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Playoffs 2020

NBA Playoffs 2020: Ranking the best players on the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum or Pascal Siakam? Kyle Lowry or Jaylen Brown? Kemba Walker or Fred VanVleet?

Ahead of the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics facing off in the second round of the playoffs, we decided to rank the best players in the series.

Up to the task were four members of our NBA.com Staff: Carlan Gay, Gilbert McGregor, Alex Novick and myself. Similar to how we do our other rankings, we each submitted a list of who we believe are the 12 best players in the series. We then took the average to come up with the following ranking.

A quick note: Gordon Hayward isn't expected to play in this series because of an ankle injury he suffered in the first round, so we decided not to include him. We did include Kyle Lowry, however, because it appears as though he will play - if not in Game 1, then at some point in the series.

Got it? Great! Onto the rankings...

12. Daniel Theis, C, Boston Celtics

Highest rank: 12

Lowest rank: 12

Theis is as solid as they come. He's not a big-time scorer, rebounder, shot blocker or shooter, but he ties everything together for the Celtics by doing all of the little things. The Raptors got a taste of what Theis is capable of when the two teams met in the seeding games. In 28 minutes, he finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and one block on 2-for-4 shooting from the perimeter.

T-10. Serge Ibaka, C, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 10

Lowest rank: 11

Ibaka is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. While he's not the defender he once was, Ibaka averaged a career-best 15.4 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range during the regular season. He was firing on all cylinders against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, posting back-to-back 20-point double-doubles to close the series.

T-10. Marc Gasol, C, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 10

Lowest rank: 11

Even at the age of 35, Gasol is still one of the most impactful defenders at the centre position. The Raptors can only hope that he'll be able to make more of an impact offensively against the Celtics than he did against the Nets. Gasol scored 13 points in Game 1 but averaged 4.0 points on 30.8 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range in the remaining three games.

9. OG Anunoby, F, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 9

In only his third season, Anunoby has proven to be one of the best defenders in the NBA. You'd be hard-pressed to come up with a list of players better equipped to guard all five positions, as Anunoby has been asked to defend everyone from Donovan Mitchell to Bam Adebayo this season. The biggest questions with Anunoby moving forward revolve around his offence. He's made encouraging strides as a shooter, driver and post-up scorer, but the Celtics will put that to the test in this series.

8. Norman Powell, G, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 8

Lowest rank: 8

Powell would've received more love for Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player this season had he not missed 20 games with injuries. He almost doubled his scoring average from last season, going from 8.6 points to 16.0 points per game. The Raptors are going to need Powell's scoring and playmaking even more if Lowry misses any time with the ankle injury he suffered in Toronto's Game 4 win over the Nets in the first round.

7. Marcus Smart, G, Boston Celtics

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 9

Smart is the only player in this series to receive Defensive Player of the Year votes. He received only one second-place vote and four third-place votes, but Smart has made a name for himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, someone who can guard multiple positions and competes like few others. He has developed into a solid shooter on the other end of the court. He had a career year in that regard, taking 6.6 3-pointers per game and making them at a 34.7 percent clip.

6. Kemba Walker, G, Boston Celtics

Highest rank: 5

Lowest rank: 6

Walker has been one of the best guards in the Eastern Conference for the last four years. His scoring dropped from 25.6 points per game to 20.4 points per game this season, but he's settled in well alongside Tatum and Brown in his first season with the Celtics. Walker remains one of the league's best pull-up shooters - he was one of only nine players to make 100 pull-up 3s this season - making him a dynamic scorer in the pick-and-roll, his bread and butter.

5. Fred VanVleet, G, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 6

VanVleet keeps getting better. Following a career year in which he averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game, VanVleet led the Raptors in their first-round series with the Nets with 21.3 points and 7.8 assists per game. He scored 20 or more points in three of the four games, including a 30-point, 11-assist double-double in Game 1. VanVleet has been almost as valuable defensively this season, finishing third in steals per game while leading the league in deflections per game. As I've written before, he's more capable of defending outside of his position than you'd think given his size.

4. Jaylen Brown, G/F, Boston Celtics

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 5

It's easy to forget that there was a legitimate debate over which one of Brown and Tatum was more deserving of being Boston's second All-Star this season. Tatum has since emerged as the team's best player, but Brown has continued to play at a high level on both ends of the court for the Celtics. He finished the regular season averaging a career-best 20.3 points per game on 48.1 percent shooting from the field and 38.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. He'll likely draw the primary assignment of guarding Siakam in this series.

3. Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 2

Lowest rank: 3

Lowry is the heart and soul of the Raptors. He's one of the most disruptive defenders at the guard position and he fills a number of gaps on offence with his 3-point shooting, driving and passing. While the stats don't point to the Raptors losing much with him off the court - Toronto's net rating remained basically the same with him on the bench during the regular season - the eye test tells a different story. Time will tell how serious his ankle injury is. It goes without saying, but the Raptors will need Lowry to win this series.

2. Pascal Siakam, F, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

What else is there to say about what Siakam has done this season? He established himself as one of the league's rising stars, posting averages of 22.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. There are still questions as to how prepared he is to be the No. 1 scoring option on a title contender - some of which could be answered in this series - but there aren't many players who make the impact that he does on both ends of the court on a nightly basis.

1. Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 2

Unfortunately for Siakam, one of the players who does make a similar impact on both ends of the court is in this series. Tatum made the leap to superstardom this season. He's become one of the league's leading scorers with 23.4 points per game and while he's not getting the same All-Defence buzz as the likes of Siakam, Lowry and VanVleet, he's one of the better defenders at his position. We've been debating all season long about whether or not we think Siakam or Tatum is the better player. Entering this series, we still think Tatum has the slight edge.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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