The Toronto Raptors are the reigning NBA Champions, but before winning it all, what was their best upgrade and worst downgrade ever?
The Toronto Raptors are the second team for our next edition of this series. There is a lot of history for a team that’s been in the NBA since 1995. There were some franchise-altering trades, questionable moves made by management, and trying to find respectability in the league.
The biggest upgrade in Raptors history
The most obvious upgrade that comes to mind is the DeMar DeRozan-Kawhi Leonard trade in 2018. The deal led Toronto to its first-ever NBA title. For other upgrades, we have to go back to 1998 when the Raptors were still looking for an identity.
The Golden State Warriors drafted Vince Carter fifth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. However, he was then traded to the Raptors in exchange for Antawn Jamison, the fourth overall pick.
Carter played a significant role in leading the Raptors to their first playoff appearance in 2000. The next season, Toronto would win their first-ever playoff series. “Vinsanity” was must-see TV for Raptors and NBA fans alike. Every time he was on the court, he would put his talent on display, whether it was a dunk or a game-winning shot.
Most importantly, Carter gave Raptors’ fans memorable moments, including the dunk contest in Oakland and the seven-game playoff series against Allen Iverson. Then, things quickly fell apart.
Injuries piled up, following a mistrust from management that dramatically unfolded. Vinsanity’s end in Toronto wasn’t all his fault, but once he knew his future was elsewhere, the situation made it worse.
You can forgive Carter for how things led to his departure, but it doesn’t mean you can forget about it. He put the city on the map and inspired kids throughout the country to play basketball. Several of those kids are now in the NBA.
Carter sits fourth on Toronto’s all-time scoring list, behind Kyle Lowry, DeRozan, and Chris Bosh.
The upgrade: Antawn Jamison to Golden State for Vince Carter
The worst downgrade in Raptors history
Selecting Andrea Bargnani first overall in a weak 2006 draft class wasn’t much. He’s more of a punch line for his Primo Pasta ads instead of his mediocre performances. Or, when the Raptors selected Rafael Araújo eighth overall in 2004. What hurts most is that Andre Iguodala was chosen immediately after by Philadelphia.
Who was responsible for that draft selection? Rob Babcock.
In 2004, Babcock was named the head of Toronto Raptors basketball operations and general manager. He will be known for some of the most head-scratching moves in franchise history. His first move of selecting Araújo was heavily criticized, and signing Rafer Alston wasn’t meant to be. Alston went as far as threatening to retire after numerous altercations with Sam Mitchell.
That wasn’t the worst thing to happen during his tenure. A trade is the worst thing Babcock could have ever done.
While it is true Carter wanted out of town, the return that Babcock got for the disgruntled star was a shocker. Both the trading partner and the assets in the deal enraged the fanbase, which argue it was the worst trade in franchise history.
Everything sucked about this trade. Trading your superstar to a division rival isn’t an easy pill to swallow. The two Williams didn’t live up to expectations, while the draft picks became Joey Graham and a trade chip. Alonzo Mourning refused to report to Toronto, citing an injury. Babcock would then buy out Mourning’s contract, with the centre then signing with the Miami Heat.
Babcock’s tenure in Toronto only lasted a year-and-a-half. In January 2006, he was fired as the general manager, ending a tumultuous time in the franchise. Hall of Famer Wayne Embry was named the interim general manager for two months.
The next man to take over the position was Bryan Colangelo. His arrival becomes a crucial moment in the Raptors’ move from just another franchise to an elite-level NBA franchise.
The downgrade: Glen Grunwald to Rob Babcock as general manager.
What are your thoughts on the Toronto Raptors’ top moments in franchise history? Is there one that should be at the top of the list? What was the most forgettable one for you? Let us know in the comments below.