Last year, Kyle Lowry was the only guy that I was feeling on the Raptors squad as a fantasy pick. I touted KL as a top 50 guy. As we all know, Lowry did not have a season for the ages. In standard 8 category leagues, Lowry finished the year as the 76th best player on a per game basis. Due to all the missed games, Lowry was actually much worse than that though. Sorry for the poor advice! In my defense, I don't think many people expected Jose Calderon to steal Lowry's job for a big chunk of the season...
In reality, I didn't like the trade with Memphis, but it certainly changed my view of the fantasy appeal of several players. There are now 4 Raptors that I think MAY end up among the 50 most valuable players at the end of 2013-14 season. Barring real life trades, I'd bet on all 5 Raptors starters crack the top 100 next year.
I have seen fantasy experts rank Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas in a variety of different orders. How you rank them could vary if your league requires a lot of point guards or centers, or if it is a dynasty/keeper league (Big Val jumps up). However, of the 3, I am probably taking Rudy Gay first every time. Amir Johnson is the 4th Raptor that I am high on. The fact that the other GMs in your league are likely to value DeMar DeRozan in a trade is really the only great thing about him in regards to fantasy. However, DD finally cracked the top 100 in fantasy last year. He is durable enough and young enough to do it again.
Here's a little more fantasy insight on the Raptors starting five...
Due to inefficiency, his habit of shooting long twos, and of course his contract, Rudy Gay is not in most HQ fans' good books. Fortunately, as far as fantasy goes, Rudy Gay is a safe-bet to produce like a second-tier star....There are a bunch of small forwards around the league that some people believe may have huge years, but a lot of those guys like Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler, Gordon Haywood etc. have not had massive full-seasons yet. Where as Rudy Gay has been a very good fantasy play for years. Here is how Rudy Gay ranked in 8 category leagues over the last 4 years: 44th, 24th, 14th, and 43rd. During his time in Toronto last year, Rudy was the 22nd best player.
If I can get Rudy outside of the top 30 I am pretty happy. Not so much because of his eye surgery or the talk of his improved post game. More so because of his role in Toronto and because he is a pretty safe bet to perform somewhere in that range. Guys like Eric Bledsoe are exciting and may end up outperforming Rudy, but there is much more risk...
I am back on the horse! I do not expect as much from Lowry as I did last year, but given that Jose is out of town and that he is in a contract year, KL should produce. We know Lowry is an injury risk and will need to compete for touches with his wings and Valanciunas, but he could still be able to do enough to keep you happy.
Two seasons ago Lowry was the 17th best player on a per-game basis. I do not expect him to reach that again, but there's his ceiling! Lowry was the 57th best player after the Gay-Calderon deal. If he can stay healthy, taking him around there in the draft seems about right.
There is a lot of hype around Jonas Valanciunas. It is probably well deserved. He has the potential to be one of the best fantasy centers out there. With an increased role, more experience and strength, most of us are expecting a boost in just about every category. The fact that Valanciunas produces while maintaining very solid percentages make him even more appealing. In an 8 category league, I am not reaching into the first 4 rounds for him though. I could see round 5, but prefer round 6. After Ed Davis was shipped out, JV's per-game value did jump, but only to 110th. Expecting him to be more than 60 spots better seems ambitious given that Gay, DeRozan and Lowry all tend to stop ball movement.
My favourite Raptor was not just a huge positive on the court last year in real life, he was an unsung hero on many fantasy teams down the stretch. Amir put up the 71st best per-game values for the year, and was actually the 46th best after the aforementioned trade. Psycho T and an improving Valanciunas could take a little off of Johnson's end of year numbers, but I'd call him a very safe pick starting at pick number 70. The best thing about Amir Johnson is that you can sometimes sneak him even later than that...
The 2nd highest paid Raptor is not an exciting fantasy play. DeRozan scores, but that is really about it in terms of being above average. However, given that DeMar finished the year as the 97th best player (96th best after the big trade) and that he is very durable, I'd draft him. DD seems to improve a little every year and is locked in to heavy minutes. Pick #90 or later seems like a fine time to grab DeMar.
The Rest of the Bunch
While injuries and trades can always change things quickly, I do not suggest drafting any Raptor that is not listed above. Maybe one of them will become a solid waiver wire guy at some point, but let others go for the likes of TRoss, Buycks and Psycho T.
Every league's settings, keeper rules and scoring format are very different. All of these things can have a very big impact on a player's value. If you would like to know how I feel your league's system impacts the value of your favourite Raptors, or any player for that matter, hit me up on twitter: @FinalsFantasy. Plus the draft is just the beginning, in my experience most leagues are really won during the season, so feel free to hit me up with questions at any time.
I just realized that I wrote all that without a single word about Andrea Bargnani. How refreshing is that as a Raptors' fan. All I will say is that his departure helped solidify the touches and minutes of all five guys that I discussed above....As for Primo Pasta and Sauce, I'd take a late round flier on him, but would not expect big things....