that's with the Toronto Raptors or not remains to be seen.
3. Jonas Valanciunas
2012-13 statistics: 62 games played, 23.9 minutes, 8.9 points, 55.7 percent from the field, 6.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 1.3 blocks, 1.5 turnovers, 15.62 PER
2013-14 salary: $3,526,440
Depth chart: Starting center
The Jonas Valanciunas hype train is just like the Energizer Bunny. It just keeps going and going and going.
Being named the 2013 NBA Las Vegas Summer League MVP further validated what Raptors' fans already knew; Valanciunas is going to be something special.
By just looking at his appearance, you can tell that he's hit the weights this summer. He wasn't overly skinny by any stretch of the imagination last season, but this added muscle will certainly help build his confidence and allow for him to be more assertive in the post.
With Valanciunas, his evolution into becoming an All-Star center in the NBA needs to be handled with the utmost of care. Fans are expecting the world from him immediately, when in reality, its going to be a process. The potential to be great is there, but it's not going to happen overnight. There needs to be an acceptance of that.
However, with the lack of depth at the center position the team has, perhaps even more pressure will be thrust on the young Lithuanian's shoulders to produce in year two. Andrea Bargnani is no longer around and Marcus Camby was bought out of his contract. Aaron Gray is all that's left.
No matter. Valanciunas is going to get all of the playing time he can handle. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has a real problem with that notion.
2. DeMar DeRozan
2012-13 statistics: 82 games, 36.7 minutes, 18.1 points, 44.5 percent from the field, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.8 turnovers, 14.81 PER
2013-14 salary: $9,500,000
Depth chart: Starting shooting guard
DeMar DeRozan proved last season that a four-year, $38 million extension wasn't going to halt his progress, which tends to be the case with some players. Once a new contract is signed, sealed and delivered, the motivation to perform tends to fall off. That wasn't the case with DeRozan.
During the 2012-13 regular season, DeRozan averaged 18.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals, all of which were increases over his numbers the previous year. His 18.1 points ranked him fourth amongst shooting guards in the league.
He closed off the season strong in the month of April, averaging 22.9 points and hitting 50.0 percent of his shots from behind the arc. His three-point shooting has always been a major weakness of his, and he's never shown a willingness to move away from that shot completely.
Even though he's not the most talented on the team, a case can be made for DeRozan being the face of the franchise. He's one of the longest-tenured players the Raptors have, and that means a lot for an organization that has a reputation for being a revolving door for talent.
Can DeRozan start to become more of a leader both on the court and in the locker room? That would seem like the next logical step. I don't know if he has it in him, but it would certainly be a welcome surprise if it happened. Perhaps training camp can be the beginning of a more vocal DeMar DeRozan.
1. Rudy Gay
2012-13 statistics: 75 games, 35.8 minutes, 18.2 points, 41.6 percent from the field, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 2.6 turnovers, 15.66 PER
2013-14 salary: $17,888,932
Depth Chart: Starting small forward
Rudy Gay can see clearly now, the rain is gone. He can see all obstacles in his way.
It's true. After suffering from Astigmatism—an optical defect in which vision becomes blurred—for several years, Gay finally decided to get laser eye surgery this summer to hopefully fix the problem.
After being dealt from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Raptors back in January, Gay would go on to finish the season shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from three-point range. It would be silly to fully blame his poor shooting on his reduced eyesight, but there's no denying that it didn't help matters.
Even though his percentages took a hit, Gay still managed to average 19.5 points, thus leading the team in scoring. Time will tell if his recent surgery will help elevate those numbers. One can only assume that it will.
The first few months of the season should be a good enough sign as to whether or not Gay can take his game to a new level. With a new general manager in town and Gay's contract soon coming to an end, either an extension or a possible departure from the team could be on the horizon.
For now, Gay is the best player the Raptors have. The team will go as far as he can take him. Hopefully, after a five-year absence, that final destination is the postseason.