Toronto Raptors Power Rankings: Rating Every Player After First 6 Weeks
After six weeks of the 2013-14 NBA regular season, the Toronto Raptors have a record of 6-11, which puts them on the brink of being a lottery team but also makes them a legitimate (seriously) contender for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
I can't believe it either. At this rate, 35 wins could probably secure home-court advantage through the first round of the postseason. That's how much of a disaster the Atlantic Division and the conference as a whole has become.
At least the Raptors aren't 4-19 like they were to begin last season. How's that for being overly positive?
There have been some bright spots sprinkled here and there. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have done their best to steer this team in the right direction, while others (I'm looking at you, Rudy Gay) have been more of a detriment than an asset.
As good as it was to be in first place in the division (that's now changed) early on, being in that position was like having the looks of Steve Buscemi and defeating Carrot Top and Clint Howard in a beauty pageant.
It meant absolutely nothing and brought zero sense of accomplishment.
Rating all 15 players on the Raptors through 17 games will involve a great deal of patience, some deep meditation, happy music playing in the background and a surgically attached smile.
The sad part is that I'm not over-exaggerating. It's dire times like these where I'm glad I shave my head on a regular basis because I probably would have pulled out all of my hair by now.
Where's my red marker?
This isn't going to be pretty.
*All statistics are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com
*All statistics are current as of December 5, 2013
The Bottom 5
15) Austin Daye
2013-14 statistics: 3.0 minutes, 0.5 points, 20.0 percent from the field, 1.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 0.0 turnovers, -2.1 PER
Did I call it or what?
In my 2013-14 Player Power Rankings for the Toronto Raptors prior to the start of the season, I wrote that Austin Daye would likely never see the floor due to the gluttony of wing players this team possesses.
I was right. Unless Rudy Gay or DeMar DeRozan succumb to a major injury, you'll rarely (if at all) see Daye get any playing time.
14) Aaron Gray
2013-14 statistics: 5.0 minutes, 1.3 points, 66.7 percent from the field, 2.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 6.3 PER
I assumed Aaron Gray would maintain his role from last season as the primary backup to Jonas Valanciunas at the center position. He's a big body who can clog the lane and give you six fouls if need be.
Unfortunately for him, head coach Dwane Casey has elected to go with smaller lineups on a regular basis, eliminating the need to play him at all. That doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon.
13) Julyan Stone
2013-14 statistics: 6.2 minutes, 1.1 points, 42.9 percent from the field, 0.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.0 blocks, 0.1 turnovers, 9.8 PER
The debacle that is the Raptors' point guard situation has led to Julyan Stone, who began the year fourth on the depth chart, becoming a part (albeit a small part) of the rotation.
Being a 6'6" point guard does add a uniqueness to his game, but just like his teammates Dwight Buycks and D.J. Augustin, he's been anything but a sure thing.
12) Quincy Acy
2013-14 statistics: 10.2 minutes, 3.2 points, 42.9 percent from the field, 2.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, 0.3 turnovers, 18.0 PER
An ankle injury has kept Quincy Acy on the sidelines for all but six games. If he can maintain a clean bill of health, he will surely move up this list in future iterations.
He's an energy guy you can bring off the bench who can grab you some rebounds and defend multiple positions.
Besides, who doesn't like that beard of his?
11) D.J. Augustin
2013-14 statistics: 8.2 minutes, 2.1 points, 29.2 percent from the field, 0.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.0 blocks, 0.9 turnovers, 1.8 PER
Whatever happened to the D.J. Augustin who averaged 14.4 points and 6.1 assists for the Charlotte Bobcats just three years ago? If that player wants to re-emerge after a rough stint with the Indiana Pacers and now with his new team in Toronto, that would be great.
Over his last six games, Augustin has totalled just 29 minutes for the second unit. He's falling out of favour in the rotation faster than you can say Hedo Turkoglu.
There is very little sympathy to be had. From his shooting and passing to his inability to run the offense effectively, this sixth-year guard out of Texas is skating on very thin ice.
10) Dwight Buycks
2013-14 statistics: 10.2 minutes, 3.1 points, 31.3 percent from the field, 1.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.0 blocks, 0.6 turnovers, 7.6 PER
We all saw this coming a mile away. It was just a matter of time before Dwight Buycks surpassed D.J. Augustin on the depth chart to become the primary backup point guard to Kyle Lowry.
As expected, Augustin played himself out of that spot. Buycks was elevated because no one was else was capable of filling it.
It's not as if his numbers warranted this promotion. Buycks has yet to score more than five points or dish out more than two assists in a game.
He's extremely raw as a basketball player and very much a project with the potential to become something more in another year or two. The problem is that the Raptors need something more concrete and proven behind Lowry as insurance.
Being in this position makes you appreciate the contributions of former Raptor Jose Calderon that much more. The yearly controversy over who should start was always a pain in the neck, but it was a nice problem to have.
All you can hope for now is that a guy like Buycks can give you 10 or so minutes a night and just hold down the fort.
9) Landry Fields
2013-14 statistics: 13.6 minutes, 3.2 points, 41.5 percent from the field, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.4 turnovers, 9.6 PER
Am I the only one who believed Landry Fields would have turned the corner by now?
This was supposed to be his redemption year. After taking the summer to rehab his elbow, work on his shooting and rebuild the strength in his arm, you would have figured Fields would be ready for an increased role.
All that's really happening is Fields fading away into obscurity and becoming an afterthought.
He's totalled just 28 minutes of playing time over his last six games, which averages out to a little under five minutes a night.
Fields' numbers have taken a hit across the board. In his defense, when your minutes are cut, the rest of your numbers usually follow.
It's extremely disappointing. He's never going to see the floor over Rudy Gay or DeMar DeRozan. Terrence Ross also needs his fair share of PT, so where exactly does Fields fit into the equation?
Maybe he doesn't. Maybe it's that simple.
8) Steve Novak
2013-14 statistics: 11.4 minutes, 4.0 points, 33.3 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from three-point range, 1.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.0 blocks, 0.0 turnovers, 11.2 PER
That was easy.
Three-pointers sums up Steve Novak in a nutshell.
Shooting from long range is all Novak brings to the table. He's not going to grab you many rebounds, defend his man at a high level or even create his own shot.
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. He's made a career off of being a one-trick pony. There's nothing wrong with being a specialist in this league. There's always going to be a market for a guy who can consistently give you points from behind the arc.
A bad back has kept him out of six games, but now he's healthy and ready to bring his near mastery of the shooting stroke to the second unit.
Over his last two games, Novak has hit 5-of-7 from three-point range after going 6-of-19 in his previous four.
There are going to be nights when the ball isn't falling, but that comes with the territory. Most of the time, that won't be the case.
7) Terrence Ross
2013-14 statistics: 19.0 minutes, 6.5 points, 42.3 percent from the field, 34.7 percent from three-point range, 2.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.6 turnovers, 11.0 PER
Here is just a friendly reminder that the Toronto Raptors selected Terrence Ross over Andre Drummond (who is currently with the Detroit Pistons) in the 2012 NBA draft.
This isn't a Rafael Araújo over Andre Iguodala situation. Not even close. With Jonas Valanciunas on the team, there wasn't much of a need for Drummond at the time. It's just hard to look at the numbers he's putting up (13.5 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals) in the Motor City and not daydream over what could have been.
Is this some sort of slight at Ross?
I don't think it is. For the most part, his numbers have all seen an increase from last season, but only by the slimmest of margins.
Not everyone is going to develop at the same pace. Ross is still a work in progress with a long NBA career in front of him. His athleticism is out of this world, and the potential is there for him to become an above-average defender one of these days.
Just not today.
It's games like November 20 against the Philadelphia 76ers (17 points, 7-of-11 shooting and seven rebounds) that really get you excited. Then there are nights like November 29 against the Miami Heat (no points, 0-for-5 shooting) that bring you back down to earth.
What's his ceiling? Is he just another DeMar DeRozan?
Let's hope not. We already have one of those.
6) Tyler Hansbrough
2013-14 statistics: 21.3 minutes, 6.8 points, 43.7 percent from the field, 6.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.9 turnovers, 15.1 PER
It's hard to find much fault in Tyler Hansbrough when he's been doing exactly what was to be expected of him.
The intensity he brings night in and night out is contagious. That's one of the reasons Dwane Casey decided to insert him into the starting lineup back on December 1.
His two games since that aforementioned role change have left a lot to be desired. The team is 0-2 in that short span, so the move didn't make any difference in the win column.
I like the idea of Hansbrough remaining on the bench as Toronto's sixth or seventh man and keeping Amir Johnson where he was rather than vice versa. I just don't know what the Raptors are expecting with Hansbrough as their starting power forward and if it's going to make that much more of a difference than if Johnson were that guy.
The jury is still out on this one. I'll reserve further judgement until I've seen a greater body of work, but in the meantime, I can't help but feel that the Hansbrough/Johnson flip shouldn't have been made.
Other than that, the rebounding, free-throw shooting and overall tenacity on the glass that Hansbrough brings makes it easy to root for him.
He doesn't need the glory. He's just a workhorse.
5) Jonas Valanciunas
2013-14 statistics: 27.2 minutes, 9.2 points, 48.2 percent from the field, 7.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.8 turnovers, 13.2 PER
I like to think of myself as the driver, head honcho and prime ambassador of the Jonas Valanciunas bandwagon. He's one of those special talents at the 5-spot that the Raptors rarely have the opportunity to work with and develop.
We've all forgotten about Andrea Bargnani by now, correct?
So you can probably understand my frustration as I watch Valanciunas' minutes fluctuate more than the stock market.
Here's a look at his playing time over his last six games:
It's all over the place. If it's this frustrating for the fanbase, just imagine what it's doing to the psyche of Valanciunas himself.
I understand this fascination with playing small and going with certain matchups, but considering the 21-year-old is being groomed to be the future face of the franchise, isn't this just halting his progress?
Whether it's a minutes issue or just playing on a team with two guys (Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan) who take nearly half of the shots themselves, there's just far too much holding back Valanciunas at the moment.
4) Amir Johnson
2013-14 statistics: 28.1 minutes, 9.1 points, 55.5 percent from the field, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.5 turnovers, 14.0 PER
Amir Johnson loves the city of Toronto, and the people love him right back. Perhaps it's premature, but I compare the popularity of Johnson to that of Jerome Williams when he was with the team.
Johnson is nowhere near as outgoing or eccentric as the Junkyard Dog, but I believe the fans take to him in a similar way.
It was discouraging to see Dwane Casey recently demote Johnson to the bench, even if it was just meant to motivate his veteran forward. He earned the spot he was in. If declining numbers led to Casey's decision, then why wasn't someone like Rudy Gay, who has also been struggling, joining him on the pine?
Johnson's double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench against Golden State did offer some peace of mind that this new sixth man role could work. His zero points and three rebounds two days earlier on December 1 against the Denver Nuggets was almost too much to bear.
I'm loving the fact that his number of three-point attempts are slowly levelling out, having taken just one over his last three games. The 21 he's already taken are a career high.
It's easy to get carried away when you've seen some shots fall from behind the arc, but Johnson needs to learn when it's most advantageous to take them, rather than settling, allowing the defense to dictate what he does.
3) Rudy Gay
2013-14 statistics: 35.6 minutes, 19.6 points, 38.8 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from three-point range, 7.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks, 3.4 turnovers, 15.6 PER
I already feel that Rudy Gay is way too high on this list, which is weird to say considering I'm the one who ranked him here.
Putting his (numerous) deficiencies to the side for just a moment, Gay is still second on the team in scoring, second in rebounding, third in assists and first in blocked shots. That has to account for something, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
The two numbers that strike a cord the most with fans of the Toronto Raptors are Gay's 38.8 percent shooting and the fact that he's taking nearly 19 shots per game. 19.6 points is great and all, but not when you take into account that he's shooting 19 times to get there.
His 6-of-12 performance against the Golden State Warriors on December 3 is the only time this season when he's shot 50 percent or better. Gay has shot worse than 40 percent eight times and under 30 percent four times.
Good luck trading him. There's no doubt in my mind that he's going to pick up his $19 million option for next season. He's butchered his value so much that no team would willingly pay him that kind of money.
There's always going to be some semblance of hope that Gay can turn things around and salvage this season, at least through his own numbers, but that's just wishful thinking.
Toronto is stuck with him.
Is there a known surgery which fixes bad shot selection?
2) Kyle Lowry
2013-14 statistics: 36.5 minutes, 13.9 points, 40.4 percent from the field, 36.6 percent from three-point range, 3.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 16.8 PER
I'm not going to pretend to know what management's true intentions are for this season, but if "tanking" is a possibility, dealing Kyle Lowry will make that process go a lot quicker.
Lowry isn't the Raptors' best player, but he's their most important. If not for him, Dwane Casey would be strolling out D.J. Augustin and/or Dwight Buycks on a regular basis, which explains why Lowry is seeing the floor a career-high 36.5 minutes.
His shooting percentages are still far too low, and his addiction to shooting three-pointers (5.9, 14th in the NBA) needs to be tempered quite a bit, but you'll accept all of that because he's the be-all and end-all at point guard.
You convince yourself to tolerate his negatives because you don't want to see what's on the other side of the spectrum.
His contract expires at the end of the season, so many teams around the league looking for a quick upgrade at the position will take a closer look at Lowry because of it. There's no guarantee that he will re-sign with Toronto next summer, so why not explore the open market and see what offers come your way?
It can't hurt.
Lowry is like the energizer bunny. He just keeps going and going and going. His fuel tank is rarely on empty. He's not the true blue facilitator/pass-first guard you'd like him to be, but that's not what he is or ever has been for that matter.
1) DeMar DeRozan
2013-14 statistics: 38.6 minutes, 21.8 points, 43.9 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from three-point range, 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 17.5 PER
Thank goodness for DeMar DeRozan.
He's one of the few elements on this team that a majority of fans don't want to let go of. He's leading the Raptors in scoring, his three-point shooting has jumped 10.8 points from last season and he's starting to take losing more and more personally, which is what any true leader should do.
He's also survived five years with a franchise that has become a revolving door for talent since its inception. That means a lot.
I'll be the first to admit that I had doubts over whether DeRozan could reach that next level of stardom. He's not a household name, but the self-motivation is there to become one. It's very respectable.
This is where things start getting tricky. As much as DeRozan is proving myself and many others wrong, I just don't see a scenario where the Raptors become an elite team in the Eastern Conference with him as their best player.
Beat writer Eric Koreen recently wrote an article for the National Post where he brought up the idea of trading DeRozan while his value is high.
I tend to agree. Jonas Valanciunas is untouchable. Rudy Gay is unmovable. Terrence Ross could slide in at shooting guard and become more of a factor. Masai Ujiri wouldn't receive a king's ransom for DeRozan, but it could still be a pretty nice haul.
I'm not saying that it's going to happen or that I'm dying for it to happen, but the concept isn't that far-fetched.