Yesterday marked the crossing of the midway point for the annual ESPN NBA Rank of all 500 players in the league. Mad scientist Henry Abbott, along with Ethan Strauss, kicked the list off last week by dropping the names of players 500 to 401. As they've counted down the upper (OK, lower echelon) of NBA players, some Raptors names have come up.
Let's tiptoe into these end of bench warrens of the league and take stock:
484 - Will Cherry - Last Year: NR
Here are the things we know about Will Cherry: he's tough, he's a competitor, and he was once a rival to NBA All-Star Damian Lillard. Here's hoping he can stay in the league, on the Raptors or somewhere else.
455 - Bruno Caboclo - Last Year: NR
Having not played a single minute of NBA basketball (and after being ranked as the worst player in the NBA by the digital wizards behind the NBA 2K15 game), Caboclo finds himself already 45 players ahead of the curve. In that pack of players? Andrew Bynum. Hey now, that's potential you can build on.
384 - Lucas Nogueira - Last Year: NR
Having been drafted 16th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft (just one spot behind noted NBA superhero Giannis Antetokounmpo), hopes are high for Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira. He is tall, he has a huge wingspan, and he has awesomely big hair. That's gotta count for something (the height and wingspan part, I mean). Right?
355 - Greg Stiemsma - Last Year: 350
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Stiemsma is the last Raptor to be signed to the team, and there's a good chance he'll get the call to play backup centre minutes (and act as injury insurance for Jonas Valanciunas). Still, there was once a time not long ago, when Tommy Heinsohn could be heard comparing Stiemsma to Bill Russell. A 355 ranking doesn't offer much consolation after that.
340 - Jordan Hamilton - Last Year: 365
I'll be honest, I can't figure Jordan Hamilton out. He's a late first round pick (26th overall in 2011), and he turns 24 in October. He's 6'7'' and has shown some modest 3-point range (career average of 36 percent). He was tossed into that disastrous Portland-Dallas-Denver trade that saw Raymond Felton end up on the Trailblazers. He has spent time in the D-League. He got traded straight up for former Most Improved Player, Aaron Brooks. I... I don't know what else to say.
293 - Landry Fields - Last Year: 248
Hard times continue for Landry Fields. He was once a bright spot on the pre-Carmelo Knicks, throwing up decent scoring and rebounding numbers and showing loads of potential. Now, however, he's mostly known for his massive contract, a deal offered only as a ploy to block the Knicks from signing Steve Nash. At least he has a sense of humour about his tumble down the standings:
293!? Pshhhh, what does @espn know about sports anyway...?— Landry Fields (@landryfields) September 22, 2014
278 - Chuck Hayes - Last Year: 230
Chuck Hayes does not give a shit about rankings. He's the oldest player on the Raptors - coming in at a surprising 31 years old (he looks 45). He's also impossible to move in the post. My favourite recent Hayes moment came in Game 5 of the playoffs last year when he hit a hilarious, almost-by-accident runner. Sure, the Raptors ended up with him as cap ballast for the Rudy Gay trade, but we may as well enjoy his presence.
252 - Tyler Hansbrough - Last Year: 208
And now Chuck Hayes' spiritual brother! To be fair, Hansbrough is a far, far more reckless and absurd player than Hayes. Both have very minimal offensive skills, but only the former Tar Heel star can earn a nickname like Psycho T. Hansbrough has definitely hit his ceiling as an NBA player, and it appears from this ranking that the ceiling is starting to push back.
248 - James Johnson - Last Year: 360
And now, karate kicking back from the dead, it's James Johnson. You may remember him from his earlier tour of duty with the Raptors, after he was traded to the team for a first round pick (that became Norris Cole). After leaving Toronto, Johnson disappeared into the netherworlds of myth (or, Sacramento) before re-emerging as a neo-Tony Allen on Allen's Memphis Grizzlies. The difference between the two? Johnson only kicks people off the court.
So that's it for the first half. Check in later as we review the top 240 players and comment on the ranking of the rest of the Toronto Raptors.
What do you guys think so far?