What did we say about NBA rankings? They never end. We’re here again today with a new one to consider, this time from the venerable outlet SLAM Magazine. In their ranking of the top 50 players in the NBA — a countdown that reach number 20 earlier today — we find two Toronto Raptors. As the headline implies, let’s reflect on what SLAM got right: DeMar DeRozan at no. 21.
DeRozan’s season last year was the best of his career — all the stats, advanced or otherwise, back this up. He made the All-Star team. He made the All-NBA third team. He was, by every approximation, the best version of DeRozan we have yet to see. (Who knows what next season could bring — something even better?)
There are acknowledged flaws to DeRozan’s game. We know this too. His defense is often times suspect, his court awareness needs work, his shooting range remains frustratingly inside the arc. DeRozan’s coach Dwane Casey said, “you can’t turn DeMar DeRozan into Klay Thompson overnight,” which implied there were things Thompson could do that DeMar could not. This is a true statement insofar as it nods to some of the aforementioned items lacking from DeRozan’s game. But what Casey was getting at was the idea of propelling the Raptors through what DeRozan could do, rather than what he couldn’t do. And if you watched DeRozan carry the Raptors for long stretches of last season, well, he can do a whole hell of a lot.
A review of the ten other players around DeRozan bear his placement on this list out — with one exception. Go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of this post and see for yourself (and try to guess at the exception).
There are young player there who may ultimately be better than DeRozan (Devin Booker, Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid). There are players in their prime who can best DeRozan just as easily as he can best them (Gordon Hayward, Mike Conley, Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert — on whom DeRozan laid down one of his most spectacular dunks). There’s, semi-inexplicably, Carmelo Anthony in the mix. The exception is, naturally, Kyle Lowry ranked 26th, which any Raptors fan will tell you is patently absurd — but we won’t belabour the point today.
Kudos to SLAM for getting it right on DeRozan. (And getting it, let’s say, mostly right on Kyle Lowry.)