The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the RaptorBlog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every Wednesday on this blog.

DeMar DeRozan’s Raptors résumé:

  • 8th on Raptors All Time Field Goal Percentage list
  • Averaged 17.2 points-per-game as a 21-year-old in his sophomore season
  • 2010 NBA Slam Dunk Competition runner-up
  • Participated in the 2011 All Star Rookie/Sophomore Challenge

I don’t know if the fact that a 22-year-old with only two years of NBA experience comes in at No. 15 on this list is a testament to the potential of young DeMar DeRozan, or is another in a long list of punch-lines for this sad franchise.

Nevertheless, DeRozan does deserve to be on this list, so let’s get on with it.

After the acquisition of Jermaine O’Neal turned disastrous and the subsequent acquisition of Shawn Marion solved nothing, the Raptors finished the 2008-2009 season with a disappointing 33-49 record after some within the organization thought the team could legitimately contend in the Eastern Conference.

While some fans mourned another wasted season for Canada’s lone NBA franchise, others saw a lottery pick that the Raptors probably needed anyway as a blessing in disguise. One thing was for certain, with Chris Bosh a year away from free agency, a draft-day miss absolutely could not be afforded.

There were many options for Toronto with the No. 9 pick in the 2009 Draft, but fans seemed set on USC freshman and Compton native, DeMar DeRozan. Some believed DeRozan could turn out to be the best player from the class when all was said and done.

DeRozan, himself, did nothing to quiet the hype when  he tweeted shortly after being selected by the Raptors, “Toronto here I come. Air Canada’s back.”

Yes, the wide-eyed 19-year-old hinted at replacing Vince Carter’s once golden legacy in Toronto and throughout Canada.

Since his arrival in Toronto, DeRozan has gone on to two impressive, yet unspectacular seasons with the Raptors that have fans and media alike debating whether he could be a future All-Star and franchise cornerstone, or whether he’ll always be a decent scorer on a bad basketball team.

No matter where you stand on the matter, this much is fact: From year one to year two, DeRozan upped his scoring average from a pedestrian 8.6 to an attention-grabbing 17.2 points per game. His rebounds, assists, steals and blocks all improved slightly, as did his overall defense (though the latter still has plenty of room for improvement). Optimists will point to these numbers as the sure sign that a new star is emerging north of the border.

But skeptics — and God knows there are plenty of them in Raptors Nation — have their own argument, and it’s a reasonable one. Of course a player’s numbers will improve as his playing time increases from 21 to 34 minutes per game and his role in the offense grows. The real story, they will tell you, is in his shooting percentages, and those numbers are far less flattering.

DeMar’s field goal percentage dropped from 49.8 in his rookie season to 46.7 last season. His already poor three-point shooting fell to an embarrassing 9.6 per cent. NINE. The only shooting number that improved was DeMar’s free throw percentage.

In fairness, a shooting percentage that hovers around 46-47 is respectable for a wing player, so if DeMar can extend his range and become even an average shooter from behind the arc while maintaining his above 80 per cent free throw percentage, we will be looking at an explosive young scorer.

On the other side of the ball, DeRozan has the athleticism to become a good defender, and he has shown glimpses of that in his two seasons in Toronto, even averaging a steal per game last year. If Dwane Casey can work his defensive magic on DeMar, and DeRozan works himself into a more consistent shooter, then the sky really is the limit for him.

But you can forgive Raptors fans for not getting their hopes up. If this list isn’t evidence enough, they haven’t had much work out in their favor over the last 16 years.

Some might argue that DeRozan has found himself in these rankings on potential alone, and they may be right. But I feel like if a 21-year-old put up the numbers DeMar did last season on a lot of other teams, it would be okay to dream about the possibilities. Should we really refrain from doing so in this case because he did it in a Raptors’ uniform?

Here’s what we know about DeMar after two seasons. He’s definitely not Kobe Bryant, a name Bryan Colangelo threw out there in a comparison of Kobe’s early numbers in the NBA. And he’s nowhere near where Vince Carter was at this stage in his career. But given the fact that DeRozan is reportedly a gym rat who yearns to get better, and Vince most certainly wasn’t, is it reasonable to believe that DeMar could end up with a better overall career than Vince?

What we all want to know is this: Are we asking questions like this because DeMar has unlimited potential, or because he hasn’t been good enough to solidify his status as a future star?

For giving Raptors fans even a glimmer of hope about the future during another one of the team’s hopeless periods, DeMar DeRozan is No. 15 on our list of the 30 greatest Raptors.

Now let the “this list is depressing the hell out of me” comments begin…