The Toronto Raptors will celebrate their 25th anniversary this season.
In anticipation of the milestone, five members of our NBA.com Staff held an all-time draft this offseason to see who could build the best Raptors lineup. With DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard facing off tonight when the LA Clippers host the San Antonio Spurs, now is as good of a time as ever to revisit it.
The rules of the draft were simple:
- Each team selected five starters, one sixth man and a head coach
- Every player and coach who has represented the franchise since 1995-96 was available
- One specific season had to be selected for each player and the season selected could only be from their time with the franchise (i.e. what Tracy McGrady did as a member of the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets doesn't count)
- It was a snake draft, meaning the pick order was reversed each round
Below are the results from our draft, followed by an explanation from each member about why they made the picks they did.
Who had the best draft?
1. Micah Adams
2. Kyle Irving
3. Scott Rafferty
4. Gilbert McGregor
5. Carlan Gay
The order was then reversed each round.
1. Kawhi Leonard - 2018-19 season
2. Vince Carter - 2000-01 season
3. Chris Bosh - 2009-10 season
4. DeMar DeRozan - 2016-17 season
5. Kyle Lowry - 2016-17 season
6. Tracy McGrady - 1999-00 season
7. Damon Stoudamire - 1996-97 season
8. Pascal Siakam - 2018-19 season
9. Lou Williams - 2014-15 season
10. Marcus Camby - 1997-98 season
11. Jalen Rose - 2004-05 season
12. Jonas Valanciunas - 2015-16 season
13. Danny Green - 2018-19 season
14. Serge Ibaka - 2018-19 season
15. Antonio Davis - 2000-01 season
16. Marc Gasol - 2018-19 season
17. Rudy Gay - 2012-13 season
18. Fred VanVleet - 2017-18 season
19. Shawn Marion - 2008-09 season
20. Jason Kapono - 2007-08 season
21. Mike James - 2005-06 season
22. Donyell Marshall - 2003-04 season
23. Terrence Ross - 2013-14 season
24. Morris Peterson - 2005-06 season
25. Anthony Parker - 2006-07 season
26. Doug Christie - 1996-97 season
27. Andrea Bargnani - 2010-11 season
28. Jose Calderon - 2007-08 season
29. Nick Nurse
30. Hedo Turkoglu - 2009-10 season
31. Lenny Wilkens
32. Greivis Vasquez - 2014-15 season
33. Dwane Casey
34. Sam Mitchell
35. Butch Carter
Starting Lineup: Mike James, Jalen Rose, Jason Kapono, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Camby
Sixth Man: Hedo Turkoglu
Head Coach: Lenny Wilkens (and Alex McKechnie)
With the first overall pick, there was really nobody else to even consider other than the 2018-19 version of Kawhi Leonard. That was the easy part.
MORE: Remembering Kawhi's best moments with Raptors
With my second pick, I opted for an elite shot-blocker with a 23-year-old Marcus Camby, who led the NBA in blocks in 1997-98. After that, I wanted another versatile playmaker and nabbed Jalen Rose, who in 2004-05 averaged over 18 PPG. At that point in his career, a 32-year-old Rose still had plenty of gas left in the tank and hadn't yet been torched for 81 by Kobe Bryant.
With a rangy frontcourt and rim protector in place, the next two needs were all about shooting. Enter: Jason Kapono and Mike James.
Kapono was perhaps the league's best sniper in the mid 2000s and delivered the best 3-point shooting season in Raptors history. As for James, you could do far worse for a point guard than someone who scored 20 a game on 44% shooting from downtown. And besides, when the only player in NBA history who can match your very specific and very arbitrary numbers is the GOAT himself, there's really no other choice.
Turkoglu wasn't at his best during his one year in Toronto, but gives me even more length, versatility and shooting in a Sixth Man role.
C'mon, do you really think anyone's beating this team?
- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)
Starting Lineup: Greivis Vasquez, Vince Carter, Donyell Marshall, Shawn Marion, Jonas Valanciunas
Sixth Man: Lou Williams
Head Coach: Nick Nurse
2000-01 Vince was a problem. He averaged a career-high 27.6 points per game, earned the Raptors the franchise's first playoff win AND had Toronto one shot away from reaching their first Conference Finals in franchise history. Lou Williams' only season with the Raptors resulted in his first Sixth Man of the Year award and Drake made a track in his honour, making him an easy second selection.
I opted for Jonas Valanciunas to man the middle but didn't take his highest-scoring season as I already had two scorers. Instead, I went with 2015-16 JV, mostly due to his career-high 9.5 rebounds per game. Marion was the perfect option who can defend multiple positions and provide some frontcourt athleticism next to JV. Even if he wasn't at his best with the Raptors in 2009, a then 30-year-old Matrix still had several productive years left in him.
Assuming we're playing this mythical game in 2019, you can never have too much shooting. Knowing that Lou Will was going to be my Sixth Man even as a second-round pick, it's a seamless transition to slide Vince over to the 2-guard spot and put the sharpshooting Marshall - who shot 40.3% from deep in 2003-04 - at small forward.
Taking Nurse in the sixth round was the equivalent to taking a kicker outside of the last round in a fantasy football draft, but I had to go get the only NBA champion head coach in franchise history. Vasquez was a personal pick as my favourite college basketball player of all-time. 2014-15 was his only full season in Toronto and playing alongside Vince, Lou Will and Marshall, I trust him to up that assist average of 3.7 per game in a Raptors uniform considering he led the league in assists just one year earlier in a starting role.
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
Starting Lineup: Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, Terrence Ross, Pascal Siakam, Chris Bosh
Sixth Man: Jose Calderon
Head Coach: Dwane Casey
With my first pick, I went with Chris Bosh, who averaged 24.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game in his final season with the Raptors. Those numbers helped him earn his fifth straight All-Star appearance and make him the perfect player to lead my team.
Joining him in the frontcourt is Pascal Siakam. While Siakam's best years are still to come, he proved himself to be one of the best prospects in the league in 2018-19 by being Toronto's second-leading scorer in their championship run. The combination of him and Bosh give the Raptors versatility on both ends, as they can do a little bit of everything on offence and guard multiple positions on defence.
Even though Bosh and Siakam can both space the floor, I wanted gunners in the backcourt. Danny Green was an easy decision at shooting guard - he made 45.5% of his 3-point attempts in his only season with the Raptors, the second-highest rate in the league behind only Joe Harris. Fred VanVleet was also a lights-out shooter in 2017-18, making 41.4% of his 3-point attempts.
VanVleet provides some much-needed playmaking and toughness, too. He came off the bench every game in his sophomore season, but he often closed games alongside Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan because of his two-way play.
Rounding out my starting lineup is Terrence Ross. He made history in 2013-14 with a 51-point performance against the LA Clippers, tying him with Vince Carter for the most points scored in a single game by a Raptor. Consistency was a problem that season, but he's an explosive scorer who can heat up from the perimeter. I couldn't pass up on that in the fifth round of our draft.
Finally, I went with Jose Calderon as my sixth man. He came close to averaging a double-double in 2007-08, posting 11.2 points and 8.3 assists per game while shooting 51.9% from the field and 42.9% from 3. He'd fit in perfectly with my one-two punch of Siakam and Bosh, and he brings even more playmaking in the backcourt.
- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)
Starting Lineup: Damon Stoudamire, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Serge Ibaka, Andrea Bargnani
Sixth Man: Morris Peterson
Head Coach: Sam Mitchell
When you take overall body of work into consideration, DeMar DeRozan could very well be the greatest Raptor of all time. For that reason alone, it was a no-brainer to take the 2016-17 version of DeRozan that averaged a career-high 27.3 points per game once he fell to me at the No. 4 pick. Pairing DeRozan with second-year Damon Stoudamire in my backcourt makes for potent scoring and two of the most impactful guards the franchise has seen.
Rudy Gay, who averaged 19.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in 33 games after the Raptors acquired him from the Grizzlies, was the perfect choice for me to play at the 3.
I've got two versatile bigs in Serge Ibaka, whose best season in Toronto resulted in an NBA title, and former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, who showed exactly why he was taken with that selection as he averaged a career-high 21.4 points per game in the 2010-11 season.
With bigs that can space the floor, a point guard that can create and pure scorers on the wing, I focused my attention to a fan-favourite as my sixth man. In the 2005-06 season, Morris Peterson averaged a career-high 16.8 points while connecting on 39.5% of his 5.5 3-point attempts per game. Mo-Pete is coming with the energy and is sure to provide a spark to lift my team when it needs it the most.
- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)
Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Doug Christie, Tracy McGrady, Antonio Davis, Marc Gasol
Sixth Man: Anthony Parker
Head Coach: Butch Carter
Having the last pick in a draft is always a disadvantage (even if it's a snake draft), but I'm happy with the way my team turned out.
Now that he's been vindicated with a title, Kyle Lowry is working his way into being the undisputed greatest Raptor of all-time. He was solid in his role this past season, but I decided to take his 2016-17 year - the best of his career. He averaged 22.4 points, 7.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game, shooting 42% from 3.
When you add Lowry's 3-point shooting alongside Doug Christie's 1996-97 and Anthony Parker's 2006-07 season, I have a team that can really space the floor. Defensively we're not too shabby either, with both Christie and Parker on the wing, Lowry, who's a good defender for his size, and Marc Gasol anchoring the paint - even though it's an older version of the guy who won Defensive Player of the Year.
AD finally gets to play the four after years of playing out of position in an era where centres were big and bruising. His 2000-01 season was an All-Star season in which he averaged a double-double of 13.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, plus 1.9 blocks.
I picked up T-Mac with my second pick, but the version I'm getting (1999-2000) was obviously nowhere near the one he would become after leaving the Raptors. That was a tough pill to swallow. I should've gone elsewhere with this pick.
I'll also have to convince my head coach Butch Carter that it's OK to shoot 3s in this era of hoops.
- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)
These rosters weren't built specifically with numbers in mind and even if they were, there are all sorts of questions about fit and matchups and all of that fun stuff.
Taking the win shares for every season of every player selected and adding them up, the winner here comes out as the Chris Bosh-led Team Scott. While Bosh himself never won a playoff series with the Raptors, perhaps some of the championship mojo wore off from Pascal Siakam, Danny Green and Fred VanVleet. With three representatives from the title-winning 2018-19 squad, Team Scott had more Toronto champs than anyone else.
|1. Team Scott||43.9|
|2. Team Carlan||43.4|
|3. Team Kyle||40.6|
|4. Team Micah||30.9|
|5. Team Gil||29.4|
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