This year marks the 15th year of existence for the Toronto Raptors. I wanted to buy them a gift of crystal (the traditional anniversary gift), or watches (the modern anniversary gift)
It hasn’t been a fun 15 years for fans. There have been players traded here who wouldn’t report here (Alonzo Mourning), players who wanted to be traded (Tracy McGrady), and players who never wanted to sign here in the first (pretty much every superstar free agent of the past 15 years).
There hasn’t been any playoff success (only five playoff appearances in 15 years, and only once past the first round), any front office success (six general managers), and a revolving carousal of coaches (seven in 15 years, or almost as many as the Ottawa Senators in the past five seasons).
But we have seen some good players in those years. Not great, but very good players.
With that said, this seems like a good time to list the top 15 Toronto Raptors of all time.
Just missing the cut: Jerome Williams, Doug Christie and Kevin Willis
15. Keon Clark
Lasted only a season and a half. Replaced the toughness needed that left when Oakley left. Has the Raptors record for most blocks in a game (12, against the Atlanta Hawks). He always reminded me of Kevin Garnett, without the talent.
14. Charles Oakley
The one thing I’ll remember most about Charles Barkley in a Raptors uniform came during the playoffs one year. It was a close game, Oakley gets the ball off a rebound, and carries it down the court on a 2 on 1 with Vince Carter. Instead of passing it to the team’s best scorer, Oakley keeps the ball himself for a shot. He misses badly, and the other teams comes down to score.
That pretty much sums up Oakley tenure with the Raptors. Great for rebounds and toughness, but you didn’t want him taking a shot with a game on the line.
13. Marcus Camby
Has any team given up on more young talent in the past 15 years more than the Raptors? It drives me nuts to think about how good this team could have been if they had kept so many players for their prime years.
In his second season, he led the league in blocks per game (3.7), and was then promptly traded for Oakley.
Imagine a team with Chauncey Billups, Camby, Carter and McGrady as four of your starting five. That would have been nuts. They may not have won in the playoffs, but they would have been a lot of fun to watch.
12. Andrea Bargnani
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By the time his Raptors career is over, he could be in the top three on this list. The former first pick overall can rebound, shoot free throws and nail three pointers. So far, he’s been compared to Dirk Nowitzki, but Bargnani doesn’t seem to have to drive yet that Dirk has. Bargnani doesn’t seem to get a game face on and get nasty and do the things that need to be done. He always have the same cool face, no matter what the situation.
Regardless, Bargnani has seen his field goal percentage, blocks per game, rebounds per game and points per game go up every year for the last three years. He’s tall enough to shoot threes, which takes rebounders away from the basket.
Bargnani isn’t good enough yet to crack the top ten, but he’s almost there.
11. Anthony Parker
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I’ll admit, I was never the biggest Anthony Parker fan. I thought he took too many shots on the fast break by just pulling up. A lot of times, he seemed to want to get his numbers, and would take ill-advised shots. He was one of the most frustrating starters to watch.
But he certainly got the job done at other times. He was a strong defender, and led the team in three point field goal percentage and free throw percentage in his first year. He scored 12.5 and 12.4 in his first two years, and would show up in the playoffs.
10. Donyell Marshall
I have two memories that stand out from Donyell Marshall’s time with the Raptors. The first is when he tied an NBA record with most three-pointers in one game. It came against the 76ers, who forced the Raptors to shoot threes. Marshall went into the corner, and made them over and over and over. You think eventually the 76ers would change their game plan, but they didn’t. So Marshall kept shooting wide-open threes. He hit 12 of 19 to tie the record. It was something to watch.
The other came down the fact that he wasn’t happy with then-coach Sam Mitchell not having him as a starter. Mitchell responded with something like (and I’m paraphrasing): “Good. No one should want to come off the bench. Every one should want to be a starter. And if bench players play well enough and outperform the starters, then I’ll have no choice but to make a change.” To me, that was great, and I cheered for Marshall to make it back to the starting lineup (he didn’t).
Still, Marshall set career highs in rebounds per game and points per game with the Raptors, and still holds the Raptors record with most rebounds in a game (24).
9. Jalen Rose
Jalen Rose gave the Raptors a secondary scoring option to Chris Bosh back when Bosh was starting out (and after the Carter trade). Rose responded by putting up season averages of 16.2 and 18.5 points per game in his first couple of seasons with the team. He was also a leader off the court for a young team (if the NBA had captains like they do in the NHL, Rose would have been it back then). He also showed that a player needed to be strong defensively as well as offensively.
8. Alvin Williams
Was probably the team’s first real three-point threat, and was a great compliment to Vince Carter. Is third in team history for most games played and second in most assists in the regular season. In the playoffs, he is tied for third for most points, second in assists and steals. He was a good, solid all-around players, and would be ranked much higher on these lists if it weren’t for knee injuries that ended his career. He’s now an assistant coach with the team.
7. Tracy McGrady
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McGrady played only three seasons with the Raptors. His first two seasons, he was a bench player. But the former ninth overall draft pick broke through in his third season. Sure, he was still a bench player (starting only 34 of 79 games he played that year), but he was coming into his own as a player. His points-per-game, assists, rebounds and blocks rose every season for those three years.
That third year was the first year the Raptors made the playoffs. They lost in the first round, a precursor of what was to come for McGrady for the rest of his career.
In what continues to be the norm for good players in Toronto, McGrady wanted out. After three seasons with the team, McGrady decided he wanted to play in Flordia. Since he was a free agent, Toronto signed him to the maximum amount of money, then sent him to Orlando for a first round pick.
On a side note, does anyone know what pick it was? I can’t find it anywhere. This trade seems to rank up there with future considerations, where you never actually get anything back in return.
6. Damon Stoudamire
The team’s first ever draft pick, Stoudamire had it all with Toronto. He was the team’s first star, won rookie of the year, set rookie records, and made the team compete every night.
And even though he only played two and a half seasons with the team, his career highs in assists, points, steals, rebounds and three-point percentage all came with the Raptors. And despite his low number of games, he is still third in team history for assists in a career, is tops for most assists per game for a season, and holds the team record for most assists in a game.
5. Jose Calderon
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Jose Calderon’s leadership and numbers rose so quickly that the Raptors decided to trade their #1 point guard in T.J. Ford so Calderon could be the guy. He was trusted to be the decision guy, the main ball handler, and all the offence to go through him, despite the team having Chris Bosh.
He also holds a few Raptors records (such as most assists and most consecutive free throws made), and an NBA record (highest free throw percentage for a season).
4. Antonio Davis
The Raptors had a tendency to get great players on the decline in their careers (see Hakeem Olajuwon). Antonio Davis was one of those. He was 31 years old, and seemed as if his best days were behind him.
But he blossomed into an even better player in Toronto. He made his only all-star appearance as a Raptor, in 2001.
He set career highs in free throw percentage, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, blocks per game and points per game as a member of the Raptors. In fact, in his 13-year career, he only scored an average of 10 points per game in five seasons, four of those were with the Raptors.
He brought stability on the court, was a presence on defence and would chip in on offence. What’s not to like? As some of the other Raptors get better and do more statistically (such as Calderon), Davis will move down the list. But there’s no denying the impact he had on this team.
3. Morris Peterson
His resume speaks for itself. Leads the team in most games played, most consecutive games played and most three-pointers in a season. Later on in his career with the Raptors, he became their number one shut-down guy. He never complained about his playing time, and would come off the bench when needed.
He was a fan favourite, and still is with the Raptors crowd.
2. Chris Bosh
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I’m sure most people believe he should be #1. After all, he just became the all-time points leader in Raptors history, and is already #1 in rebounds. He’s loved by fans.
It will be tough to tell if that love will continue once he signs with another team this summer as a free agent.
The thing with Bosh is that I don’t believe he can lead a team to a championship. I think he would be a good complimentary player (like Pau Gasol to Kobe Bryant with the Lakers), but he doesn’t have it in him to be the #1 guy to make a playoff push.
There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s only a select few who can do it. Bosh isn’t one of them.
He’s my favourite Raptor ever, but he doesn’t belong on the top spot for all-time Raptors.
1. Vince Carter
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Yes, the big bad Vince Carter is the top of this list. He’s very hated by Raptors fans (and deservedly so), but there’s no denying the impact he had on this team when he played in Toronto.
He won a dunk competition at the All-star game. Led the votes for several years (showing just how popular he was). Was the rookie of the year. Holds several NBA records (most three-pointers in a playoff game, most three-pointers in a half in a playoff game). Second in team history in points and rebounds. Fourth in assists. Second in blocks. Scored most points in a game in Raptors history.
The top three points-per-game average for a season in Raptors history? All by Vince Carter.
Carter’s also done something Bosh has never done: won a playoff series with Toronto.
Carter was once one of the most popular players in the league, and helped make the Raptors a team to watch, no matter where they went to visit. No offence to Bosh, but he doesn’t carry the same type of excitement.
If the Grizzlies had someone like Carter, Vancouver would probably still have a team.
Yes, he’s the most hated player in Raptors history, but he’s also the best player in Raptors history.