Welcome back to part two of Ranking Every Raptors 3.0! Today we get into the really good stuff: the top 75, although in reality there’s pretty much nothing in the way of intrigue between our old friend Jason Kapono and the top 30. That’ll happen when you run it back as admirably as the Raptors did this season.
With so little turnover, and the core group of seven dudes defending their title like absolute kings, there was only one direction for the remaining members of this years’ team to go. It feels right that the most crucial pieces of the two best teams Toronto’s ever produced all land within the top 25 on the franchise’s all-time list.
Now, to see where they all landed.
75. Jason Kapono ( ↑ 75)
74. Luis Scola ( ↑ 74)
73. Jermaine O’Neal ( ↑ 73)
72. Matt Bonner ( ↑ 72)
71. Greivis Vasquez ( ↑ 71)
70. Peja Stokakovic ( ↑ 70)
69. Jarrett Jack ( ↑ 69)
68. Joey Graham ( ↑ 68)
67. Sonny Weems ( ↑ 67)
66. DeMarre Carroll ( ↑ 66)
65. Mike James ( ↑ 65)
64. Charlie Villanueva ( ↑ 64)
63. Lindsey Hunter ( ↑ 63)
62. Corliss Williamson ( ↑ 62)
61. Jerryd Bayless ( ↑ 61)
60. Mark Jackson ( ↑ 60)
59. Muggsy Bogues ( ↑ 59)
58. Chris Childs ( ↑ 58)
57. Andrea Bargnani ( ↑ 57)
56. PJ Tucker ( ↑ 56)
55. Leandro Barbosa ( ↑ 55)
54. Dell Curry ( ↑ 54)
53. Popeye Jones ( ↑ 53)
52. Jakob Poeltl ( ↑ 52)
51. Bismack Biyombo ( ↑ 51)
50. Rasho Nesterovic ( ↑ 50)
49. Oliver Miller ( ↑ 49)
48. Kevin Willis ( ↑ 48)
47. Jamario Moon ( ↑ 47)
46. Carlos Rogers ( ↑ 46)
45. James Johnson ( ↑ 45)
44. Ed Davis ( ↑ 43)
43. Delon Wright ( ↓ 42)
42. Jorge Garbajosa ( ↑ 41)
41. Carlos Delfino ( ↑ 40)
40. Voshon Lenard ( ↑ 39)
39. John Wallace ( ↑ 38)
38. Alvin Robertson ( ↑ 37)
37. Lou Williams ( ↑ 29)
Each year I get to stew about Lou’s single season in Toronto, the more I grow to detest it. I absolutely do not care that he won Sixth Man, one of the most arbitrary and poorly voted upon awards in professional sports. Watching his self one-upmanship in the arena of taking shitty end-of-clock jumpers for a whole season was as infuriating an experience as I’ve had supporting this team. Was there maybe a little too much schadenfreude coursing though me as the Clippers wet themselves against the Nuggets, after Lou crowed all year about how good LA was, after they so heroically took two first round games off a Warriors team that didn’t give a shit in 2019? Yeah, probably. But it’s good to feel good at any opportunity in 2020. Dropping Lou on a whim, too, feels good.
36. Rafer Alston ( ↑ 36)
35. Rudy Gay ( ↑ 35)
34. Patrick Patterson ( ↑ 34)
33. Jerome Williams ( ↑ 33)
32. Jalen Rose ( ↑ 32)
31. Danny Green ( 31)
30. Cory Joseph ( ↑ 30)
29. Terrence Ross ( ↑ 28)
28. Walt Williams ( ↑ 27)
27. Marcus Camby ( ↑ 24)
26. Tracy Murray ( ↑ 23)
25. Keon Clark ( ↑ 22)
24. MARC GASOL ( ↓ 25); 70 GP / 62 Starts / 8.1 PTS / 6.4 REB / 3.5 AST / 55.6 TS%
If this were a list of my all-time favourite Raptors to watch play basketball, Gasol would be in the top ten, no question. As it is, this is supposed to be an objective exercise. Injuries and post-season ineffectiveness against Brooklyn and Boston keep him from climbing past old pals and favourites Alvin Williams and Charles Oakley, even though neither of the latter altered the way I watch and enjoy basketball the way Gasol did. Having now seen Gasol work his magic from the elbows and quarterback Toronto’s shape-shifting defense for a year and a half, I never wanna watch a Raptors team without a hoops genius manning the five again.
It doesn’t seem like Gasol will be back, which would be a big blow — ragged close to the season or not. Nobody drove positive play for the Raptors when on the court this season as well as Gasol, even as his hamstrings frayed into pulled pork. It still hasn’t been confirmed that he’s going to play in Barcelona this season, but for his sake I hope he does. The coast of the Mediterranean seems like an alright place to be as the Western Hemisphere collapses. If this is the end of the line for Gasol in Toronto, I’m not sure anyone’s earned more fan adulation per minute played in the uniform. Big Spain forever.
23. Alvin Williams ( ↑ 21)
22. Charles Oakley ( ↑ 20)
21. Morris Peterson ( ↑ 19)
20. Anthony Parker ( ↑ 18)
19. OG ANUNOBY ( ↓ 44); 210 GP / 136 Starts / 7.8 PTS / 3.5 REB / 1.0 AST / 57.9 TS% / 36.5 3FG%
Last year, following a personal and professional year from hell, OG suffered a six-spot drop in the rankings. That decision, which I think was defensible at the time, was made with the understanding that it could look pretty stupid whenever I revisited this list. If I owned a barn, there would now be chicken’s in there, boastfully roosting.
OG spent year three in Toronto transforming into one of the most menacing wing defenders on the planet, all-the-while flashing glimpses of an ascendant repertoire of secondary scorer skills. Then came the post-season, during which it was difficult to overstate the size of his honking grapes.
I struggled with where to place OG among this grouping of all-time Raptors supporting wings, so much so that I even put it to Twitter to help me rank Parker, Mo Pete, OG and Doug Christie from best to worst. Ultimately, I think this is the correct spot.
I’ve been historically lower on Mo Pete than most Raptors fans. He was an excellent Raptor, but it’s also important to consider the context of his time with the team. Through little fault of his own, the team was a rudderless garbage barge during his run — a time dominated by Vince Carter’s departure, and a revolving door of post-prime sub-stars. The fact that Peterson was the one dude who hung around through it all inflates both his reputation and overall number accrual. In terms of earnestly driving winning, Parker was simply better — to the degree that he supplanted Mo Pete during the 2006-07 season. This year’s version of OG was better player than either at their peak, and that’s before factoring in his game-winner against Boston, his game-tying shot against Cleveland in Game 3 back in 2018, or his work in the Great Scarf Wars of February 2020.
Were it not for missing the championship run entirely, OG would probably already be ahead of Christie, too. Christie’s teams didn’t win much, but he was a pillar during an era of the franchise that lacked them, while still ranking 9th in scoring, 2nd in steals, 7th in assists and 12th in games played to this day. OG’s one kick ass season away from leap-frogging him, but it’s not quite the time.
18. Doug Christie ( ↑ 17)
17. TJ Ford ( ↑ 15)
16. Tracy McGrady ( ↑ 13)
15. Donyell Marshall ( ↑ 12)
14. NORMAN POWELL ( ↓ 26); 307 GP / 89 Starts / 8.6 PTS / 2.4 REB / 1.3 AST / 36.1 3FG% / Reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week
It can feel sometimes like Norman Powell’s been a Raptor for something much less than five seasons. His time with Toronto has been defined by stops and starts, in his health and in his role, leaving very little in the way of a linear career arc to follow. Before the 2019-20 season, you’d have been forgiven for no longer believing there was a more refined and consistent Powell left to emerge. Sure his annual playoff outbursts were great, even essential to the Raptors staying the course that led to the title. But eventually, especially with the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, a semblance of night-to-night reliability from Powell was gonna be a must. And goddamnit if it didn’t come when it was needed most.
Even though injuries once again worked to derail his season in 2019-20, Powell came back from each ailment inexplicably more efficient than before. In the post-season, he rebounded from an even effort only to turn in an all-time Raptors playoff performance, chipping in a critical 23 points in the Raptors’ Game 6 double OT win over Boston.
At this point the playoff resumé for Powell is undeniable. Between Game 6 this year, the half dozen or so times he’s ripped out the guts of the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Game 5 dunk against Indiana as a rookie, there are what, three or four Raptors in history with more landmark post-season moments? Even if this past year’s ludicrous efficiency was a one year anomaly, his top-15 status is sealed. If it’s the new norm (hah), then the top 10 or 12 is well within reach too.
13. FRED VANVLEET ( ↓ 16); 231 GP / 82 Starts / 10.5 PTS / 2.6 REB / 4.1 AST / 39.3 3FG%
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: I really don’t want this to be the last time Fred gets to make a jump in these rankings. He is a boss; one of the players most emblematic of everything that’s gone right for the Raptors since he entered the league. Without his baby-charmed run of shooting in the back half of the 2019 playoffs, the Raptors probably aren’t NBA champions.
This season’s rise to full-time starter, borderline All-Defense guard, fringe All-Star contender, and perhaps the top available free agent in his class was nothing short of inspiring. It was just the beaten down Nets, but watching him carve Brooklyn like a plump melon over the course of the Raptors’ first round sweep felt like a graduation ceremony, marking VanVleet’s leaving behind of his old cutesy role player status.
Edging past Amir Johnson and Antonio Davis will probably take one more season like the one we just saw. While the majority of VanVleet’s resumé is nails, there are still some playoff no-shows to account for. His vaunted Bench Mob was a disaster in the spring of 2018, and before his outburst against the Bucks last year he was borderline unplayable. Boston also posed a tricky match-up, and it’s hard not to think we may be reflecting on a different result if it were Kyle Lowry orchestrating Toronto’s final possession of the year instead of the dribble-happy VanVleet.
None of this is to suggest Fred doesn’t rule, or that he’s not worthy of getting paid by the Raptors, or that he won’t eventually inch closer to the top-10 if he sticks around. Inertia is powerful, though, and Amir and AD are pretty firmly cemented in Raptors lore because of their charisma and on-court play. They represent the border between awesome Raptors and all-timers. Passing them requires an ironclad mix of both production and likeability — something the new number 10 in the rankings has locked down in a way Fred hasn’t quite just yet.
12. Amir Johnson ( ↑ 11)
11. Antonio Davis ( ↑ 9)
10. SERGE IBAKA ( ↓ 14); 228 GP / 177 Starts / 14.2 PTS / 7.4 REB / 1.2 BLK / 57.7 TS% / ‘How Hungry Are You?’ / ‘Avec Classe’ / Scarf-wearing Championship Belt Holder
In the spring of 2018, Serge Ibaka looked positively cooked; benched on a team that had roughly three effective players by the end of their round two sweep against the Cavs. Between the hiring if Nick Nurse and the Kawhi Leonard trade that summer, a lot of Raptors fans’ brain power went toward concocting moves to free the team from the two years and over $40 million still owed to a guy who at that point looked like a negative asset.
Then in mid-July, a modest video featuring old pal Bismack Biyombo populated Ibaka’s YouTube page, beginning maybe the most dramatic reputation turnaround in Raptors history.
Between his eye for incredible content, his open acceptance of a backup centre role, and his propensity for coming up huge when it’s been most needed, Ibaka’s gone from scapegoat to unassailable franchise legend in just two years. Had you polled a Raptors fan after the last Cavs sweep whether they’d want to see Ibaka hang around beyond the life of his existing three-year deal, you’d have been choked out like you were Marquese Chriss. Now, the team’s best-case scenario involves paying him another twenty-something million bucks to stay on for one more year.
He doesn’t have the All-Star selection that Antonio Davis earned, nor the longevity of Amir Johnson. But he’s a better overall player than the latter, while providing some of the most charming and enlightening instances of off-court magic ever served up to Raptors fans, something AD simply didn’t dabble much in. Should he stick around and earn a starting job in the event Gasol doesn’t join him, there’s a path for Ibaka to climb even higher — a truly remarkable fact considering the lows he’s endured.
9. Damon Stoudamire ( ↑ 8)
8. Jonas Valanciunas ( ↑ 7)
7. José Calderon ( ↑ 6)
6. PASCAL SIAKAM ( ↓ 10); 276 GP / 122 Starts / 12.8 PTS / 5.6 REB / 2.3 AST / 57.7 TS% / 2019 Most Improved Player / 2020 All-Star Starter / 2020 All-NBA Second Team
How do you weigh one disastrous playoff performance against and otherwise squeaky clean resumé? Deciding just how much to ding Siakam for what took place against Boston in the Bubble is among the tougher calls I had to make this year. Had he played up to even 80 percent of his regular season form, the Raptors probably advance to the Conference Finals, with a damn good shot at making a return trip to the series everyone wants to be in. In doing so, Siakam may have had to juice to edge into the top five ahead of Chris Bosh, who in his entire Raptors tenure played as many post-season games as Siakam did this year alone. Bosh has the longevity, the multiple All-Star selections, a matching Second Team All-NBA nod, and the high ranking in just about every stat column, but two straight years of deep playoff success for Pascal would have been pretty undeniable. As such, Siakam did not play to that level. Not even close, which he’d surely be the first to tell you, so he’ll need to wait a year at minimum to bust into the top five.
No number of failed post-ups against Jaylen Brown was going to keep Siakam from leap-frogging from 10th to 6th, however. Siakam already outpaces Stoudamire in games played 276 to 200, and in his current ascendant form drives winning more than the 5’10” Mighty Mouse ever realistically could. As far as Valanciunas and Calderon, being absolutely wonderful dudes with good numbers and longevity certainly works in their favour, but neither ever sniffed being All-Star starter good, nor led the scoring charge on a team with a .736 win percentage while still learning on the job.
It’s easy to let recency bias cloud your feelings about Siakam. But to get hung up on a dozen or so bad bubble games is to entirely miss the point. This season was never about Siakam being a surefire number one star; it was about he and the Raptors learning whether he can be one. Maybe he can’t, though far be it from me to write off a guy on a once-in-a-generation development curve before he gets the chance to sit with and learn from his post-season mistakes.
But even if he’s never the type of heliocentric star you wanna hitch your whole franchise’s wagon to, Siakam doesn’t have to be. He’s already proven he can be at worst the third-best player on a title team, and it’s probably safe to say he can be a just dandy number two. That’s a worthy max player, and someone the Raptors can use to sell Toronto as a place in which other stars can win. Considering we’re three calendar years removed from Siakam being quite possibly the worst rotation player in basketball, Raptors fans should be thrilled to the point of delirium instead stewing over one ugly speed bump of a series.
5. Chris Bosh ( ↔ 5)
4. DeMar DeRozan ( ↔ 4)
3. Vince Carter ( ↔ 3)
2. Kawhi Leonard ( ↔ 2)
Shoulda stayed, dude.
1. KYLE LOWRY ( ↔ 1); 555 GP / 17.6 PTS / 4.9 REB / 7.1 AST / 37.5 3FG% / 6x All-Star / 2016 Third-Team All NBA / NBA Championship / King of the Goddamn World
There isn’t much left to say about Kyle Lowry that I didn’t already put into my piece reviewing Lowry’s season just a few weeks back. It is worth pointing out, however, that it’s about time we stop pretending the best Raptor of all time conversation is still one worth having. You’ll still hear the topic broached every now and again, either on a broadcast or a panel or a podcast. Stop it. It’s not a conversation that’s been interesting since about 2018, let alone in a post-title, post Fuck You 2019-20 campaign world. Not only is Lowry the best Raptor of all time by several orders of magnitude, but it’s hard to imagine a world where he’s surpassed by anyone currently on the roster, at least not any time soon. Siakam is incredible, but even for him, sniffing Lowry’s status by the time his new contract ends seems pretty farfetched considering the magnitude of what Lowry’s accomplished.
On the heels of Lowry’s most impressive season to date, which included a couple of his greatest ever playoff performances, the questions about his legacy should be directed towards bigger things than his standing within one franchise. For Lowry, it’s now about Hall-of-Fame debates, which frankly aren’t so much debates anymore as they are agreeable discussions about how much he kicks ass. From now until the end of time — or at least until the end of Giannis’ Canadian three-peat in 2025 — it’s Kyle Lowry Over Everybody in Toronto, just the way it should be.