It was not an unfunny sight to see all those dudes in Raptors jerseys milling around in a circle on Media Day. This kind of thing happens every time. Toronto, like every other NBA team, has its share of fringe players at camp. There they stood — Fred VanVleet, Jarrod Uthoff, E.J. Singler, Yanick Moreira, Drew Crawford, and Brady Heslip — looking for all the world like they’d wandered into the gym by mistake. Except they’re all above (or well-above) average height and in obviously good shape. And, yes, they’re in full Raptors uniform.
The unfortunate reality, of course, is that only one of these men can make the main squad. (And even then, the spot may not be held long for them.) The Raptors currently have 14 players under contract, with one spot open and one player (Delon Wright) on the shelf for a few months. In a different year, like say last year, the presence of these extra bodies would have been a mere formality — they’d just show up, play hard and then disappear into the basketball netherworld from which they’d come (the D-League, or somewhere else in the world). But here, now, there are stakes!
We’ve tried, in our way, to document the attributes and skills of the players in question. Young gun Cole Shelton wrote about five of the players here. With a sixth, Heslip, now also involved. Let’s discuss a quick ranking before we get to the poll.
Raptors 15th Man Rankings
1) Fred VanVleet - My money is still on VanVleet to grab the spot. He’s a bit undersized, but he’s strong and smart and plays with a composure the Raptors’ clearly value. That he can shoot well from deep also adds to his value. With Wright injured until December (or later), VanVleet could slot in well as both an emergency third point guard, or the showrunner for the Raptors 905.
2) Brady Heslip - The man’s been working on his point guard skills, he can shoot the lights out, and he’s something of a Canadian icon. I suspect the 905 definitely want to keep Heslip around, but do his skills translate enough (particularly on D) to merit a full-blown NBA spot? Seems like he remains a notch below VanVleet.
3) E.J. Singler - He’s got a bit of an inside track, owing to his familiarity with the existing Toronto infrastructure. Singler played with the 905 last season, and with the Las Vegas Summer League team. He’s a bit of a do-it-all forward, and a steady hand. Doesn’t exactly fill an overwhelming need for the Raptors, but won’t hurt the team either.
4) Jarrod Uthoff - To me, the wildcard. Uthoff’s got hops and some rangy defensive ability, which maybe slides him ahead of Singler in certain situations, but I’m not sure he provides enough of what the Raptors need right now for their 15th man.
5) Drew Crawford - Ditto for Crawford. He’s got skills, but seems custom-made for a return to the D-League in some shape or form.
6) Yanick Moreira - He’s a big dude, but I think the Raptors have enough young big dudes. If he sticks around Toronto at all, it’ll definitely be as a 905 player only.
There you have it. One of these guys could find themselves in the NBA, at least for a little while. As for the rest, well, the basketball dream lives on.
Now let’s go to the poll.