After some great discussion on the site the past two days concerning Bryan Colangelo, I was looking to post something today on the topic. However with an upcoming Carnival of the NBA, I’ve decided to hold off on the post until tomorrow morning to better align it with the monthly series, this time hosted by the one and only JE Skeets.
Therefore today, we veer off the topic and turn to a recent piece we contributed to for Steve Weinman of Celtics Blog.
Steve is running a series of posts this off-season examining each team in the NBA’s top starting five of all time. He started with the Bobcats, and then last week reached out to various Raptorbloggers for their thoughts on Toronto’s all-time starters.
The following are excerpts from the article, along with a side-to-side comparison of Steve’s final picks and our own choices at each position.
Let the debating begin…
1) Point Guard
Celticsblog’s pick: Damon Stoudamire - Zarar from The Arsenalist says it best: "It's between him and Alvin Williams, who played with more heart, more passion and just about more everything else. But that doesn't mean he was the better player." Yes, Williams was the one with the team through its best years, but it's hard to blame original Raptor Stoudamire for the team's success or lack thereof during the formative years. All this guy did was put up 19 and 20 points and 9.3 and 8.8 assists per game in his first two seasons, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 1995-96 as well. Stoudamire wasn't the most efficient of scorers (his true shooting hovered at just over 50 percent for parts of his tenure), but you might take a few bad shots too if you had to run with the likes of Sharone Wright, Oliver Miller, Tracy Murray, Willie Anderson and Tony Massenburg as Mighty Mouse did in that inaugural season. Though the guy certainly never matured into one of the class characters of the league, the lefty point guard was without doubt the Raps' most dynamic player prior to Vince Carter's entrance in 1999, and he produced at a level that merits his presence here. That the team was abominable - just like any expansion team -- wasn't his fault.
Who we picked: Alvin Williams – This was a close one for us as well but we went the other way. Toronto really has never had a life-long Raptor running the point and for the majority of its franchise history, has used also-rans like Mike James and Chris Childs to run the show. However when all was said and done, the three choices came down to Damon Stoudamire, Alvin Williams and Jose Calderon. While Calderon could take this spot if we were to redo the list in three years time, right now he's still too new. That leaves Alvin and Mighty Mouse. While Stoudamire was the more talented of the two, Alvin was our final pick. He, along with Morris Peterson, is probably the favourite Raptor in club history and was the rudder that guided the club through its best years. Unfortunately injuries derailed his career but he still got our nod at the 1.
2) Shooting Guard
Celticsblog’s pick: Vince Carter - No contest. Undoubtedly, when they roll the credits on the movie for this team, the subtitle for Carter will read something to the effect of "Vince went on to gain renown as a world-class loafer and one of the so-called stars in the league that fans would be least likely to want on their respective teams." But much as my present distaste for VC should make it unpleasant for me to name him to an all-time team of any sort, it's a surprisingly nice feeling to get to think back to his early days in the league when the concerns about his general nonchalance and whiny nature (at least outside of Toronto) seemed far lower, and fans around the nation simply got to enjoy his spectacular play.
In his second and third seasons in the league (which coincidentally remain two of the three best seasons in Raps history), Carter not only went for 25.7 and 27.6 points per game, but he did it with respective true shooting figures of 54.3 and 55.1 percent, shooting better than 40 percent from deep in both seasons. Between his sensational dunks, seemingly impossible outside shots and his overall top-notch, highlight-reel scoring performances, Carter became a major phenomenon in this league for several years right around the turn of the century. In 2000-01, the season in which the Raps gained their only playoff series victory, Carter went for 27.3 points, 6.5 boards and 4.7 assists while shooting 41 percent from deep in the postseason. In the Raps' three second-round victories, he posted scoring efforts of 35, 50 and 39 points, the last two of which came with shooting accuracy better than 50 percent. The AltRaps Blog's Scott Phillips isn't kidding when he says, "VC brought more attention to the franchise than anybody before or since."
There's no close second here.
Who we picked - Vince Carter. No disagreement here and unfortunately, the choice here had to be Carter. While Raps fans love to hate Vince, the truth is Carter really put this franchise on the map and was the living embodiment of the Dinos for years.
From his aerial acrobatics to his scoring ability, "Air Canada" made hardcore and casual NBA fans alike stand up and take notice of the remaining franchise north of the border.
3) Small Forward
Celticsblog’s Pick: Doug Christie - So begins the dicey portion of the program, the first time the selection committee (that's a jury of one, for those scoring at home) truly knocks heads dead-on with the local panelists. But we'll get to their pick shortly. While we're having a bit of trouble recalling the proportions of playing time spent at the two and the three respectively, swingman Christie gets the nod here because of his consistent play over four and a half seasons of service in Toronto. He came aboard during the abysmal inaugural season and provided a veteran presence through the team's first playoff appearance in 2000.
Steadiness was the mark of Christie's play as he figured in double-digit scoring for each season with the team, averaging 14.5 points per game over the breadth of his tenure in Toronto. Christie has always been a versatile player, and he provided defense, ball movement and stability during his time in town. He is the team's all-time average steals leader with 2.1 per game (with three top-five finishes in the league during his tenure), and he sits at seventh in team history with 3.8 assists per game, the most for any non-point guard save for Vince Carter. The man started each of the 282 games he played over his final four full seasons in town and logged more than 35 minutes nightly in three of those four years. When Christie left town, he immediately made one of the NBA's top two All-Defense teams for four seasons running while playing for a title-contending Sacramento team that received far greater national visibility, which leads one to wonder whether the lack of attention to the Raps was primarily responsible for Christie not receiving some of those accolades earlier. His role as a rock of consistency for the Raps throughout their infancy and into adolescence earns him the selection here.
Who we picked: Tracy McGrady – We actually would have loved to have put Morris Peterson here but the fact of the matter is that Tracy McGrady may have been the most talented player to EVER don a Raps jersey. Yes Carter drew more acclaim, but if injuries hadn't affected T-Mac’s career since leaving Toronto (our version of King Tut's curse) you have to wonder if he wouldn't rank up with the Kobes and Lebrons of the league. He had a relatively short tenure in Toronto, but it was a memorable one nonetheless. Had Toronto been able to keep both Vince and Tracy it could have been scary.
4) Power Forward
Celticsblog’s Pick: Chris Bosh - Not one but two 'gimme' picks on this squad (and for those who think I'm crazy on the Christie-McGrady issue, perhaps three) make my job easier. We're talking here about a guy who is the current franchise player. He is a man who has been in the league five years and averaged 22-plus points and 9.2, 10.7 and 8.7 rebounds per game in each of the last three years. This guy has redefined consistency in Toronto, having made the All-Star team three years in a row and used his excellent face-up game, quickness and length to turn himself in a legitimate 20-10 threat every single time he gets on the floor.
At 18.9 points and 9.0 boards per game for his career, Bosh ranks third and second respectively in those cateories in Raptors history. He has already become one of the league's top young players and one of the finest at his position, and the praise abounds from our resident Raptors folk.
The only question about CB4 in this spot is whether he lives up to Sam's assessment that he is currently one of the league's top ten players, which we're not so sure about on this end. But that one is for all you faithful readers. Does Bosh crack the top ten playing today? Either way, if that's the big question mark with this guy, there is certainly no shame about having him in this lineup.
Who we picked: Chris Bosh - Besides Vince Carter, Chris Bosh is probably the second name most people would associate with the Raptors. He doesn't have the flair that VC did, but he also doesn't have the same nonchalant off-season work ethic either (much to Raptors' fans' delight.) Bosh has now gotten some help around him the past two seasons and could very well top anything Vince ever did in Toronto this coming season. He's already a three-time All-Star and while the power forward field in the East just got a little more crowded, this is a player who's just starting to enter his prime. No question here, the choice was Bosh.
Celticsblog's Pick: Antonio Davis - This was The Man as far as patrolling the low post on those early Toronto playoff teams was concerned. Basketball-Reference lists the man at 6-foot-9 and just 215 pounds, which makes his status as the Raptors' top rebounder of all-time even more impressive. Though Davis played plenty of power forward in his career, he spent plenty of time in the pivot as well for a team that was short on options in the middle.
Playing with a nagging shoulder injury, Davis toughed his way to 16 points and 11 boards per game in the 2001 playoffs and followed it up with 17 points and 10.6 boards per game the next spring. Davis' grit in the paint as well as his tenacity on the boards and defense to go with his timely scoring touch made a huge difference in helping turn the Raptors into an Eastern Conference playoff team by the time it had been in existence for half a decade.
The regular seasons weren't too shabby either. Davis averaged 12.9 points, 9.2 boards (again, best in team history) and 1.3 blocks (fifth) per game in his four and a half seasons in town, and he made the All-Star team in 2001 at the age of 32. This guy came to compete hard every night, played a game bigger than his frame and was a big part of the most successful era in the team's short history.
Who we picked: Antonio Davis - What, you thought we were going to say Hakeem? As mentioned, Davis played power forward quite a bit during his tenure with the Raps but considering the rest of the options at the 5 (ahem, Mengke Bateer), he was a shoo-in. Davis came over via a draft day trade which sent first round pick Jonathan Bender (remember him?) to the Indiana Pacers and was an immediate help to a Toronto team that had lacked rebounding, toughness and shot-blocking. Combined with Carter, McGrady and Mo Pete, Davis represented a final piece of the puzzle that helped Toronto to three straight seasons of playoffs from 99 to 2001. Heck, Davis even made an All-Star appearance while in the old purple and black unis!
Off the bench? Well we’d have to go with some combination of Mo Pete, Dell Curry, Stoudamire, Oak and Doug Christie. And to fill things out, maybe even a little dose of Keon Clark and Matt Bonner.
Celticsblog didn’t get into bench options but it’s interesting to compare Toronto’s final starting five with that of the Bobcats. (Click here to read the entire Raptors post and the links to the Bobcats’ top 5.) Neither team has a lot of history (especially the Bobcats) so on one hand there’s not a lot to choose from and yet on the other, due to lack of choices, you could end up choosing between Hall of Famers like Nazr Mohammed and Primoz Brezec at your center spot.
Celticsblog is going to be running this series all summer and we can’t wait till they get to the Boston’s and LA’s. Do you take Pierce or Hondo? Shaq or Kareem?
Hopefully in another 20 years, basketball fans will have to make some similar tough choices about our Toronto Raptors.