We're wading into somewhat more contentious territory with this list, strictly because of that far-reaching concept of "Top Performance". Does seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks from Julian Wright in a win trump 41, seven and six from Andrea Bargnani in a loss? What about one vital shot over a better overall line? Should I already be feeling pangs of guilt for omitting Leandro Barbosa or Ed Davis from this list? Well, you tell me.
Until then, let's call this a starting point for discussion.
Honourable Mention: Reggie Evans vs. 76ers, Nov. 24, 2010
Just before Evans went down with his second foot fracture in as many seasons, he turned in the best rebounding performances of his nine-season NBA career with 22 boards (including a team-record 15 in the first half) to go with 12 points, two assists and two steals.
Just how good was Evans on the glass that night? Consider that his total rebound rate, or the percentage of missed shots he grabbed, was a league-leading 25.7 per cent on the season. That night at ACC he grabbed 37.7 per cent of all missed shots, including a whopping 57 per cent of loose balls at the defensive end.
#5 Jose Calderon vs. Hornets, Mar. 1, 2011
Chris Paul is coming off a pretty sensational first-round playoff performance (despite being eliminated), but Calderon certainly got the better of him on an outstanding night that saw him score 22 points, dish out 16 assists and haul down seven rebounds in a 96-90 win to start March.
Calderon's motivation? Getting blanked in The Big Easy back after an 0-5 shooting night back on January 17th.
"I played really bad down there (in New Orleans) and got like no points, or something like that." said Calderon. "I wanted to be aggressive from the beginning, just hard work coming in and after I was just feeling more comfortable with the game going on so I just tried to do that."
#4 Andrea Bargnani @ Knicks, Dec. 8, 2010
Just a couple days after Johnson went toe-to-toe with Stoudemire at ACC, Bargnani replied with a monster performance against him at MSG to the tune of a career-high 41 points, a season-high six assists and seven rebounds.
Bargnani missed a game-tying 3-point attempt from way out at the buzzer (after Raymond Felton hit possibly the flukiest three you'll ever see for a game-winner), but that shouldn't discount an outstanding fourth quarter that saw him score 15 of the Raptors' 26 points in the final frame.
#3 Amir Johnson vs. Knicks, Dec. 5, 2010
Tom Liston over at Raptors Republic named Johnson his inaugural "Statophile MVP" for a reason and this was one of those games that undoubtedly backs up that choice. Although huge lines like this aren't really the norm from the wiry forward, he was getting the bounces and knowing exactly what to with them in a pretty good head-to-head matchup with Amar'e Stoudemire.
Johnson scored eight of his nine attempts at or around the rim (10-14 FGM-A overall) on his way to (then) season-highs of 22 points and 16 rebounds along with three steals and two blocks. Look no further than his usage rate (21.4 -- fourth-lowest on the team that night) to show how he made the most of his opportunities on a night where several of his teammates were struggling.
#2 Jerryd Bayless @ Pistons, Dec. 11, 2010
Bayless used the month of April to offer a lengthy (and impressive) look at his capabilities as the team's starting point guard, but it was his 31 points, seven assists and five rebounds against the Pistons way back in mid-December that first raised a lot of eyebrows.
He was just as culpable as his teammates for allowing the Pistons to put up 72 points in the first half, but led the Raptors as they flipped the script completely after the break. Bayless tallied 18 points in the final two frames and dragged the Raptors over the hump with two minutes to play -- setting up Bargnani for the game-tying three, hitting the go-ahead triple the next trip down the floor and adding the next five points to seal the greatest comeback in franchise history.
#1 DeMar DeRozan @ Magic, Dec. 11, 2010
Toughest call on the list for me was to chose from several excellent DeRozan performances this season, but the Raptors' win in Orlando offered a demonstration of what we'd come to expect from him nightly when the calendar turned to 2011.
His 26 points (8-13 FGM-A) was a career-high at the time, he provided some excellent help on the glass with seven rebounds and also chipped in a couple of assists. Most importantly, he was huge in the fourth -- scoring a game-high 11 points by refusing to settle for jumpers and getting to the line six times (of his 12 free throw attempts on the night) and leading his teammates to their first road win of the season.