Sports Illustrated continued to release their list of the NBA’s Top 100 Players for 2016-17 on Tuesday, publishing players ranked from 50-31.
Coming in at number 46 was newly re-signed Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan has long been polarizing among the Toronto fan base: He’s a quintessential ‘pros and cons’ player — the pros of his volume-based offensive game weighed against his lacklustre defense, coupled with his unquestioned passion for the city of Toronto, all swirl together in the bittersweet cocktail that is a homegrown talent. Some ride or die with him (my hand is up) and others wish Masai Ujiri had let him walk.
Still, the 46 ranking did initially seem a bit low for a player that was a cog on one of the Conference Finalists last season. After all, DeRozan did finish second among shooting guards in PER, EWA and VA added last season, per John Hollinger’s stats. Then you remember that these rankings are meant to be predictive for the upcoming season, and you read a little more closely.
Even DeRozan’s harshest critics—the ones who rightfully point to his poor shot distribution, rough efficiency numbers, shaky three-point stroke and forgettable defense—must acknowledge that DeRozan (23.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4 APG) took his non-shooting approach to the shooting guard position about as far as it can go last season. How long will it take for the other shoe to drop? DeRozan, 27, has logged massive minutes for six straight seasons, he hasn’t made much progress extending his range, and he’s had the benefit of playing in the glow created by Kyle Lowry. DeRozan’s defensive work has really gone in the tank too: last year, Synergy Sports ranked him in the 21st percentile overall as a defender, Defensive Real Plus Minus ranked him No. 78 among shooting guards, and Toronto’s defensive rating improved by nearly six points when he was off the court. For now, DeRozan’s elite ability to get to the foul line and his strong fit with Lowry should keep this honeymoon going. Unfortunately for DeRozan, the margin between “Best season ever!” and “Big step backwards” looks pretty thin.
When you examine the list, you’ll also realize that DeRozan is the second highest ranked shooting guard so far, trailing only Dwyane Wade (32), and ahead of Devin Booker (100), Manu Ginobili (97), JR Smith (96), Evan Fournier (95), Wes Matthews (92), Victor Oladipo (74), Avery Bradley (72), Kyle Korver (70), Danny Green (69), JJ Redick (59), Bradley Beal (58) and CJ McCollum (50).
The list inexplicably classifies both Khris Middleton (39) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (48) as small forwards, but presumably only Klay Thompson and James Harden will join Wade to rank ahead of DeRozan at his position (depending on how they classify Jimmy Butler), so they seem to have captured DeMar in a nutshell: capable scorer, outperforms his peripherals, needs to improve his range and defense, might be kind of a house of cards, but let’s enjoy the ride!
46th (but likely 4th among shooting guards) feels about right.
What do you think of the ranking?
Check back later in the week, as we’ll have another look once Kyle Lowry’s position is revealed.