With both ESPN and Sports Illustrated’s league-wide rankings behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to some inter-Raptors listings of note. For our purposes, we don’t need to determine which players on the squad are the best; We know where we stand skill-wise with most of them already. What’s more, we know the general hierarchy of the Raptors already too, even with the team’s new batch of players — who will get the ball, who will do the scoring, who will get minutes, and who will be counted on to do what and when.
So instead let’s try to figure out who we’re most excited about for the coming season in Toronto. There will be some obvious overlap here between talent and potential excitement, but for the most part what counts here is a feeling of expectation (or the unexpected), of something new.
We don’t yet know what these post-championship Raptors will look like, and it’s easy to be jazzed about that. Now, let’s get into the specifics.
Oshae Brissett, Sagaba Konate, Cameron Payne, Isaiah Taylor, Devin Robinson
Not to just lump all these guys together (again), but it is extremely likely none will be on the Raptors come the start of the season. That’s not to say there won’t be a spot on the 905 for some of them, but we may not get much of a chance to see them in a Toronto uniform beyond the preseason. I don’t want to get too worked up just yet, is my point.
If pressed, my excitement rankings for this five-some, from most to least: Sagaba Konate, Oshae Brissett, Devin Robinson, Isaiah Taylor... [long dramatic pause]... Cameron Payne.
The Excitement Rankings:
15. Malcolm Miller
I hate to bang on Miller like this because he’s easily one of the most likeable players on the Raptors and has always come off as extremely chill to me, personally. He’s also unfortunately just been sort of floating around for awhile now. Toronto has taken its time in developing Miller to this point, and he’s shown flashes of being a serviceable and versatile wing. But now is the time. And while that makes for an interesting narrative (will Miller make the leap or not?), it’s hard for me to get too worked up about him at this point.
14. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Of the plethora of combo forwards the Raptors now have, I’m the least up for RHJ. It’s not his fault, I swear, though our guy was basically a marginal player on a marginal Nets team last season. While Hollis-Jefferson has a skill-set that has value in the NBA — a bit of a post-game, defensive versatility — what else is there to find here?
13. Dewan Hernandez
Give it another year, then I’ll be excited. Still, 6’10” with some moves? Even as a 59th pick, and likely to spend most of his time in the G League, consider me intrigued by Dewan.
12. Chris Boucher
Boucher will remain as the most tantalizing member of the Raptors, if only because of his extremes. When he gets the ball, he shoots. When he sees the ball go up, he tries to block it. Boucher already owns the G League and there is an angle here by which we can enjoy his NBA coming out party. Unfortunately, reality will likely stand in his way this season. I’m just not ready to have my heartbroken!
11. Terence Davis
Maybe it was Jacob Mack’s thrilling analysis here, maybe it was Davis’ confident climb into an NBA contract with Toronto, or maybe it is because his name is so, so close to that of noted filmmaker Terence Davies (who I hope some of you discover by accident), but I really did think about Davis much higher than this. I’m all in — but will he get the chance to show out?
10. Serge Ibaka
The return of How Hungry Are You? and the Ma Fuzzy Chef suggests the peak form of Ibaka, entertainment-wise, may soon be arriving. I’m just not as sure we’ll be as energized to see Serge’s post-championship play — especially with so many looking for opportunities to trade him for future assets. If any player on the Raptors deserves a victory lap season, it’s Ibaka. I say, let him enjoy it (even if we don’t like what we see on the court).
9. Kyle Lowry
Lowry gets the nod here only because it will be fun to watch Lowry play with absolutely all the pressure off. We know his game, we know what he can and will do, and we know what the ceiling is here for him and his team. There is a distinct comfort in that, even if it no longer gets us out of the chair as often as it used to.
8. Stanley Johnson
Maybe I’m way off base here and Stanley Johnson will be a failed experiment. Masai Ujiri took a low-risk flyer on him, so it is perhaps advisable not to get to fired up. Johnson’s time here could be a blip in the history of the Raptors. Or maybe he finds a new lease on life? I’m ready to see what comes of Stanley’s time here.
7. Patrick McCaw
A bigger role coming for the C H A O S E N E R G Y.
6. Marc Gasol
A full season of Gasol with a bunch of players who will likely need his guidance to succeed? A chance to watch coach Nick Nurse fully design an offense around one of the best passing big men of all time? A chance to root for one of the greats for one last season? Yeah, I’m excited.
5. Matt Thomas
Alex “Steven LeBron” Wong has single-handedly warped all of our minds. Matt Thomas forever!!! (And a pretty compelling story to boot.)
4. Norman Powell
If there was ever a time for Norm to go Full Norm, this would be it. There’s a chance he gets the starting two-guard spot, and there’s also a chance he could completely whiff on it. Even after all this time in Toronto, it still feels like an immense gamble for the Raptors. But when Powell gets the ball going downhill, all I hear are the words: the action is the juice.
3. Fred VanVleet
Through two and a half rounds of last year’s playoffs, most Raptors fans were ready to dump VanVleet and never look back. I get that. I too remember watching him look completely overwhelmed by the size, strength, and speed of the players around him. But then Fred got his mojo back, took it to two of the best teams in the league, and won a title. Now he’s entering a contract year looking to bet on himself once again. What can VanVleet do next? Hoo boy.
2. OG Anunoby
We’ve said it a million times, OG Anunoby’s sophomore season was essentially lost to injury and pain. That he was able to contribute much at all just made the disappointment more acute — all of us, including OG himself, wanted more. The good news here is that Anunoby’s third season in Toronto can’t get any worse. Maybe I’m being a little overeager here, maybe I just want to give OG a little psychological boost, maybe I just really, really want to see him kick ass. Let’s go, OG.
1. Pascal Siakam
As if there was ever any doubt who number one would be.
So how would your Raptors Excitement Rankings look? Let me know in the comments and let’s get fired up together.