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Power Forward Friday: Reviving Antonio Davis

Our weekly search for the ideal power forward goes back in time.

As this era of Raptors basketball continues to assert its dominance over any other era of Raptors basketball, nostalgia inevitably fades. Ten years from now, we’ll look back at DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry like we do at Vince Carter now — players who pushed the team another step forward toward universal respectability and toward (we hope) an eventual championship.

Which is good! Progress is happening, even if it took 20 years and some fits and starts. It’s also provided some interesting conversation, because now we finally have two eras to compare against each other. We can have real conversations about who the greatest Raptor of all time is — is it Lowry or Carter? Is DeRozan in the stratosphere? What about Chris Bosh?

After we finish arguing about that, a more interesting conversation that emerges is who the fifth best Raptor of all-time is. So many names can be tossed into this stew — guys like Alvin Williams, Tracy McGrady, Damon Stoudemire, or even Jonas Valanciunas. For my money, though, that fifth-best title goes to the inimitable Antonio Davis.

The Scenario

Oh yes, I promised from the get-go this column would get weird. Since there aren’t a lot of hot, juicy NBA rumours going around, let’s get in the time machine and see how Tony Davis would look on this edition of the Raptors.

Davis joined the Raptors in the 1999-00 season at the age of 31, after a successful six season run in Indiana. In the Midwest, his more skillful play combined with the burly Dale Davis for a classic frontcourt foil to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Their 1998 Eastern Conference Finals series (available in full on YouTube!) is still one of the best playoff series I’ve ever seen, and an example of 90’s basketball at its absolute peak — slugfest to the max.

With the Raptors, though, Davis became a more featured piece. His points per game jumped over 13 in his first three seasons with Toronto -- peaking in 2000-01 and 2001-02, which is more or less when the franchise peaked.

The Basketball Fit

While Davis was never an outside shooter (he shot just three triples in a Raptors jersey), he had a decent midrange jump shot and loved to mix it up close to the net.

He was bruising on the boards (and passionate about it too), averaging a double-double in the Eastern Conference Semis season, and — along with Charles Oakley — was the feature of a tough, albeit aging Raptors frontcourt.

In today’s NBA, you’d expect that there would’ve been more pressure for Davis to stretch his game to the three-point line. With a lot of centre minutes, though, he never had to — he was about 15 years too early for the stretch five fad.

All this to say: it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think Davis could’ve made it on today’s Raptors team, and maybe even have been a better fit. Without the pressure of playing truly massive power forwards and centres, Davis would have been a flexible 4-5 solution — able to cover minutes for both Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson in different lineups.

The Emotional Fit

In a recent NBA Canada Series stop in my hometown, Antonio Davis was very open and warm about today’s Raptors fanbase. He and the early 2000’s teams enjoyed fandom, but nothing like the team today sees. The game — as we always talk about on this site — has grown in Canada, and so the Raptors have with it. If we could open that time machine door, there would absolutely be something mutual between us and Davis as he walked through.

The Verdict

Unfortunately, time travel is still somewhere in the future, so Antonio Davis remains on television and not on the basketball court. For your money, though, would you see someone of his skillset playing power forward today? What’s your choice for fifth best Raptor of all-time?