The Toronto Raptors have depth at all five positions, but which positional group ranks the best?
Over the past few years, the Toronto Raptors have had a knack for developing young talent while simultaneously remaining competitive. Just last year, the Raptors had the NBA's Most Improved Player in Pascal Siakam and won the NBA title for the first time in franchise history.
This season saw the Raptors stay on course for yet another successful season. They sit second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 46-18 and already have a spot in the playoffs - whenever they may be, due to the NBA being on a current hiatus due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
For now, all we can do is wait for basketball to come back into our lives. It might not be in the not-so-distant future, but sooner rather than later, basketball will be back and the Toronto Raptors will likely step back into a position of winning.
No other team in the NBA has been able to replicate the formula quite like the Raptors. Only the San Antonio Spurs have been able to do so, but they look to finally miss out on the playoffs in the 2019-20 NBA season.
From top to bottom, the Raptors have an impressive roster. Their mix of young upcoming talent and hardworking and smart veterans positions them as one of the best rosters in the NBA, but keeping things in house, how do the Raptors position groups rank amongst each other?
How do the Raptors power forwards rank against the centers, and which group is crowned as the best group on the roster?
Let's find out.
Players: OG Anunoby, Patric McCaw, Malcolm Miller, Stanley Johnson
The Raptors have more depth at small forward than anywhere else but in terms of actual quality, it's their lowest-ranking positional group. That's not to say that it's a bad group, by any means, but the Raptors have more talent elsewhere.
OG Anunoby is the obvious starter and one of the premier wing-defenders in the NBA, even at just 22 years old. After a strong rookie season, Anunoby fell by the wayside in his sophomore year on account of the arrival of Kawhi Leonard. After just one season in Toronto, Leonard left and Anunoby assumed his role as the starting small forward once more.
In 63 games this year, Anunoby has averaged 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists a night, shooting 51-percent from the field and 38-percent, a stark improvement across the board, Elsewhere, Patrick McCaw shows flashes of potential but is often a frustrating presence due to his lack of offensive sparkle.
Malcolm Miller has been a fringe contributor for the Raptors over the past three seasons but injuries have frequently derailed his progress, while Stanley Johnson hasn't had much of a look in this season. When he has, he hasn't impressed.
Anunoby is definitely the headliner of the group, but after him, the Raptors' depth at small forward is a little iffy. McCaw could turn into a competent role player, but he still has to show signs of life on offense. For now, this group ranks last.
Players: Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas
In all honesty, the next four positional groups rank pretty close to each other in terms of depth and overall quality, so this gets a little difficult and maybe becomes more of personal preference. For now, the shooting guard trio of Norman Powell, Terence Davis, and Matt Thomas ranks fourth.
The standout of the group is definitely Norman Powell, who put forth a career-year in the 2019-20 NBA season. If the season returns in the not-so-distant future, expect Powell to carry on from where he left off.
In 44 games ts season, Powell is averaging career-highs across the board, putting up 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, as well as 1.3 steals per game. On top of that, he's shooting 50-percent from the field and 40-percent from three, and his 62-percent TS% is by far a career-high.
Next in the pecking order at shooting guard are two rookies in Terence Davis and Matt Thomas. Davis has, by far, been the more impactful player for the Raptors in his debut year, and could well find himself on an All-NBA rookie team. He shows composure and decision-making that is not often found in a rookie, along with marksmen like shooting and a strong motor.
Matt Thomas, yet another marksman, rounds off the group. Thomas is the proprietor of one of the sweetest shooting strokes in the NBA and is shooting 47-percent from deep in his debut season with the Raptors.
Players: Pascal Siakam, Chis Boucher, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
This might come as a shock to some, especially since Pascal Siakam is one of the 20 best players in the NBA, but the Raptors power forward depth slides in at third place. There's a fair explanation to it, though.
Siakam is by far the most impactful player in the group, and easily the first or second-best player on the team. The NBA's Most Improved Player has been a revelation in his fourth season in the NBA, averaging 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game, shooting 46-percent from the field and 36-percent from deep.
It's been spoken about ad nauseam, but Siakam's rise is unlike anything we have ever seen in the NBA, and since his progression has been anything but linear, who knows how good he can really become. For now, he's still a superstar.
After Siakam, the drop off to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher is significant. The two power forwards have battled for the final spot in the rotation multiple times this season, with Hollis-Jefferson getting the edge.
Boucher is in the middle of a career-year while Hollis-Jefferson is trying to get his career kickstarted after being released by the Brooklyn Nets in the summer. Both have become valuable players in the Raptors rotation, even if they have specific limitations.
Players: Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Dewan Hernandez
With Gasol and Ibaka coming in as the one-two punch at the five, the Raptors have one of the best center combinations in the NBA. Gasol is a one-time Defensive Player of the Year and one of the best passing big men of all time, while Ibaka has gone from strength to strength since moving away from power forward last season.
Like Boucher, Ibaka is also in the middle of a career-year, averaging 16 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, shooting 52-percent from the field and 40-percent from three. With Gasol missing significant time this season, Ibaka has slotted into the starting role seamlessly, and before the NBA went on hiatus, he knocked down 27 points against the Utah Jazz, tying his career-high in three-pointers made at five.
Gasol's numbers have dropped dramatically in his age-35 season, but his impact is still evident. He's shooting 40-percent from three on 3.5 attempts per game and his interior defense anchors the second-best unit in the NBA. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed Gasol's season up until now.
Rounding off the group is Dewan Hernandez, who hasn't been seen on the court since December 12. The Raptors have high hopes for the rookie, but so far, he hasn't had much of a chance to showcase his talents due to injury.
It's worth noting that while this is, probably, the second-most talented group on the roster, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are both free agents this season and it's hard to see the Raptors keeping both.
Players: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet
The best position group for the Toronto Raptors shouldn't come as a shock, the point guards lead the pack in the North. Fred VanVleet technically operates as a shooting guard for the Toronto Raptors this year, but his primary position still should be as a point guard.
The combination of Kyle Lowry and VanVleet gives the Raptors some of the best point guard depth in the league, and both are within the top 10-15 of the position. It's fair to say that Lowry has been one of the best point guards in the NBA this year.
Lowry has played in 52 games for the Raptors this season and during that time, he's averaged 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game, shooting 42-percent from the field and 35-percent from deep. As always, Lowry's raw numbers don't tell all the story, even if they are highly impressive. He ranks in the top-30 for PIPM once again and has one of the best multi-year PIPM numbers in the league.
His backcourt compatriot, Fred VanVleet, is having a career-year of his own and has slotted into the starting role with consummate ease. VanVleet is averaging 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game, shooting 41-percent from the field and 39-percent from deep.
There aren't many backcourt duos that give out the same production as VanVleet and Lowry. With VanVleet heading into free agency and Lowry having just one more year left on his deal, the Raptors will do all they can to keep the two with the team moving forward.
From top to bottom, the Raptors have a strong roster, but the point guard's stand out as the best of the bunch.