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VanVleet, Green, and OG make first half of ESPN’s Top 100 NBA Rank

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ESPN is back at it with their annual NBA Rank, which means we’ve got to see how many Raptors make the cut, and where they place on the list.

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In one sense, NBA rankings are completely meaningless. We are merely humans, unable to predict the future, and forever blind to incoming unforeseen events. Will player X blow out his knee in December? Will the sun explode next week? We just don’t know.

In another sense, NBA rankings are everything — they give fans a reason to get emotional, in both good and bad ways, and give us content writers a way to easily judge how a player (and, collectively, a team) is doing. The more Toronto players on the list suggests something, even if we don’t know what that is yet.

What we do know for sure: the 2018-19 NBA season starts on October 16, which is in less than a month. This means it is definitely time to make these kinds of assessments. To that end, here is the first half of ESPN’s latest edition of their NBA Rank, getting at the top 100 players in the league.

Which Raptors make the list, and where are they? Let’s take a look.

97. Danny Green (Last Year: 59)

Here’s what ESPN had to say:

The quintessential 3-and-D specialist, Green experienced a drop-off in production due in part to playing the majority of the season with an injured groin. Green now teams with Kawhi Leonard in Toronto, and the duo will give opponents fits on the perimeter.

Green might be regressing as a long-range shooter, hitting no better than 38 percent from 3 the past three seasons after connecting on at least 41.5 percent the previous four.

Is it weird that Danny Green, after years of being told he’s one of the best glue guys to have on a team, one of those dandy shooter-defender experts who helps teams win, etc., has been suddenly unceremoniously dumped down the rankings? That’s weird right? One season with an injured groin and my guy Green has to slide all the way down to 97, just barely making the cut?

Frankly, I don’t buy it.

77. OG Anunoby (Last Year: N/A)

Again, the ESPN-supplied take:

While his box score stats might not show it, Anunoby had an extremely successful rookie campaign, especially when you consider he played 84 games coming off an ACL tear. Still evolving as an offensive threat, Anunoby might not make a leap as a scoring threat, particularly with the addition of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. But his defensive value is undeniable, and the Raptors can throw out a host of modern lineups with unrivaled switchability.

So long as he’s making open spot-ups, Anunoby is one of the league’s best under-22 two-way combo forwards.

I have nothing to add here. This is a bang-on reading of where OG is right now. Thanks to the influx of Spurs vets, the Raptors have a roster built to win now (and at a high level). It’s clear from last season that Anunoby is already down to contribute — the exciting part will be to see what he does next.

74. Fred VanVleet (N/A)

Once more, the ESPN assessment:

VanVleet might not have cracked last year’s #NBArank top 400 after playing just 294 minutes as an undrafted rookie. Given an opportunity, VanVleet became the engine of a stunningly dominant Toronto bench. The Raptors outscored opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions with VanVleet on the court, leading to the NBA’s 28th-best rating in ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM). Despite tax concerns, Toronto showed faith in VanVleet by re-signing him to a two-year, $18 million deal.

There is no one, anywhere, that had FVV heading into this situation in his third year in the league. In fact, I worry, like some, that we may be putting too much on the Bet On Yourself king. I will immediately temper my concern by saying that Toronto is set up to maximize his role this season (or minimize the damage, if somehow teams manage to target him more effectively), which is a good thing.

If VanVleet is locked in, it doesn’t matter if he’s playing with the starters or the bench, he makes things go.

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That’s it for now — no Jonas Valanciunas (hmmm), and no Serge Ibaka (not surprising). We’ll see where the other Raptors — Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard, who is a Raptor by the way — rank over the next week.