Seemingly every year, sports media giant ESPN does long, exhaustive ranks of professional athletes in their sport, seen here #NBArank 1: LeBron James. While we could argue that the ranks are probably a bit arbitrary, they are good talking points and will elicit a good deal of argument in the twitter universe. While these rankings are subject to significant fluidity as the season goes along–our bold prediction of Eric Bledsoe, currently No. 63, making a move into the top 25–they are fun to analyze for the time being, and, interesting to view when it comes to the most crucial players on our teams. A couple of ranks stood out to us, especially Rudy Gay, and the company that he sits among. First, a couple of quick impressions on the ranks of some Raptors, full list here: #NBArank 2013: Toronto Raptors.
Amir Johnson, rank No. 165: This is fine. Johnson has said before that he cares nothing about stats or “being the man.” All he did last year is be efficient on offense and aggressive on defense. He probably will not move up in the rankings for next year and probably won’t move down. Johnson will not lose any sleep over that. Neither will the Raptors. They are a better team when he is playing.
Terrence Ross, No. 203: This could go way up. But if he comes in the game and hoists shot after shot while hovering around 40 percent, he will be an advanced metrics nightmare. If this rating is lower by this time next year, it will mean that the Raptors best hope for bench contribution will have struggled, and that will be a bad sign for this team.
DeMar DeRozan, No. 104: This is very interesting. A player who averaged more than 18 points per game ranked lower than the likes of J.J. Redick, Avery Bradley and Ray Allen. Wow. Obviously the people doing the rankings do not view DeRozan the same way we do. We have to assume that much of this is based on inefficient offense when offense is mostly what he contributes to the Raptors. We understand the concerns, but we believe that in a Jonas Valanciunas-centered offense, DeRozan will blossom and vault into a top-60 player on the next list. Stats may be down, but efficiency and league-wide respect and recognition will be up.
Rudy Gay, No. 55: This is where we take some particular interest. Not necessarily in the ranking itself, as Gay has shown enough in his career and the fact that he is entering his prime is enough to warrant such a spot, but more in the company that he surrounds himself with this rank. What we know about Gay so far in his career is that he continually putting up good numbers for reasonable and, lately, very good teams. He is usually the leading scorer and the guy with the ball in his hands at the end of the game. This can be an indicator of your franchise player, or simply the guy that is “supposed” to be this. Considering that Gay has been rumored in trades almost every season for the past four or so, it says that he has been in some sort of “player status purgatory” where no one can get a gauge on what he can be or what his role is in building an elite, championship squad. This should not be a concern with a player ranked this highly. For us, his ranking in the 50s only magnifies the view, looking at the other players who are grouped with him in these rankings. At Nos. 51, 52, and 59 are David Lee, Al Jefferson and Joe Johnson, respectively. What do they all have in common with No. 55 Rudy Gay? They are consistently talked about in trade rumors, often under the premise of, “He’s good, but it is too big a contract and he can’t be the main guy on a championship team.” We do not want to seem like we think it is a negative to be ranked there, but it shows that these guys are complimentary pieces, and they need to play as such, or else run the risk of being moved for cheaper, more flexible options. Our hope is that Gay knows his role, elite player contract aside, and be willing to be a main part in the Valanciunas-run Raptors machine.
Next week we will make some bold predictions for the Raptors before the first game. We hope bold enough to be heckled or heralded in future comments about where we get our ideas.