With the NBA season still - still - weeks away, ESPN continues to toil away at their ranking of all 500 players in the league. The last time we'd checked on the list for Raptors was back at the midway point with James Johnson at 248.
But now, the NBA Rank is breaking into the top 100 and business is getting far more serious. Before getting to the true top of the league, we look back on the last 150 spots on the list (give or take) and discuss the placement of the Raptors therein. Onward:
177 - Lou Williams - Last Year: 120
You have to feel a little sorry for Lou Williams. He didn't ask to tear his ACL and derail a breakout 2012-13 campaign. And he certainly didn't ask to be the forgotten man in Atlanta upon his return. A tumble down the rankings feels inevitable after that particular one-two punch. Still, that loss may be the Raptors gain.
147 - Greivis Vasquez - Last Year: 124
Another slide down the ranks for everyone's favourite backup point guard. While Vasquez' days of averaging nine-plus assists a game are behind him, he's shown himself to be a very valuable backup guard option. Not entirely sure how he ends up behind JaVale McGee on this list, but let's not point fingers here.
135 - Terrence Ross - Last Year: 203
A jump of 68 spots! Now that's something you can put on a résumé. This ranking feels right. Ross has already shown his talents as an adept defender and 3-point shooter. He can dunk with the best in the league. For the next level he'll have to grow stronger, smarter and play with more consistency. His fast rise up the rankings suggests that he can get there.
134 - Patrick Patterson - Last Year: 167
Patterson's spot on the list is indicative of his gradually improving game and stature in the league. It feels so easy to forget somehow that Patterson is still only 25 years old; he plays with a veteran's conscience. While Patterson will be called upon from the bench again this season, his value to the Raptors - as a long-bomb threat and stout defender - is high.
106 - Amir Johnson - Last Year: 165
Now here's where we may have a problem. On the one hand, Johnson's ranking at 106 represents a sizable move up the ranks (from 165). On the other hand: it's Amir freakin' Johnson! This is the guy who held together the Raptors' front line through thick and thin, guarding everyone from Lebron to LaMarcus Aldridge, while also developing three-point range and gamely hopping around on bad ankles. While he is 106 on this list, clearly he's, yes, number one in our hearts.
91 - Jonas Valanciunas - Last Year: 84
What did I say about having a problem? Whoa, apparently Jonas has slid down seven spots to 91 this year. While it is fair to describe JV as something of an X-factor for the Raps, it seems categorically unfair to grade him on a down turn. This comes precisely when he seems poised to ratchet up his offensive output and become even more dominant on the defensive end. To ESPN: Jonas and his beard disagree with you.
Now the big question: what do you guys think of these rankings?
Also, that leaves us with two players from the Raptors: DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Where will they rank? My guess, given the other lists of this type, would be somewhere in the mid-50s to mid-60s for DeRozan, and at least the top 40 for Lowry.
Hell, let's go Price is Right styles here: DeRozan at 58. Lowry at 36. Make your guesses in the comments and the closest without going over wins a prize.
(Automatic disqualification if you bid one dollar.)