In wake of Vince Carter announcing that he is retiring from the NBA, we're taking this week to celebrate his historic career. For more on Carter's legacy, check NBA.com/Vince.
Ahead of the 1998 NBA Draft, Jackie MacMullan published a mock draft in Sports Illustrated and had the Toronto Raptors selecting Kansas' Raef LaFrentz with the fourth overall pick.
"Toronto needs someone with size and a solid game they can build around," MacMullan wrote.
Thankfully for the Raptors and their fans, they didn't go the LaFrentz route, but they did end up with one of the most electrifying players in NBA history - one that would put their franchise on the map, Vince Carter.
In the same mock draft, MacMullan had Carter going seventh overall to the Sacramento Kings saying: "Chris Webber's displeasure about being a King could trigger another trade that alters the landscape on draft day, but Carter is the best player available here."
Carter ended up being more than just the seventh-best player in the draft, he finished his career as one of the top players of the class behind only future Hall of Famers and Finals MVPs Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce.
Not many scouts knew that Carter would play more seasons than anyone in NBA history, but they all had an idea that his athletism was otherworldly.
Few scouting reports are accessible on the internet from the 90s but Usenet NBA Mock Draft wrote about VC's explosiveness.
"Athletically, he's outstanding. He could become a terrific defender in the NBA with his athletic ability. He does everything at a high level. He's a leaper. He has to work on his jump shooting and his ballhandling and develop a better feel for the game. He's a lottery pick."
Another report on the site focused on his development.
"Carter came into North Carolina basically an athlete and left a basketball player," the site said ahead of the draft. "He didn't play defence his freshman year but has developed into an excellent defender."
While Carter never turned into an All-NBA defender he was a solid defender throughout his career. It didn't take him long to get used to defending at the pro level, he finished second on the Raptors in defensive win shares his rookie season behind only lockdown defender Doug Christie. Carter is still top-five in defensive win shares for the Raptors ahead of Antonio Davis and go-to defender Morris Peterson.
Like MacMullan in their mock draft, Usenet had the Raptors taking LaFrentz with the fourth section. Under a section titled "others considered" for the Raps pick, Carter ranked fourth after Michael Olowokandi, Paul Pierce and Antawn Jamison.
The site wrote of Carter in the mock: "He can dunk, but what else? Could be something special."
Carter proved himself more than a dunker early and often with the Raptors. By the end of his rookie year, he was already the team's go-to option and by his third season, he was one of the most productive offensive forces in the league. Carter led the league in offensive boxscore plus-minus and value over replacement player in 2001.
As his responsibilities as a player grew, he maintained his efficiency. To this day, Vinsanity still leads the Raptors in usage percentage and efficiency rating.
Looking back it was clear that many insiders had the Raptors drafting a big man. They had just parted ways with the face of their franchise in Damon Stoudamire and at the time the league encouraged building around a solid big.
Instead of going the traditional route, Toronto's brass trusted that Carter could take them to the next level - and he did. He became one of the league's most popular players, gave the franchise many firsts and inspired an entire nation to play the game of basketball.
Let's face it, Raef LaFrentz wasn't doing all of that.
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