PER Rankings don’t flatter Raptors – concern or no?


Some Christmas Eve musings on stats, rookies, and youthful Raptors.

My love-hate relationship with PER, the ultimate synthetic NBA statistic, continues. While I’m viscerally leery of “snapshot” stats, I regularly examine the numbers throughout the season. This week, RealGM points out the leap Karl-Anthony Towns has made. For a rookie, even one drafted first overall, to be in the PER top-25 ranks is a huge accomplishment, and he just hopped into the #16 spot from #23 the prior week. He’s the only first-year man on the list, which has got to help his Rookie of the Year [ROY] chances. Towns has certainly improved the Minnesota Timberwolves. He bids fair to join Andrew Wiggins as consecutive ROY winners for the T’Wolves.

Rapture Nation is sophisticated enough not to need a long and tedious explanation of PER (Player Efficiency Rating). If you want details of how the stat is “constructed”, here’s a link. I like PER because it’s indisputable that the cream rises to the top with it. Who could argue with an MVP vote of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James? That matches their PER rankings to this moment in the season.

More from Raptors Rapture

The only Toronto Raptors player to crack the top 25 is Kyle Lowry at #13, with a 23.4 mark (an average player grades 15). DeMar DeRozan is at 20.8; his mark pulled down because of turnovers and poor shooting from beyond the arc.

Anyway, when was the last time the Raptors had a Towns-like impact rookie? Damon Stoudamire was ROY in 1995-96, as was Vince Carter 3 years later. Since then, nada. Andrea Bargnani was selected #1 overall in 2006 and finished an extremely distant second to Brandon Roy in ROY voting. Charlie Villanueva(!) did likewise to Chris Paul in 2005-06. Otherwise, no Raptor has been in the running this century.

Oct 12, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) comes up with a rebound against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors first-round draft selections, even in the lottery, have been noteworthy only for their slow development. DeMar DeRozan couldn’t muster a single vote for ROY, the same number as Terrence Ross. Jonas Valanciunas managed a couple of third-place votes (whoopee!).

Tying all this back to PER: the leaders [above] finished second, fourth, first and first, respectively in ROY voting in their year of eligibility. Top players separate themselves quickly from the pack. (Yes, there have been a few exceptions. I don’t think Michael Carter-Williams is bound for glory. Emeka Okafor flamed out, and Derrick Rose’s career has been blasted by injuries.) Other ROY winners: Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson…

I enjoyed seeing Delon Wright pressed into service against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, but he’s no ROY candidate. If he makes it as an NBA player, it won’t be for several years. Of course, Bruno Caboclo is the ultimate project player. Neither of these players is a flop; there’s lots of time. Given that both of these fellows were selected at #20, we shouldn’t be surprised at their maintaining the slow-growth pattern of Raptors rookies. (Note: that also applies to #46 pick Norman Powell).

Next: Raptors offer gifts to their fans

The Raptors as an organization are sufficiently well advanced not to need big moments from any rookie. Still, wouldn’t it be exciting to have a young man burst onto the scene in our colours?