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Ranking Every Raptor, Version 4.0: Some dudes you’ll probably forget, and a few you won’t (249 to 125)

The most tedious of grand HQ traditions returns! Let’s rank every Raptor.

Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors Photo by Scott Audette/NBAE via Getty Images

Until this year, this column has only ever existed alongside very good Toronto Raptors teams. Because of that, continuity has been a running theme through its first few editions. A guy earns a ranking one year, returns the following season, and through a mix of stat accumulation and personal growth, he experiences a well-earned bump up the charts the next time I sit down to assemble the rankings and/or question the decisions that led me to this annual slog that I’ll surely be posting anew each September until I’m dead.

Of course, the Raptors were not good this season. They were very bad, and on top of that, utterly depressing to watch for a good two and a half months to close the year. With a lottery-bound hell season comes a new look to this year’s all-time Raptor rankings.

Part of the fun assembling the original list back in 2018 was, to borrow David J. Roth’s now ubiquitous phrasing, Remembering Some Guys from the early and much darker days of Raptors basketball. Who doesn’t love reminiscing about when Jerome Moiso seemed like the answer at center, or when Mikael Pietrus was for a moment the fifth-best small forward to ever wear the jersey. These are the types of grimy depths your brain goes to when you’re in the throws of real ass sports fandom.

During the shortened Tampa season, the Raptors rolled out 22 different players for at least one game. Only nine of those players are slated to be on the team this season — and just six players still on the roster today were on the team when the nightmare garbage campaign began. All of this is to say: last year’s Raptors team was loaded with dudes we’ll maybe one day remember, or perhaps not. So while the 27-45, COVID-addled end to the Raptors’ playoff streak may have been a bummer in the moment, it did bless us with the Alex Len and Paul Watson-types who will become the Patrick O’Bryants and Sundiata Gaineses for a new generation of Raptors fans in twenty year’s time. So really, who’s to say if the 2020-21 season was actually a failure after all.

This is Ranking Every Raptor, Version 4.0, Part 1.

249. Alonzo Mourning

248. Kenny Anderson

Toronto’s two chief personas non grata remain in the ceremonial spots despite very loudly having never played for the team.

247. LaMark Baker

246. William Cunningham

245. Bob McCann

244. Garth Joseph

243. Ed Stokes

242. Rick Brunson

241. Nathan Jawai

240. Antonio Lang

239. Shamorie Ponds

238. Chris Garner

237. Aleksandar Radojevic

236. Uros Slokar

235. Rafael Araujo

234. Alex Len (Prev: N/A)— 7 GP, 10.9 mpg, 2.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, -0.1 VORP

Our first new entry of the year is Alex Len, who comes in beneath the all-important Hoffa Meridian on the strength of that time he hit a few threes against the Knicks in Toronto’s first win of the season. Sadly, Len’s 11 points that night would account for 69 percent of his scoring output over seven games — two of which were freaking starts! Upon his release from the Raptors in mid-January, Len would go on to have a reasonably successful season as part of a bizzarro big man rotation with the play-in bound Wizards, but that does not mean a damn thing for our purposes. The man lost a position battle with Aron Baynes. Even if his release was a little curious for a team without much in the way of bigs, Len was never going to be the answer to Toronto’s center woes. He was just too damn slow. Plus, his departure helped clear the way for the Raptors to lean into small-ball, which if you recall, turned out some pretty exciting results before the plague hit the team’s best players.

233. Ronald Dupree

232. Linton Johnson

231. Hassan Adams

230. Micheal Williams

229. Zendon Hamilton

228. Tim Kempton

227. Earl Cureton

226. Herb Williams

225. Henry Ellenson (Prev: N/A) — 2 GP, 19.0 mpg, 7.5 points 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists

Of all the players to soak up minutes during the garbage time that was the March to May stretch of this past season, Henry Ellenson is definitely the garbage time-iest. He managed some decent production in a couple games while on a 10-day, including a 9-point, 9-rebound, 3-assist debut against the Hornets, where his +17 on the night ranked second on the team. But Ellenson’s refusal to even acknowledge defense as being 50 percent of the sport was what ultimately spelled the end of his brief stint in Toronto, and likely his NBA career.

Fun fact about Ellenson: he hasn’t recorded a block in an NBA game since he had two on the final day of the 2018-19 regular season — his only recorded blocks in 17 games that year, and two of the three he’s been credited for in 83 games and nearly 800 career NBA minutes. He is 6-foot-10.

224. Negele Knight

223. Eric Moreland

222. Dewan Hernandez

221. Jannero Pargo

220. Austin Daye

219. Mengke Bateer

218. Tyrone Corbin

217. Malachi Richardson

216. DJ Augustin

215. Rodney Hood (Prev: N/A) — 17 GP, 12.7 mpg, 3,9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 50.0 TS%

For a fleeting moment, Hood and his smooth lefty stroke looked just maybe like the type of bench piece that could help stabilize the roster for a last ditch play-in push. In his second game with the team, he rung up 13 points against the Blazers in one of the lower stakes revenge games you’ll ever see. The teensy modicum of self-creation he brought to the table made him look like Thunder-era James Harden in comparison with the rest of Toronto’s bench hands.

That game would regrettably stand as his career-best performance with Toronto, as a first half injury a couple nights later in OKC effectively removed him from the second unit plans save for a couple brief stretches in which he soaked up meaningless minutes in forgettable April games.

The greatest indignity of his time in Toronto, however, is that he wasn’t used to match salary in my long-dreamt of draft day fantasy trade for Myles Turner. Oh well. Best of luck in Milwaukee, Big Rod.

214. Sean Marks

213. Brad Lohaus

212. Jake Voskuhl

211. Benoit Benjamin

210. Roy Rogers

209. Haywoode Workman

208. Jimmy Oliver

207. Julyan Stone

206. Corie Blount

205. Art Long

204. Anthony Bennett

203. Jamaal Magloire

202. Aaron Williams

201. Alfonzo McKinnie

200. Nate Huffman

199. Trey Johnson

198. Lloyd Daniels

197. Robert Archibald

196. Jermaine Jackson

195. Derrick Dial

194. Damone Brown

193. Donald Whiteside

192. Kornel David

191. Vincenzo Esposito

190. Anthony Carter

189. Lorenzo Brown

188. Primoz Brezec

187. Oshae Brissett

186. Patrick O’Bryant

185. Eric Montross

184. Dwight Buycks

183. David Andersen

182. Jason Thompson

181. Alexis Ajinca

180. Nando de Colo

179. Rasual Butler

178. Jodie Meeks

177. John Long

176. Aron Baynes (Prev: N/A) — 53 GP, 31 starts, 18.5 minutes, 6.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, 26.2 3FG%, 50.3 TS%, -0.7 VORP

I promise this will be the last time I pile on Aron Baynes for his supremely disappointing season with the Raptors. At this point, it feels more mean-spirited than constructive to point out all that went wrong for Baynes in Tampa, but this isn’t RuPaul’s Best Friend Ranking. While he didn’t earn the money of say Hedo Turkoglu or DeMarre Carroll, Baynes still finds himself on the short list of the most underperforming free agent signings in team history.

When the signing was announced, it was pretty easy to talk yourself into Baynes being a perfectly cromulent stop-gap, and well worth the downgrade from Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol in exchange for hoarding cap space for a certain Milwaukee Bucks then-free agent to be. If you think you have a five percent chance to sign a two-time MVP, you keep that door open as long as possible. In theory, all Baynes had to do was provide sound rim protection behind a very strong set of perimeter defenders, launch threes with the volume and accuracy he showed off in Phoenix the year prior, and clean up the glass.

He did none of those things. His three point shooting proved to be fool’s gold, and his lack of mobility did not mesh at all with Toronto’s complex defensive scheme (though perhaps Nick Nurse could have simplified things for his clearly substandard personnel). To boot, he proved that it is in fact possible for a big man to fail when working alongside Kyle Lowry, though Lowry hardly takes any blame for Baynes’ inability to catch basic passes on the dive. Toronto’s original starting five of Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Baynes scratched out a -4.2 NET Rating over 114 minutes together — this despite the Lowry-VanVleet-Anunoby-Siakam core putting up a +8.5 NET Rating in the 472 minutes they shared overall.

It wasn’t all terrible for Baynes with the Raptors. His eventual move to the bench saw him form a rather stout reserve front court pairing alongside Chris Boucher, coinciding with Toronto’s most successful stretch of basketball on the year. But the moment that near-perfect environment was disturbed by COVID absences, Baynes reverted back to unplayability.

It is a shame things with Baynes went so sour. He genuinely seemed like a good and fun guy to have around, but the circumstances around his arrival left him as an easy whipping boy for both the team and fans alike. He replaced not one but two beloved members of the title roster, and did not have it in him to overcome the many problems the 2020-21 team had on and off the floor.

While he failed in his role, the Raptors also failed Baynes. Adrian Griffin’s “the last time we had bigs was Marc and Serge” quote when talking about Khem Birch’s post-deadline arrival was an especially unnecessary kick to the ribs of a guy who was already down bad. For a team that prides itself on its treatment of players, the entire Baynes ordeal will go down as a regrettable and hopefully isolated deviation from the norm. Here’s hoping his injury recovery is going well. It would be pretty cool to see him have a big revenge game against the Raptors if he’s able to get back into the league one day.

175. Michael Curry

174. Greg Foster

173. Chris Jefferies

172. Dominic McGuire

171. Roger Mason

170. Bruno Caboclo

169. Martin Lewis

168. Carlos Arroyo

167. Greg Stiemsma

166. Jalen Harris (Prev: N/A) — 13 GP, 13.2 minutes, 7.5 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 31 points vs. DAL on 05/14/21

It’s possible Jalen Harris’ late-season spell of bucket-getting was a by-product of a team simply playing out the string of a lost season, but it would have been cool to find out how legit Harris was in 2021-22. However, because the NBA views recreational drug use to be a substantially more severe offense than, say, domestic violence, Harris won’t get that chance. He’s suspended for a year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Being a former 59th-overall pick with fringy skills, it’s quite possible that ham-fisted punishment will cost him his NBA career.

Everyone should be rooting for Harris to light it the hell up in Italy this season, and for the NBA to stop testing grown ass adults for drugs.

165. Solomon Alabi

164. Maceo Baston

163. John Thomas

162. Mamadou N’Diaye

161. Freddie Gillespie (Prev: N/A) — 20 GP, 2 starts, 19.6 minutes, 5.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.0 blocks

That Raptors fans were elated over Freddie Gillespie’s mix of pretty good rebounding and rim protection speaks to the dire state of the team’s center position last season. This isn’t to say Gillespie isn’t a legit NBA player, because he just might be, but the bar to clear for incoming Toronto big men was buried deep in a central Florida swamp.

Whether Gillespie will get a chance to improve upon his ranking next season is a bit up in the air. He had a brutal time at Summer League, and his overall lack of an offensive game makes him a bit of a tricky fit on a team that already figures to have trouble scoring. Khem Birch and Precious Achiuwa are clearly ahead of him on the center depth chart. Beyond that, Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby could all receive minutes at the five ahead of Gillespie as well.

Personally, I’m rooting him to earn a roster spot in camp. I’m a sucker for a good G-League-to-NBA success tale, and an even bigger mark for players singing in the name of social content.

160. Marcus Banks

159. Malcolm Miller

158. Dion Glover

157. Sebastian Telfair

156. Luke Jackson

155. Mickael Pietrus

154. Jimmy King

153. Hubert Davis

152. Jared Sullinger

151. Nigel Hayes

150. Sundiata Gaines

149. Quincy Douby

148. Dan O’Sullivan

147. Paul Watson Jr. (Prev: 184) — 35 GP, 2 starts, 4.1 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 46.9 3FG%, 30 points vs. ORL on 04/16/21

It sucks that Paul Watson Jr.’s first run of steady NBA minutes was smashed to bits by a COVID ordeal that stole away a month’s worth of opportunity to make a case to stick around in Toronto beyond 2021. He had the look of another feather in the Raptors’ development cap, posting 30 points on 10-of-13 shooting in what would be his second-to-last game with the team. You can understand why the front office prioritized younger, more moldable prospects like Dalano Banton, David Johnson and Justin Champagnie when filling out their main roster and two-way spots, and there’s no doubt that Yuta Watanabe flashed more than Watson in terms of tangible NBA impact as a bench wing. But none of it makes it any more fair to Watson. He’s thankfully landed a spot with the Thunder, where he’ll be like the third best player on the roster. I root for every player to earn a real NBA payday, but there are few I’ve wanted it for more than Watson.

146. Justin Dentmon

145. Eric Williams

144. Jordan Loyd

143. Fred Jones

142. John Salmons

141. Patrick McCaw (Prev: 135) — 68 GP, 13 starts, 3.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 52.4 TS%, 1 Championship ring

Yeah, I kind of forgot McCaw was on the roster this season. He played a total of five games during the middle chunk of the year, but the knee issues that have bothered him for a couple seasons ultimately spelled the end for one of just a few remaining members of the championship roster. Regrettably for McCaw, he wasn’t able to pad his ranking, and in fact drops six spots this year. His injuries clearly left Nick Nurse uncomfortable with giving him the 24 minutes a night he desperately wanted to, minutes that surely would have come with enough production to secure a modest bump towards the top-130.

McCaw was a very easy player to groan about during his three seasons in Toronto, but he will always be able to claim the three-pointer he canned in the 2019 Finals, on top of the three championships he won in three years. A lot of people grow up wanting to be superstar pro athletes, which McCaw certainly was not. Personally, I think McCaw’s five seasons of minimal playing time, maximum winning, and around $11 million in earnings is the platonic ideal of an NBA career, and that he should be applauded for it.

140. Dwayne Whitfield

139. Gary Forbes

138. Michael Bradley

137. Rod Strickland

136. Jerome Moiso

135. Pape Sow

134. Andre Barrett

133. Will Solomon

132. Julian Wright

131. Omar Cook

130. Matt Thomas (Prev: 109) — 67 GP, 1 start, 4.1 points, 1.2 rebounds, 45.7 3FG%

Well the Matt Thomas experience got dark pretty fast, huh. On the heels of a bubble performance where Thomas hit many threes and simply did not get roasted on defense, there was a lot of hope coming into the 2020-21 campaign that he could be a viable rotation piece for the Raptors.

As it turns out, being 6’2 and having exactly one notable NBA skill makes you pretty easy to game plan for. And for a team with dwindling defensive personnel capable of covering for Thomas in carefully-designed zone setups, his relative fineness down in Disney proved unsustainable.

That Toronto was able to net a second-round pick (I really couldn’t tell you if it was the Dalano Banton or David Johnson pick that came from this deal) is a slept on bit of deadline business by the front office. Yeah, we lost Alex Wong’s Matt Thomas content in the deal, but the outlook for Alex’s posts about Banton looks pretty promising.

129. Milt Palacio

128. Roko Ukic

127. Sharone Wright

126. Greg Monroe

125. Yuta Watanabe (Prev: N/A) — 50 GP, 4 starts, 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 40.0 3FG%, 1 Death by Anthony Edwards

Every year when I assemble this list I try to pinpoint which player stands a chance of climbing the most spots in next year’s rankings. And while we’re not exactly overflowing with options this year with so few returning faces, Watanabe is clearly the leading contender for a significant rise by 2022.

Yuta combines every element you want to see in a darling role player. He defends like a maniac, which endears him not just to viewers but to Nick Nurse’s lunatic-leaning sensibilities as well. He connects plays as a willing and surprisingly deft passer. Apparently he’s a 40 percent three point shooter as well? Sure, we could see that number fall back to earth a bit next year, but the notable bump in confidence he displayed as the season progressed, coupled with the fact that Raptors’ offensive ecosystem should create regular open looks for Watanabe as a likely fifth option in most lineups, gives him a decent shot at replicating his career-best year from downtown. On top of everything else, he’s a charming dude, seemingly unfazed even when at the wrong end of one of the loudest dunks in the last 20 years of NBA basketball.

It was DeAndre’ Bembry’s fault anyway.

Look for Yuta to flirt with the Top-100 next season as the likely 11th man when the Raptors are at full health. If he can make good on likely rotation duty while Pascal Siakam misses the first month or so of the season, then a spot in Top-80 or so isn’t totally out of the question. It’s not like it’s that hard to supplant Linas Kleiza.

Check back next week for the rest of this year’s rankings!