In case you missed it, we're doing a countdown of the best individual seasons in Raptors history. So far, we've debated the pros and cons of win shares as a tool of measurement, taken a deep dive into Chris Bosh's 2007-08 season at number five, admired Jose Calderon's extremely efficient and often overlooked campaign from the same year at number four, given Kyle Lowry the credit he deserved for his 2013-14 season at number three, and reminisced about Vince Carter's 1999-00 breakout season at number two. Today, we end our countdown by looking at the best individual season in team history.
If Vince Carter's 1999-00 made it all the way to number two on our countdown, it was basically a foregone conclusion that his 2000-01 encore would be number one. For everything that Carter was able to accomplish in his sophomore season, his superstardom was truly cemented in year three, when he posted the franchise record in win shares with 12.9.
Carter's numbers that year were all-man and all-amazing. His 27.6 points per game still stand as his career best and the most ever averaged by a Raptor. He also stuffed the rest of his stat sheet with an incredibly well-rounded 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.1 blocks per contest.
It was arguably Carter's most efficient season as well. His 22.1 shot attempts from the field and 5.3 attempts from long range that year both represent the most he has ever taken on a per-game basis at any point in his entire career. He responded to all that responsibility by knocking his shots down at a respectable rate, nailing 46 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from downtown.
The resulting 50.9 effective field goal percentage (which adjusts for the fact that three-pointers are worth more than two-point field goals) was the best of his Toronto tenure and the second best of his career. His player efficiency rating of 25.0 ranked him second in the NBA that season and it still stands at the top of the all-time franchise leaderboard as well.
Given, this is a countdown of the best regular seasons in Raptors history - and Vince's 2000-01 was certainly the superlative - but it wouldn't be an accurate portrait if we never put at least some focus on the Raptors' playoff run in 2001 and Vince's dominance in it.
The Raptors finished the 2000-01 campaign with a record of 47-35 (a franchise mark for wins up until this past year) and were the Eastern Conference's fifth seed. They beat the fourth-seeded New York Knicks in the first round in five games (back when the first round was a best-of-five series) and advanced to round two for what still stands as the only such occurrence in franchise history. You probably don't need me to remind you, but they had the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers and league MVP Allen Iverson there waiting for them.
Sure, we will forever have this shot burned into our retinas and memories as the way it ended:
But let's not forget that everything Carter did leading up to "the shot" still constitutes the best playoff performance ever by a Raptor. Vince posted fantastic averages of 27.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.7 blocks in a ridiculous 44.9 minutes per game over those 12 contests. With the weight of the team on his shoulders, he still managed to shoot 43.6 percent from the floor and a blistering 41 percent from deep.
Just four games prior to the clank heard from Victoria, BC to St. John's, NL, Carter put up what still stands as the best playoff performance ever by someone playing in a Raptors uniform. He scored 50 points on 19 for 29 shooting from the field (including 9 for 13 from downtown), while hitting all three of his free throw attempts. He also chipped in 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks (for a guard!), and only one turnover for an extremely robust stat line. If there's still a bitter taste in your mouth from the Game 7 loss, the 24-point victory in Game 3 is worth reviewing:
You may hate Carter for bricking the shot, blame the miss on his decision to attend his college graduation the morning of, or just flat out can't forgive him for how messy his Toronto ending got. That's fine, it's your prerogative on how long you hold your grudges. Regardless, there are very few of us that are able to claim that we didn't have at least a touch of Vinsanity during the 2000-01 season.
Now, a near decade and a half later, the narrative on Vince has changed significantly, but you'd have a hard time singling out a more impactful Raptor. From the half-man, half-amazing himself (via Sportsnet's Michael Grange):
"When I was first going to Toronto, not many people were caring about the Raptors or talking about the Raptors, or even [tuning in] when we were on TV. And all of a sudden there was this boom of Raptors basketball."
Carter's universal appeal back then and that particular era of Raptors basketball were the #WeTheNorth movement long before we knew what a hashtag was. We get to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Raptors with at least some sense of pride and to watch kids like Andrew Wiggins blossom into superstars in large part because of Vince Carter, like it or not.
And even if you don't, his 12.9 win shares from 2000-01 are more than any other Raptor has amassed since in the team's 19-season history. At the very least, the numbers ain't mad at him.
Thus concludes our countdown of the best statistical seasons in Raptors history. Curious why Donyell Marshall's 2003-04 never made the cut? Feel like we overlooked Mike James' 2005-06? Appalled by the utter lack of Antonio Davis and Doug Christie? Check out the complete list of individual seasons in the past 20 years of Raptors basketball (sorted by win shares), see where your favourites land, and hit up the comment section to discuss them. Here's to forming a new top five over the next 20 seasons!