We all know Pascal Siakam ranks first, but who should be considered the third-best player on the Toronto Raptors right now?
The Toronto Raptors are Pascal Siakam‘s team. That wasn’t the case during the 2018-19 season, but it’s the case now and should be for at least the next half-decade, if not longer. That fact is no longer up for debate.
More contentious is the idea of how the pecking order falls below Siakam. An argument can be made for sliding Kyle Lowry into the bronze position of the Raptors, but he’s still much too valuable for that role. Perhaps by next year, he’ll be there, but for now, he remains the second-best player on the roster.
So who’s third? Let’s start by eliminating some people off the list. For starters, it has to be someone who sees the court for at least a quarter of any given game, meaning it can’t be Matt Thomas or Stanley Johnson. Chris Boucher has emerged as a revelation, but with no starts to his name this season, let’s cross him off as well.
Scoring isn’t everything in basketball, but it’s the most important thing a player can do. If you can’t score at least ten points per game, you can’t be the third-best player on your team. That knocks off Patrick McCaw, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis (though let’s ask him again in two to three years) and the rapidly declining Marc Gasol. That leaves just four choices and a more subjective discussion.
The first person to get rid of is Norman Powell. His role as a bucket-getter off the bench is invaluable to the team and can be one of the most important on a roster – just ask Lou Williams of the LA Clippers. But his defensive shortcomings ensure he can’t be the team’s third-best player.
The next to go is OG Anunoby, almost precisely for the opposite reason. While he’s arguably the team’s best defensive player (sporting a team-high 3.3 defensive win shares, per Basketball-Reference), his offensive game has yet to develop. Anunoby is averaging just 10.7 points and 1.6 assists per game this season. That being said, he’s still young and has plenty of room to grow.
That leaves Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet as the final two contenders to be Toronto’s third banana. The two players are clearly in different places in their respective careers, with VanVleet waxing and Ibaka waning. Here’s a comparison of their numbers this season:
- Ibaka: 16.0 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, 0.8 blocks per game
- VanVleet: 17.6 points per game, 6.6 assists per game, 1.9 steals per game
Add the fact that VanVleet is attempting (and making) nearly double the 3-point attempts Ibaka is and the picture becomes clear: VanVleet is the third-best player on the Raptors. In fact, there’s a decent chance he becomes the team’s second-best player by the time the 2020-21 season commences, whenever that will be.
While Ibaka falls short of being the team’s third-best player, that actually serves as a good omen for the Raptors. That means two of their three best players are 26 years old or younger (Siakam turns 26 next week), with Anunoby and Davis both being 22 years old right now.
As long as the Toronto Raptors can lock up their important pieces, the franchise should have a bright future.