The Toronto Raptors are one of the newest franchises in the NBA, even though they got their start back in the 1995/96 season, along with the formally Vancouver (but now Memphis) Grizzlies. As a result, the Raptors are the only Canadian franchise in the NBA today — something that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. In their first two decades as a franchise, they have never challenged for an NBA title. But that doesn’t mean Toronto hasn’t been home to some absolutely outstanding players. They have had multiple All-Stars, scoring champions, Dunk Contest winners, and even a few former NBA champions in their ranks (although none made this list). This article will take a closer look at the ten greatest players in Toronto Raptors franchise history.
10. Tracy McGrady
If you are shocked to see McGrady at number twn on this list, let me explain why I made this choice. While McGrady was a better player than arguably everyone on this list, his time as a Raptor was relatively short, He didn’t really “blow up” until he signed as a free agent to the Orlando Magic. McGrady was drafted out of high school by the Raptors with the ninth overall pick in 1997 and proved to be an effective scorer off the bench for them.
He formed an exciting partnership with his cousin Vince Carter, even though he wouldn’t truly blossom into a complete player until after he left Canada. While his numbers pale in comparison to what he went on to do for the Magic (and later the Houston Rockets), he managed to average 11 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in just under 25 minutes per game.
9. Damon Stoudamire
Before their inaugural season in the NBA, the Raps were given the seventh overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. They selected Damon Stoudamire, a point guard out of Arizona, and he became the very first draft pick in franchise history. It proved to be a very good pick for Toronto. Stoudamire paid off immediately for the team as their starting point guard and gave them a true leader from the start. He won the Rookie of the Year and was fifth in the NBA in assists that first year.
After spending the better part of three seasons with the Raptors, he was traded to the Trail Blazers and continued to enjoy a solid career. In his three seasons with the Raptors, Stoudamire averaged nearly 20 points a game, nine assists, and 4.1 rebounds on over 40 minutes a game! He was the team’s first star player, giving early fans something to cheer for as the franchise found its place in the league.
8. Jose Calderon
Despite going undrafted in 2003 and returning to play pro ball in Spain, the Raptors decided to take a gamble on Calderon ahead of the 2005 NBA season. The Spanish league may not have been NBA caibre, but it will still professional and competitive basketball. So Calderon was used to playing against in a tense environment.
This decision ultimately worked out very well for the Raptors, as the talented point guard played with them for nearly eight seasons and was one of the best passers in the entire league during that stretch. In his Raptors career, Calderon averaged 10 points a game, just over seven assists, and 2.5 rebounds. He also protected the ball, committing just 1.7 turnovers a game. He was eventually traded to the Pistons and later landed with the Mavericks, the Knicks, the Lakers, the Hawks, and (most recently) the Cavaliers. He has never been able to find the same success in the NBA that he had as a member of the Raptors, though.
7. Alvin Williams
Williams was actually brought to the Raptors in 1998 as part of the deal when they traded Damon Stoudamire to the Portland Trailer Blazers. While they lost a good player in Stoudamire, this deal actually worked out pretty well for the Raptors, since Williams became a staple on the team for many years to come.
Whether it was starting or coming off the bench (at either guard position), he was great for the Raptors. For a long time, he could have been considered the heart and soul of the team. He was never a superstar for them (and definitively didn’t put up amazing stats), but was an all-around player who put in maximum effort for the club. That was important during those early post-expansion years of struggle. He averaged 9.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.5 rebounds a game during his years with the team.
6. Morris Peterson
Peterson was drafted out of Michigan State with the 21st overall pick by the Raptors in the 2000 NBA Draft. Over the next seven years with the Raptors, Peterson proved to be a lethal long range threat for the club, draining over 100 three-pointers in each of his final five seasons in Toronto. He was also was about as durable as they come, hardly ever missing games due to injury and even playing in every single game for four straight years, from 2002-2006).
In his seven seasons in Toronto, Peterson averaged 12 points, four rebounds, 1.8 assists, and a steal per game. He also shot nearly 40% from three-point range, making him one of the best pure shooters in Raptors history. When the Raptors signed Bryan Colangelo as their new General Manager in 2006, it quickly became apparent that he was tearing the team down and starting from scratch. Toronto let “Mo Pete” walk and he signed a free-agent deal with the New Orleans Hornets in 2007. He retired in 2011 after 11 years in the league.
5. Antonio Davis
In 1999, Davis was traded from the Pacers to the Raptors after forcing his way out in search of a bigger role. It was a deal that the Raptors won — big time. Davis quickly developed further into an All-Star in Toronto and would provide leadership and toughness during the first few playoff runs in franchise history. He became one of the star players in T.O., and was even named the team captain.
He was traded away in 2003, but returned in February of 2006, only to get injured and retire a month later. During his career with the Raptors, Davis averaged 13 points, over nine rebounds, and a block per game in 35 minutes a night. However, he did much more for this team than stats could ever show. His grit, determination, and leadership helped forge the club’s identity in that first decade.
4. DeMar DeRozan
While all of the “best players” on this list so far are Raptors of the past, let’s finally get to a player who is currently on the team — none other than DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan was drafted ninth overall by the Raps during the 2009 NBA Draft and has spent his entire career with Toronto, so far — including signing a five-year, $139 million contract after his rookie deal expired in 2016. Despite a slow start to his NBA career, DeRozen has really turned it on in the last few seasons.
He is now a multi-time All Star and one of the best pure scorers in the Eastern Conference. In his eight years with the team, DeRozan has averaged 18 points, four rebounds, and two assists a game. He is surely looking to improve those numbers as well, and help lead Canada’s only NBA franchise to its first championship. He is also one of the only players in franchise history to stick around after becoming a free agent, which has endeared him to a city of basketball fans who were sick and tired of seeing their star players leave for greener pastures.
3. Kyle Lowry
Ever since arriving in Toronto via a 2012 trade with the Houston Rockets, Kyle Lowry has been outstanding for the Raptors. He has far exceeded the minimal expectations that many fans had set for him. He was originally acquired just for some depth in the backcourt, but his contributions to the club have been MUCH greater than that. So much so, in fact, that the Raps shipped out Jose Calderon rather than have a point guard controversy on their hands.
Lowry has been among the best point guards in the league over the last half-decade. He has made three consecutive All-Star teams and even an All-NBA team in 2016. So far his tenure with the Raptors has seen him average 17 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and over 1.5 steals a game — all career highs compared to his time in Houston and Memphis. Like DeRozen, he also bucked the trend of All-Star players leaving Toronto when he signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension in 2014. Then he signed another three-year, $100 million contract with the Dinos in 2017. He’s now under contract until 2020, and has been an integral part of a team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, taking LeBron James and the Cavaliers to six games before bowing out. If Lowry can take the Raptors to the promised land before his time in Toronto eventually ends, he will likely jump to the number one spot on this list. Until then, though…
2. Chris Bosh
For a long period of the team’s history, Chris Bosh was the face and unquestioned leader of the franchise. He was taken fourth overall in the 2003 NBA Draft and immediately made a huge impact on the team. He made the All-Rookie team in his freshman year and by the time his career in Toronto was finished, he had made the All-Star team a whopping five times!
Unfortunately for Raps fans, he then “took his talents the South Beach” like LeBron and joined the Miami Heat in free agency. The Toronto faithful were furious, but Bosh kept up the production in Miami, making six more All-Star games and winning two titles. Some fans are still bitter at Bosh, but that anger has faded a bit with DeRozen and Lowry finally breaking the streak of great players bolting the Great White North. He will always be remembered as one of the great Raptors, siince he averaged 20 points, nearly ten rebounds, two assists, and a block per game in his seven seasons in Toronto, playing 36 minutes a game.
1. Vince Carter
There was no doubting who was going to come in at the number one spot in this article. Air Canada aka Vinsanity aka Vince Carter helped put Toronto basketball on the map. In his prime, Carter was one of the most exciting players (and dunkers) in NBA history — his highlights regularly flooded SportsCenter broadcasts across Canada, but also in the U.S. as well. The Raptors acquired Carter with a Draft Day trade with the Golden State Warriors in 1998, just three years after they entered the league as an expansion team.
He took the NBA by storm with his ferocious dunks and athleticism and won the Rookie of the Year. He also went to four All-Star games and was named to an All-NBA team twice during his time in Toronto. He would finish his seven years in Toronto with per-game averages of 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, one block, and a steal. He helped the team to their first playoff series win and came within a missed Game 7 buzzer beater of making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.
While his final days in Toronto weren’t the best and his exist from the team wasn’t incredibly amicable, time has mostly healed those wounds. Fans who were mad at the time are now thankful that Carter made the Raptors worth paying attention to. While he may eventually have to give up his spot on this list as the Greatest Raptor of All-Time, there is no doubting he is still the best and most important player in franchise history.