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Today in the second-to-last edition of Ranking Every Raptor, things start to get serious. By and large, the players in this section were good — or at least good during their Raptors tenure. It took a long time to wade our way through the depth of despair, but paradise is within view. Here we go.
30. Alvin Robertson, SG (1995-1996); 77 GP / 69 starts / 32.2 minutes / 9.3 points / 4.4 rebounds / 4.2 assists / 2.2 steals / The First Bucket
Toronto’s early history can’t be told without Alvin Robertson, who scored the team’s first bucket, dropped 30 in its first win, and was one of a few constant presences during the Raptors’ rocky first year of operation. He was the most accomplished member of that team, too, with a four-time All-Star with a Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Award, 1984 Olympic gold medal, and the only points-rebounds-assists-steals quadruple-double in NBA history on his resumé.
Of course all of those on-court accomplishments are insignificant in the face of his domestic abuse conviction.
29. Serge Ibaka, PF/C (2017-2018); 99 GP / 99 starts / 13.0 points / 6.4 rebounds / 1.3 blocks / 37.0 3FG% / 1 Cooking Show
Ibaka’s been one of the tougher guys to evaluate for these rankings. Last years’ playoffs, in which he became an entirely unplayable plague, left a sour taste in the mouth of fans that not even a bowl of fried chicken feet could drown out.
But in assessing his contributions to the team, you can’t overlook his finish to the 2016-17 season. With Kyle Lowry sidelined, Serge worked as a passable second option who, next to PJ Tucker, formed a defensive back line stout enough to weather Lowry’s 21-game absence. Before DeMar DeRozan dunked on Thon Maker’s head in Game 6 against the Bucks, you could make the case that Ibaka was the best Raptor in the teams’s first seven-game series win since 2001. It wasn’t entirely crazy to give Serge the money he got in the summer of 2017.
Even now, after a year where Serge seemed to calculatedly get himself ejected from games he wasn’t feeling and was the fourth-most useful big in the rotation, and a summer in which his passion for tricking his friends into eating wild shit appeared to top his love for hoops, Ibaka has value. Not like, trade value or anything like that. But there’s a world in which he’s good enough this season to climb the rankings a spot or five.
28. Rafer Alston, PG (2002-2003 & 2004-2005); 127 GP / 82 starts / 29.1 minutes / 11.8 points / 3.0 rebounds / 5.6 assists / 1.2 steals / 36.6 3FG%
Skip 2 My Lou has to be the coolest ex-Raptor. Don’t lie, And-1s were your first basketball shoe, too.
Rafer’s also the most successful 10-day contract story in team history.
New York probably isn’t the hotbed of future NBA talent it wants you to think it is. Alston is the exception that proves the rule.
27. Jalen Rose, SG/SF (2003-2006); 177 GP / 137 starts / 33.4 minutes / 16.2 points / 3.4 rebounds / 3.4 assists / 43.1 FG% / 34.5 3FG%
I know I said Rafer was the coolest Raptor ever, but Rose has me reconsidering that take. Rose was part of some bad Raps teams. He was also the main culprit for the 81-point Kobe Bryant game that neither Raptor fans nor sensible, Kobe-slagging NBA fans will ever stop hearing about.
But damnit, Jalen was a funky, cool player to watch when he got cooking; the type of do-it-all combo guard who would have been a nice fit in today’s NBA had he, you know, given a shit about defense. He had that Fab Five glow; he shot lefty; maybe no player has done better advertising for Toronto as a city for NBA players to live* in.
He brought about quite literally zero team success in Toronto, but style and fame points can’t be discounted when you’re a franchise that a) has had a red dinosaur logo and b) has had a debilitating inferiority complex for decades.
26. Fred VanVleet, PG (2016-2018); 113 GP / 6.8 points / 2.0 rebounds / 2.5 assists / 41.0 3FG% / No more than 5 days between haircuts
Fred’s Raptors story is still in its infancy. We’ll have much more on the most well-groomed man in Toronto in our season preview content. This is but a temporary stop on his way up the ladder, I’m sure.
25. Cory Joseph, PG (2015-2017); 160 GP / 26 starts / 25.3 minutes / 8.9 points / 2.8 rebounds / 3.2 assists / 100.0 3FG% When it Mattered
There was absolutely no way Cory Joseph wasn’t going to be adored by Raptors fans immediately. A handsome Pickering boy, coming home on a free agent deal, who chose to wear no. 6? It was destined to be love at first sub.
That he decided to hit a game-winning corner three against Washington in the first Raps/Wiz match-up since the playoff sweep was just rubbing it in the faces of every player the fans loved less.
24. Lou Williams, SG (2014-2015); 80 GP / 0 starts / 15.5 points / 1.9 rebounds / 2.1 assists / 40.4 FG% / 320 End-of-Quarter 2-for-1s attempted / Maybe like 15 End-of-Quarter 2-for-1s converted
You either loved Lou Williams’ gunnerific, Drake song-inspiring, Sixth Man of the Year award winning season in Toronto, or you hated it with every fibre of your being. Count me in the latter group. It was fun to start, but as Williams’ end-of-quarter Usage Rate crept closer and closer to a tidy 100%, the feelings of glee morphed into rage. He attempted a game-winning shot against Detroit with his foot on the logo at the Palace after having like 15 seconds of clock to work with, man.
With all that said, he is the reason for the Raptors’ only win in Cleveland during the second LeBron era. For that, he is a hero deserving of some praise.
23. Terrence Ross, SG/SF (2012-2017); 363 GP / 132 starts / 23.3 minutes / 9.5 points / 2.6 rebounds / 1.5 Dunk Contest Wins / 37.6 3FG% / Fifty. One.
Terrence Ross’ place in this rankings is definitive proof that my judgement in this process has been unencumbered by bias. Had I allowed my instincts to dictate these rankings, Terry would be in the top 10. There is a framed photo him sitting above the very desk I do my blogs at.
Ross holds the record for points scored by a Raptor in a regulation game with 51; he’s third on the team’s all-time three-pointers made list with 598; he’s number one in dunk contest victories with 1.5 (John Wall’s “win” in that team dunk contest was bullshit). Working more often than not as a sixth man, Ross is top-15 all time in minutes, steals, field goals made, and total points as a Raptors. He’s top-1 in endearing Bulk Barn discovery videos posted, and in post-season Paul Pierce owns:
Every stat that I’ve carefully hand-picked to make him look good suggests a player worthy of, at-worst, a spot in the teens. But because I’m aware that most Raptors fans are cops and don’t think Ross was good, or reliable, or capable to getting to the free throw line, I’ve swallowed my pride and placed him here.
22. Walt Williams, SF (1996-1998); 101 GP / 89 starts / 15.3 points / 4.8 rebounds / 2.6 assists / 5.6 3FGA / 39.6 3FG%
21. Marcus Camby, C (1996-1998); 126 GP / 96 starts / 30.9 minutes / 13.5 points / 6.8 rebounds / 1.7 assists / 1.1 steals / 2.9 blocks
Before the wheels of the franchise exploded during the 16-win 1997-98 season, the Raptors churned out a season of hope and, most importantly at that time, structure. Camby and Williams, along with Doug Christie, Popeye Jones and Damon Stoudamire, helped comprise a respectable starting five that got lots of run together — a real accomplishment after the hodge-podge of lineups Brendan Malone trotted out in year one. Toronto won a respectable enough 30 games that season, and scored Tracy McGrady in the draft that followed the season.
Within a year though, every starter but Christie was gone, as was coach Darrell Walker, and the team was on track for a Grizzlies-like fate. Only Vince Carter falling to them in the draft corrected the franchise’s course.
20. Tracy Murray, SF (1995-1996 & 2000-2001); 160 GP / 41 starts / 11.0 points / 2.9 rebounds / 1.0 assists / 40.6 3FG%
One of my go-to bits of sad Raptors trivia is the fact that Tracy Murray, who came off the bench in 37 of 82 games in the Raptors’ inaugural season, led that team in Win Shares with 4.9. A bench player was the best player on the team. Yes, that team won 21 games.
19. Patrick Patterson, PF (2013-2017); 273 GP / 19 starts (ridiculous) / 7.6 points / 4.8 rebounds / 1.4 assists / 37.3 3FG% / 0 Exit Interviews Attended in 2017
Mr. Eight Points & Five Rebounds quite literally averaged eight points and five rebounds as a Raptor. It’s outstanding.
His acrimonious departure from the team — in which he refused to attend his exit interview a few days after travelling on a wide-open three-point attempt against the Cavs — put a damper on an otherwise strong four-year stretch for 2Pat in Toronto. Before OG Anunoby shocked everyone by being surprisingly up to the LeBron challenge, Patterson was the only hope Toronto ever had of slowing Bron down in the playoffs.
Yes, he passed up way too many open threes and had movie opinions our Daniel Reynolds probably disagreed with at some point. Maybe it was an indictment of the Raptors’ roster that the team relied so heavily on him to prop up the lineups he played in.
This ultimate disappointment with Patterson stemmed, I think, from the fact that he was so useful, even vital, to the Raptors for so many years. It’s hard to get disappointed with someone who can’t establish a high bar for expectations in the first place. Patterson could.
18. Keon Clark, C (2000-2002); 127 GP / 31 starts / 24.8 minutes / 10.5 points / 6.7 rebounds / 1.8 blocks / 50.0 FG%
Here’s a take. Raptors Keon Clark in today’s NBA would make Clint Capela money and be totally worth it. Clark’s 12-block outing against the Hawks just a couple months after Toronto picked him up is one of the three coolest single game accomplishments by a Raptor next to Terry’s 51 and something we will discuss in the final post on Monday.
Clark went through bouts of addiction and a long prison sentence after his playing career ended. He admitted to having never played an NBA game sober, drinking up to a pint of gin a day. By all accounts it seems like Clark’s time in prison helped kick start his recovery, and he seems to be in a better place.
That dude, sober and fully committed to basketball, would have been a terror.
17. Alvin Williams, PG (1998-2005); 417 GP / 324 starts / 9.3 points / 2.6 rebounds / 4.3 assists / 1.2 steals / 1 Series-clinching shot
Williams’ most famous moment as a Raptor is in some ways a representation of his career with the team. The dagger he sunk in Game 5 against New York in 2001, like Williams himself, was definitely good, but maybe remembered as something more impressive than it was in actuality. Until recently, it was considered the most important shot in Toronto playoff history, which is probably accurate, because the team was so ass for decade-plus afterwards.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, it was kind of an anticlimactic shot! First, it was only a two and not a three, which was news to me upon doing research about it. The bucket didn’t bring about a lead change, and it wasn’t even remotely close to the end of regulation. It came on a broken, near-disaster play, and didn’t even put the Raptors up by an extra possession. It was good, but its importance is amplified by the lack of stand out Raptors playoff moments to compare it to.
The same goes for Williams the player. Beginning with his arrival in Toronto, where he was the point guard who reported while Kenny Anderson flipped Canada the bird, and up until the tail end of his career, Williams’ reputation was a bit above his weight class. He was good! He was a nice facilitator and dogged point guard defender, but he’s nowhere near the best or most important point guard in team history, though he might be brought up in the same conversations as TJ Ford, Jose Calderon or early Damon.
But it’s okay to hold Williams up so high. Building clouds of myth around players who neutrals might just view as just another guy is kind of the point of investing emotionally in a team. Alvin Williams WAS awesome, and that shot WAS a landmark moment for the team. Don’t let my wet blanketing change your mind on that.
16. Charles Oakley, PF (1998-2001); 208 GP / 207 starts / 7.9 points / 8.0 rebounds / 3.3 assists / 1.1 steals / Infinite Heads Smashed
You couldn’t really be taken seriously as a team that mattered in the late-90s without a couple dudes who could bust some heads. Toronto moved on from a young (though disgruntled) Camby to bring Michael Jordan’s one-time most trusted enforcer, Oakley, to town expressly to amp up the meanness. That he was a less talented, far older version of peak Oak didn’t matter. Toronto had the talent part figured out between Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady (for a couple years) and Antonio Davis (who was also known to toss an elbow). He was a dude you wanted playing 30-plus minutes a night in the post-season for all the reasons that the modern NBA doesn’t seem to care about.
Basketball is an objectively more attractive sport in 2018 than it was 20 years ago. But if that stylistic upgrade has come at the expense of the Oaks of the world, was it really worth it?
15. Morris Peterson, SG/SF (2000-2007); 542 GP / 364 starts / 12.0 points / 3.8 rebounds / 1.8 assists / 1.0 steals / 37.1 3FG%
While we’re on the topic of fun trivia, here’s the funnest fact about Mo-Pete’s unforgettable, game-tying three off the poor, buttery finger tips of Michael Ruffin back in March of 2007. While this is without question Peterson’s most notable moment as a Raptor, he played just 55 seconds in this game — a 123-118 OT win.
This was near the end of Mo-Pete’s run in Toronto. Anthony Parker had swiped most of his playing time, relegating the soon-to-be Hornet to sparing duty off of Sam Mitchell’s bench. It’s a bit of shame Peterson was phased out during the first fun Raps season in ages, having spent so many years being a loyal and steady piece on some embarrassingly heinous squads. That he got to be part of this moment is a bit of a consolation prize.
14. Anthony Parker, SG (2006-2009); 235 GP / 226 starts / 11.9 points / 4.0 rebounds / 2.6 assists / 1.1 steals / 42.4 3FG%
Chris Bosh, TJ Ford, José Calderon, Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell, even rookie Garbo and Bargs are probably the names you’d most associate with the 2006-07 Raptors squad that won 47 games and a division title, seemingly out of nowhere. But when you consider Anthony Parker’s role on that team, that season’s success doesn’t seem so accidental.
Parker would be NBA Internet’s favourite son had he been ten years younger; the type of lab-designed 3-and-D wing the Raptors have seemingly always lacked. Until July 2018, that is.
In his first season with Toronto coming off six years in Israel, Parker’s team-best True Shooting percentage flirted with 60 percent, and the team jumped from 29th to 12th in defensive efficiency (that’s not entirely Parker’s doing, obviously, but Mo-Pete had really started to slow down on that end, and Mike James played a lot of two-guard in that 2005-06 season). He was also a boss in the 2007 playoffs; his shooting numbers having yet to be threatened by a Raptors shooting guard in the post-season. From start to finish, Parker’s Raptors run holds up as one of the most consistently good by any player to wear the uniform.
And we owe it all to the time Parker hit the winning shot against the Raptors in the 2005 Naismith Cup for Maccabi Tel-Aviv with Bryan Colangelo in attendance.
13. Doug Christie, SG (1996-2000); 314 GP / 299 starts / 14.2 points / 4.6 rebounds / 3.8 assists / 2.1 steals
It seems hyperbolic to suggest Christie was the face of the early Raptors, what with Damon Stoudamire and Vince Carter being his teammates and his unsexy role as a steady 3-and-D type wing. But he kind of was! Those early teams were defined by roster turnover, and good players kicking and screaming until they were jettisoned from their Canadian hell. Christie just showed up, defended his ass off and hit some threes like a regular NBA player. There’s something admirable about that.
Milestone note — Christie’s 18-year hold over the Raptors’ all-time steals belt will be snatched by Kyle Lowry some time in late October. Christie sits at 664; Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are currently tied at 655.
12. TJ Ford, PG (2006-2008); 126 GP / 97 starts / 13.2 points / 2.7 rebounds / 7.2 assists / 1.2 steals /
For a fan of a mostly irrelevant franchise, the thought that the Raptors employed the fastest player in the NBA actually kind of meant something in an admittedly pathetic, tormented fan sort of way.
Bless Chuck Swirsky, who made sure to mention Ford’s ranking among the league’s fast dudes, at minimum, two times per broadcast. In fact, the only time a Raptor ran faster than Ford was when Sam Mitchell sprinted to his defense after Al Horford pulled this incredibly dirty bullshit that messed up Ford’s back and more or less ended his run as the league’s speediest man.
11. Amir Johnson, PF (2009-2015); 451 GP / 284 starts / 8.8 points / 6.3 rebounds / 1.2 assists / 57.2 FG% / 57.2 seconds per three-pointer wind up
By the time he left Toronto, Amir Johnson’s status as the Raptors plus/minus god king had been slightly overcome by his crumbling ankle joints. But he didn’t come by his reputation as a no-stats hero lightly.
Over his first four years in Toronto, he was a tanking team’s worst nightmare, unable to hemorrhage points even with four defense-opposed teammates conspiring against him at all times. And even as the Raptors turned the corner into respectability, Johnson remained a pillar of the team’s best lineups.
In total, the Raptors were outscored by a combined 482 points during Johnson’s six years of service. Individually, Johnson was a +399 in that time. Like ... how?
It is confounding then, that in what might be Johnson’s most memorable game as a Raptor — his 20-point, 10-rebound, comeback-inspiring performance in Game 7 against the Nets — he was a -6.
Plus/minus: it’s a weird stat, but no one did it better than Amir.
We’re almost done! Check back on Monday for the final instalment of Ranking Every Raptor as we discuss the top-10.