AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Game Details

  • Tip Off: 4:00 p.m.
  • Television: CSN-BA

Toronto Raptors Team Profile

  • Offensive Efficiency: 103.9 (10th in NBA)
  • Defensive Efficiency: 105.3 (26th in NBA)


  • Points: DeMar DeRozan, 17.2 PPG
  • Rebounds: Ed Davis, 6.6 RPG
  • Assists: Jose Calderon, 7.4 APG
  • Steals: Kyle Lowry, 1.3 SPG
  • Blocks: Joans Valanciunas, 1.1 BPG
  • Field Goal Percentage: Ed Davis, 55.4% FG
  • 3-Point Field Goal Percentage: Jose Calderon, 43.45 3PT FG

Scope the Opposition: Raptors Republic.

Preview: The Toronto Raptors are currently in the midst of a disappointment season by virtue of their record as well as the performances of some of their top players.

And keep in mind, not only have their top guns not been up to par, but they’ve also dealt with injuries to key players, which obviously has had an impact in the team’s overall play in the 2012-13 regular season.

With that being said though, there’s a question about the Raptors that just keeps popping up in my head and that I just cannot seem to avoid: who is their best player?

If we go by salary for the next couple of years, we could go with either Andrea Bargnani or DeMar DeRozan.

If we base ourselves on statistical production, Kyle Lowry has the best PER (player efficiency rating) on the team.

However, if we rely on the eye test, the answer may just very well be Jose Calderon.

Confused? So am I.

Il Mago (Italian nickname for Bargnani that translates to the magician) was supposed to be the top dog on the Toronto Raptors because he was always the ultimate mismatch. Theoretically, no one is supposed to be able to defend a 7’0’’ big man with range that can also put the ball on the floor. But in actuality, Bargani has not only struggled to shoot the ball in the past two seasons, but he’s been an abysmal rebounder.

The sad truth is that few can truly judge him on his game, choosing instead to view him as the guy that should have been the next Dirk Nowitzki. An argument could be made that his injury this season has saved him from hostile Raptor fans.

DeRozan on the other hand is a combination of athleticism and actual basketball skill. He is a decent ball handler, good finisher and above average shooter in terms of long 2-point shots. There’s a solid shooting guard somewhere in there, except that we’ve only seen flashes.

His field goal percentage decreased in his first three seasons in the league, and so far this year he is only converting 43.9 percent of his field goals. The reason is simple: he just doesn’t attempt as many shots directly at the rim as some other notable shooting guards, and quite frankly he doesn’t convert a high enough percentage of those same shots.

Have a look at how he stacks up in terms of shot attempts per game at the rim and his conversion rate on these shots in comparison to other two-guards per Hoopdata:


FGA per game at rim

FG% shots at rim

James Harden



Kobe Bryant



Dwyane Wade



DeMar DeRozan



DeRozan is a decent ball handler but not a great one. Consequently, he can’t weave through defenses like Kobe, Harden or Wade; and in addition he doesn’t read defenses quite on their level. The end result is that he spends a considerable amount of time floating out on the perimeter.

One would expect that a player’s whose value is mostly predicating on scoring to be far more efficient, but the reality is that DeMar isn’t there yet.

That leaves us with Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon.

Those that have followed the Toronto Raptors are well aware that Calderon has often been marginalized and been rumored to be out the door. Part of that was because he has often been considered overpaid, but the other part is that he has been extremely underappreciated in his tenure in Toronto.

When T.J. Ford was acquired by the Raptors, he won the starting job and played well for the Raps until he got injured and Calderon had to step in. The Spaniard led the team and played superb basketball even when Ford returned to the lineup. Mind you, T.J. struggled coming off the bench, and Jose essentially volunteered to go back to the bench so that Ford could rejoin the starting unit and play his best ball. It’s worth noting that the Raptors’ all-time assists leader still shined in his role off the bench.

Ford eventually left town and the reins were given back to Calderon, but the team continued to lose games and thus the front office felt as though an upgrade was needed at the point guard position.

The Raptors brought in Kyle Lowry this past summer, and much like Ford, he played well but then faced a few injuries. Consequently, Calderon was once again thrust into the starting lineup with the former Wildcat now backing him up until this point in the campaign.

Lowry leads the team in PER while Calderon is second on the team.

Jose is averaging more assists and less turnovers than his teammate, all the while shooting the ball better. Lowry on the other hand is scoring more, but he’s also utilized more possessions, as evidenced by his superior usage rate (he leads Calderon 23.5 to 18.1) this season.

It’s worth mentioning that in January, the gap in usage has narrowed to the point that they are both using roughly the same amount of possessions, but Calderon has played better.

In the month of January, the Raptors offense has protected the ball far better with Calderon on the floor as opposed to Lowry. Indeed, NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that the with Calderon on the court, the Raptors turn the ball over 12.4 times per 48 minutes, whereas when Lowry is on the floor, the figure climbs to 14.8 per 48 minutes, but Toronto actually produces more points because of the increased 3-point shooting with the Villanova product on the floor.

Defensively though, it’s another head-scratcher. NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that the Raps allow less points per 48 minutes with Lowry on the court, but commit more fouls because of his often times over-aggressive defense.

So just who is the best player on the Raptors? I had to reach out to Sam Holako of Raptors Republic, the Toronto Raptors ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog. His answer:

That’s really a hard question…the popular choice would be DeMar since he’s leading the team in scoring; seems to have stepped up and doing a lot of good things on the court during the Raptors recent run at the playoffs. I’d have to go with Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon as 1a and 1b. Amir for being an utter beast and playing hurt all season; dude is all heart. Jose for defying all odds in regaining his starting PG duties (that were wrongly taken from him to begin with, but that’s another story) while forcing Lowry to morph his game to suit what this team actually needs of him (Lowry’s still not doing enough, but that’s another discussion).

It seems as though I completely missed out on Amir Johnson, but at least I had the Jose Calderon part of the equation in there.

The Toronto Raptors have shown some competitive spirit as of late and played some in some really good games. But one can only wonder: if we are unable to determine with much certainty who their best player is, is the team faced with the same dilemma, and if such is the case, does it pose a problem in terms of the hierarchy of the players within the offense?

Perhaps we get some answers tonight…

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].