The Toronto Raptors are trying to mold themselves into a team that can compete for a postseason spot after the embarrassment of last season, and the only way they can defy all of the preseason doubters stems from Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby taking big sets forward.
While the league generally regards Anunoby as a solid two-way presence and Barnes as a toolsy young player with room to grow, ESPN’s latest iteration of their “NBArank” power ranking series has both of these studs on the outside of the top 50 players.
Anunoby came in as the No. 67 player in the league. This designation puts him ahead of names like Chicagio’s Nikola Vucevic, Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. (who was the No. 3 scorer on the NBA champion Nuggets). The league recognized his sterling defense and felt it was worthy of higher praise.
Barnes clocked in at No. 63 overall. That doesn’t sound terrible, but when you realize he fell over 20 spots after being slotted in at No. 39 last season. Barnes will need to show that his struggles on offense were a product of Nick Nurse and not his own declining skills.
Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes ranked in Top 100 players
When you flatline as a scorer and take a slight step backward as a shooter, players like Memphis’ Marcus Smart, Orlando’s Franz Wagner, and the cadaver of Draymond Green pass you in these rankings. Even old teammate Fred VanVleet, who struggled with efficiency last season, was ahead of him at No. 56.
Meanwhile, Anunoby might be shedding his tag of being perpetually underrated after finally staying healthy enough to be honored by the NBA’s All-Defensive Team. Anunoby is not only the league’s most versatile defensive player and steals champion, but he has also quietly become a very effective 3-point shooter.
With Pascal Siakam assuredly going to feature in ESPN’s Top 50 players that have not been released yet, Toronto can sell fans on a team with three top 70 players on the roster and multiple honorable mentions in Gary Trent Jr. and Jakob Poeltl. Perhaps the cupboards aren’t so barren.
The Raptors have refused trades for Anunoby all offseason long and have talked up and down about what they think Scottie Barnes can be. They are deeply committed to these guys, even if one of them has taken a significant hit in the eyes of the analysis over in Bristol.