How do the Raptors' stars rank among NBA returners?
It's all about star power when the NBA playoffs roll around.
Toronto Raptors fans have learned and re-learned that lesson year after year. From 2014-2019, it was DeMar DeRozan who led the Raptors to fantastic regular seasons only for his flaws to be exposed in the playoffs and for Toronto to head home early. Then, last year, Kawhi Leonard showed Raptors fans what a true star can do, leading the team to the promised land for the first time in franchise history.
This year, the Raptors will once again enter the playoffs without a true superstar leading the way.
So where exactly do the Raptors top players rank as the season returns?
Pascal Siakam slotted in as the 14th best player among NBA players returning this season, according to Sports Illustrated's Michael Shapiro.
"Perhaps we’re falling to a victim of small sample size here, and there’s a chance Siakam isn’t quite up to the role of leading man down in Orlando. I’ll still trust what we’ve seen thus far," Shapiro wrote. "The Cameroon native filled the void left by Kawhi Leonard with aplomb this season, averaging 23.6 points per game on 46% shooting. Siakam has held his three-point percentage steady despite more than doubling his attempts–Simmons could only dream of that growth–and his spin move remains the game’s best. Toronto’s latest homegrown star won’t have to shoulder the load alone for the defending champs, which should help him thrive in the postseason. There’s a chance Siakam creeps toward the top 12 after the 2020 playoffs."
Siakam falls between Philadelphia's Ben Simmons at No. 15 and Boston's Jayson Tatum at No. 13 on Shapiro's rankings.
As for Toronto's No. 2 guy, Shapiro has Kyle Lowry ranked 20th among returning players.
"Lowry has the least impressive statistical profile of anyone on our list, but his value to Toronto is undeniable," Shapiro wrote. "The 2019 champion is a true tone-setter for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, guiding a collection of young talents seamlessly out of the Kawhi Leonard era. Lowry’s shooting efficiency has taken a dip this year, but lineups featuring Lowry consistently outscore teams by a marked margin. Lowry could very well lead the Raptors to a second straight Finals appearance if they hit their stride in Orlando."
Lowry falls ahead of Milwaukee's Khris Middleton and behind Boston's Kemba Walker in Shapiro's rankings. He trails Walker, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Simmons, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard as the seventh-best returning point guard on the list.