The Toronto Raptors have a core of really good players, but not one of them has a reputation around the league for being a superstar talent.
A superstar in the NBA is someone with mass appeal who has proven that they can find success on both an individual and team level. Personal accolades, attitude, postseason appearances and elite statistics can all factor in to that.
When you hear the term, you immediately think of guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Tim Duncan. The Raptors haven't had a player in that realm since the days of Vince Carter and Chris Bosh, although a debate could be had over the inclusion of the former CB4.
Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas are guys who could very well find themselves in that category of player one day.
Unfortunately, none of them are in the discussion as of yet.
Is it an impossible goal to reach? Of course it isn't. It's not about where you are, but where you're headed.
With that being said, which Raptors player has the most superstar potential on the roster?
The answer is simple; it's Jonas Valanciunas.
It's hard to remember the last time a young Raptors prospect had this much hype surrounding him so early in his career. Hype can only take you so far, but in the case of Valanciunas, it's certainly well-deserved.
You can talk about the number of awards he received while competing for the junior and senior Lithuanian national basketball team's, or even his recent MVP win in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. Don't forget to mention his appearance on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team during the 2012-13 season, because that's important as well.
It's easy to ramble on over just how much Valanciunas has accomplished in such a short period of time. His love for the sport of basketball is apparent to anyone that watches him compete. He has a high IQ for the game and a true respect for what it takes to get better and improve one's craft.
Valanciunas has superstar written all over him. He's personable and marketable enough to where his star power can extend far beyond the reaches of the Greater Toronto Area.
It's not a matter of if but when he's going to earn that recognition for himself.
You'd be hard-pressed to find many Raptors fans that disagree with that notion.
Does that rule out the rest of his teammates? Does no one else on the roster have that same potential?
Well, looking up and down the depth chart, I guess you could say that the closest thing the Raptors have to a star at the moment is Rudy Gay. He was certainly brought to Toronto back in January with the intention that he would become that.
However, those might be lofty expectations.
After seven seasons in the NBA, Gay has not once been named an All-Star. He's only competed in seven postseason games, and his numbers are already beginning to show a slight decline over the past few years.
No one can deny his talent, but there are very few signs of Gay ever becoming more than what he already is.
Of course, he could prove me wrong by putting forth a strong 2013-14, which would be his first full season wearing the red, white and black. There's always the possibility that after undergoing surgery to correct his vision and playing through an entire training camp with his teammates that Gay could take his game to greater heights.
Then again, perhaps what we've already seen from Gay is what we're going to get through next season and beyond.
That may be the same problem DeMar DeRozan has. After just four seasons in the league, has DeRozan already peaked?
That would essentially remove him as a possible superstar candidate. There's nothing wrong with being an 18-20 points a night scorer, but guards who can put up baskets in a hurry are a dime a dozen in the NBA.
DeRozan rarely tends to stand out amongst the pack. He would finish last season as the fourth-highest scoring shooting guard in the NBA at 18.1 points, yet you'd rarely hear his name mentioned as one of the premier guards in the league.
He's the perfect example for why being a superstar and being a really good player are two entirely different things. There's nothing wrong with having a defined role, being an effective offensive weapon and making a career out of that and that alone.
That doesn't add up to being a superstar though.
I would even put more stock in second-year player Terrence Ross one day surpassing DeRozan in the Raptors pecking order.
It would be a foolish mistake to wave the white flag on Ross after just his rookie season. Unlike Valanciunas, Ross is more of a project that will take some time to get his game to where it needs to be. His shot selection needs a lot of work, and his defense still makes him a huge liability when he's on the court.
His physical intangibles are there. He's an outstanding athlete with a freakish leaping ability and an insane motor, but that hasn't been enough for him to maintain consistent playing time, at least in year one.
The idea that Ross could never amount to anything is still a possibility, but it's going to be a while before the jig is up and all hope is lost. It's too early to anoint him a future superstar after his lackluster introduction to the league, but giving up on him completely would be an idiotic thing to do.
The bottom line with this Raptors team is that Jonas Valanciunas, the future face of the franchise, is the one with the most star potential.
Valanciunas is going to be the man one day. He's going to be the light that shines on through and raises this franchise back from the dead.
He's going to be a superstar.