When one of our readers, Aaron, asked us to go through the Raptors' opening day rosters from inception to present our first response here at the HQ was: "um...we better get googling!"
However after much research and deliberation we did track down the rosters and began ranking them based on the following criteria:
1) Face value. We weren't looking at how many wins a roster had at year's end. Some rosters that looked great had bad records due to injuries. Therefore much of the rankings were done based on how the talent looked on paper. Simply put, a team with Vince, Alvin Williams, T-Mac, Oak and AD trumps one that has Damon Stoudamire, Ed Pinckney, Alvin Robertson, Carlos Rogers, and Zan Tabak regardless of how many games Mr. Jumper's Knee missed.
2) The "circa" concept. When looking at the teams, we acknowledged the value of the players AS OF THAT DATE and therefore while the 1998 squad had Tracy McGrady coming off the bench, we all know he was hardly the player then that he was on say the 2000 squad.
3) Chemistry. Some of Toronto's lineup actually looked pretty decent on paper but simply didn't mesh well. As a result, those lineups were downgraded slightly. This was especially used when it was tough to choose between two rosters.
As for this coming year's lineup, we decided it was too unreasonable to rank them since a) we've yet to see how good the team will be and b) we don't even know who the starters are yet. At the article's conclusion, we decided to do some speculating as to how this year's opening day roster will stack up but left it out of being ranked.
Below are the rankings from one to 12 with the starters in bold...so let's get to it.
1. 2000 - Vince Carter, Doug Christie, Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley, Alvin Williams, Mugsy Bogues, Dell Curry, Tracy McGrady, Aleksandar Radojevic, John Thomas, Kevin Willis, "Yogi" Stewart.
This in our opinion was hands-down the top choice. The starting combination at their 2000 level could give any of today's squads a good run with their excellent combination of scoring, defense, toughness, rebounding and athletic ability. The bench was quite deep as well with a certain Mr. McGrady coming off the pine and Dell Curry, Mugsy Bogues and even Kevin Willis rounding things out. Bonus points to this year's lineup for having "Yogi" Stewart and Toronto's best draft choice ever, Aleksandar Radojevic as well.
2. 2001 - Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, Mark Jackson, Charles Oakley, Corliss Williamson, Mugsy Bogues, Dell Curry, Kornel David, Morris Peterson, Alvin Williams, Kevin Willis, "Yogi" Stewart.
3. 1999 - Vince Carter, Doug Christie, Charles Oakley, Alvin Williams, Kevin Willis, Dee Brown, Tracy McGrady, Reggie Slater, LeMark Baker, John Thomas, John Wallace, Michael "Yogi" Stewart.
The choice between 2 and 3 was almost too close to call. The 2001 squad in our books gets an edge with a deeper bench (Mo Pete makes his first appearance in the NBA this season) but the 1999 starters overpower their 2001 counterparts in our minds. All in all though, the 2001 team simply had much more experience and better on-court chemistry and this gets them the runner-up spot.
4. 2002 - Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, Hakeem Olajuwon, Morris Peterson, Alvin Williams, Carlos Arroyo, Michael Bradley, Chris Childs, Keon Clark, Eric Montross, Tracy Murray, Jerome Williams.
On paper, there's no other lineup close to this one for the fourth spot. Even with an ineffective Hakeem, the team had great depth with players like Chris Childs, Keon Clark, JYD and T-Mac.
5. 2005 - Rafer Alston, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Jalen Rose, Loren Woods, Rafael Araujo, Matt Bonner, Donyell Marshall, Lamond Murray, Milt Palacio, Morris Peterson, Jerome Moise.
6. 1997 - Doug Christie, Popeye Jones, Damon Stoudamire, Zan Tabak, Walt Williams, Marcus Camby, Hubert Davis, Carlos Rogers, Donald Whiteside, Sharone Wright, Benoit Benjamin, Acie Earl.
7. 2004 - Vince Carter, Michael Curry, Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams, Jerome Williams, Chris Bosh, Lamond Murray, Milt Palacio, Morris Peterson, Megke Bateer, Jerome Moiso, Chris Jefferies.
Yikes...ok...so after the fourth spot, things seem to go downhill quickly don't they. The race for fifth may look like a clear-cut win for the 2005 squad but it was actually a tough call. The 2005 roster never jelled, the chemistry was terrible (remember, this was the year Vince was traded and Rafer and Sam Mitchell made like WWE,) and first round pick Rafael Araujo was hardly the second coming of Brad Miller he was expected to be. We felt that the 1997 squad had better chemistry than the other two years' rosters and that the 2004 club had the best starters of the bunch, but after all was said and done, we decided that the 2005 team, got the win for its all-around depth. Remember, this is when Lamond Murray was supposed to be good!
8. 2006 - Chris Bosh, Joey Graham, Mike James, Jalen Rose, Loren Woods, Rafael Araujo, Matt Bonner, Jose Calderon, Morris Peterson, Charlie Villanueva, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams.
9. 2003 - Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, Jelani McCoy, Morris Peterson, Alvin Williams, Michael Bradley, Lindsey Hunter, Voshon Lenard, Jerome Williams, Chris Jefferies, Mamadou N'Diaye, Greg Foster.
After the seventh spot, it gets really tough to rank these different rosters. Why? Because they're all pretty bad. But based only on our above criteria, this is the order we felt they deserved to be ranked. The 2006 roster beats its 2003 counterparts simply based on its depth...unless you consider Chris Jefferies, Mamadou N'Diaye and Greg Foster as being "depth."
10. 1998 - Marcus Camby, Doug Christie, Damon Stoudamire, Zan Tabak, Walt Williams, Chris Garner, Popeye Jones, Tracy McGrady, Shawn Respert, Carlos Rogers, John Wallace.
11. 1996 - Ed Pinckney, Alvin Robertson, Carlos Rogers, Damon Stoudamire, Zan Tabak, Willie Anderson, Acie Earl, Jimmy King, Tracy Murray, John Salley.
12. Raptors Opening Day Roster 1995: Ed Pinckney, Alvin Robertson, Carlos Rogers, Damon Stoudamire, Zan Tabak, Victor Alexander, Willie Anderson, Acie Earl, Jimmy King, Oliver Miller, Tracy Murray, John Salley.
Yes, the last three didn't exactly inspire a lot of "wow, look at how deep this team was!" remarks...
In fact just reading some of the names of former Raptors made me shake in my boots...or my K Swiss...whatever.
The bottom line is that Raptor fans have seen a lot of useless players come and go through the gates at the ACC. And in honour of these folks, here are some of our favourites...or what we like to call, our all Bum Team.
Chris Jefferies I'm starting with Mr. Jefferies because I never liked this pick. Yes I've watched the "behind the draft" and know that Grunwald was also looking at Tayshaun Prince and Frank Williams (who I was a fan of out of Illinois)...but jeesh, he was also targetting Casey Jacobsen and Dan Dickau. Um...a certain phenomenal college player out of Duke named Carlos Boozer was still on the board? And why take a swingman a year after taking an almost identical player in Morris Peterson?
Robert Archibald and Lonny Baxter I'm lumping these two together. Not only because Mr. Nicknames Chuck Swirskey dubbed them the "Banger bros" and they hardly lived up to their namesakes on the court (off the court, the nickname sure fits the gun-toting Mr. Baxter) but also because they were drafted in the same year (and incidentally the same year as Chris Jefferies) albeit by teams other than the Raptors. These two ineffective rebounders were just another in the long line of "solutions" to the perenial holes up front.
Lamond Murray The epitome of useless. Yes, he was injured early in his Raptors debut season and never got back on track. But as his career in New Jersey has shown, perhaps everyone (including myself) was a bit too high on his performance with the Cavs prior to joining the Raptors considering how bad the Cavs were...
Yogi Stewart and Nate Huffman These two form another perfect pair. Both were supposed to provide help up front and instead, they helped themselves to a pile of Raptor-bucks and in Nate's case, never even saw the court thanks to knee injuries he never disclosed prior to signing with the club. Yogi...well he gave new meaning to the term "riding the pine."
Hoffa/Loren Woods Yikes...more centers. Is anyone laughing out loud yet after going through all these names? I know Hoffa worked his butt off and it's not his fault he was drafted as high as he was. But both he and Loren just simply were not good basketball players the majority of their time here. I mean, even Michael Bradley averaged 3 rebounds a game as a Raptor...and he wasn't as big or tall as either of these two.
The Raptors Innaugural Season bench Take a look at that beauty will ya? Willie Anderson? Jimmy King? Victor Alexander? I think a tumbleweed just blew past me here...
So after that look at some of the Raps past lineups and their stars and scrubs, how will this year's lineup stand up? I think overall, this is the deepest team since the 2002 squad which had solid players backing up each position. As talented overall? I think not. But my initial thoughts are that the chemistry on this club will rival that of the overacheiving 1997 squad and have a general talent base comparable to that of the aforementioned 2002 club - less talented starters, but a better overall bench crew.