The Toronto Raptors have not exactly been a pillar franchise during their time in the NBA. I know that they have had successful seasons the past couple of years and they seem to be trending in the right direction as a franchise, but if you look at the overall big picture, it is fair to argue the Raptors have been an underachieving franchise, to say the least.
We have seen times where it has been bad from top to bottom in the organization. The general managers have been bad, the coaching staff has been bad, and usually with bad management comes underachieving players. Unfortunately for the Raptors, they have had more underachieving players and draft picks than they have had players that live up to expectations. As a result, these tough times produced some of the worst players in Raptors history. To be clear, this is not arguing the Raptors have not had good players during their "dark" days, but just several underachieving players.
Despite all of the tough times for the Raptors, it would be unfair to solely criticize the franchise. Over the past few years, it is clear that they have been trending in the right direction and it does not look they are going to go back to being a poor franchise any time soon. This turnaround especially applies ever since Masai Ujiri took over as President/General Manager. Ujiri has helped players develop and has also surrounded them with resources that have helped take the Raptors from a laughing stock to Eastern Conference contenders. During these successful times, the Raptors have produced some of the best players in their franchise's history.
With all of that being said, it is an interesting idea to look at the 8 best players and 7 worst players that have played for the Raptors since 2000. Also, note that this will focus on the players' time with the Raptors and not time after, so players like Tracy McGrady who established themselves as superstars after their Raptors career will not be on this list.
15 Best - Amir Johnson
Although his statistics may not reflect it, Amir Johnson is one of the better Raptors in recent memory. Do not get me wrong, he still could put up decent numbers, but his value was seen more in the "little areas" of the game. He left everything on the court and was always the person to dive for loose balls, take charges, and provide a spark for his teammates.
Johnson was also a part of some dark times in Toronto, but he never complained and kept playing hard. Loyalty is not so common in the NBA nowadays, but Johnson was an exception. He could have easily left to a better team and been a solid bench player, but he decided to grind it out in Toronto.
In total, Johnson played six seasons for the Raps and averaged around nine points per game and six rebounds per game. Again, remember there was much more to Johnson's game than statistics. He is one of those guys that any team would like to have because of his work ethic and determination.
14 Worst - Aleksandar Radojevic
Many basketball fans may not recognize who Aleksandar Radojevic is and there is a reason for that. He greatly failed to live up to his expectations after the Raptors drafted him 12th overall in the 1999 NBA draft. He had a terrible rookie season, only appearing in three games due to injury and averaged around two points and two rebounds per game. He did not fare much better the next season as injuries continued to plague him. Although he was on the roster for during this season, he did not register a single minute and was eventually traded to Denver. He went on to spend some more time riding the pine in the NBA before ultimately heading back to Europe to continue his career.
Looking back on it, I am sure the Raptors wish they drafted Ron Artest, Corey Maggette, or Andrei Kirilenko over Radojevic.
13 Best - Jose Calderon
Jose Calderon was never spectacular during his Raptors career, but he was always Mr. Dependable. He could come off the bench and provide solid numbers, or he could start a game and get you a double double on many nights. He was also a great passer and a great free throw shooter,
We also cannot forget how great of a team player Calderon was, despite the constant change in his role during his time with the Raptors. You may recall that sometimes the coaches would say he was the starter, only for the GM to go and make a trade for another starting point guard. Most players would get upset by this, but not Calderon. In total, Calderon played parts of eight seasons with the Raps, averaging 10 points and seven assists per game. Not bad for a player that did not come to the NBA until he was 24.
12 Worst - Michael Bradley
Michael Bradley was drafted by the Raptors 17th overall in the 2001 draft and it is safe to say he never lived up to expectations of being a first round pick. During his rookie season, Bradley was only able to average around one point per game and one rebound per game. He had some improvement the next season in averaging five points per game and six rebounds per game, but still not enough to justify a mid-level first round pick. Bradley then went on face injuries and as a result only lasted parts of three season with the Raptors. You might be curious as to what happened to Bradley after his time with Raptors. Well, he bounced around the NBA for a couple of seasons before taking his game overseas. I think it is safe to say the Raptors would like that draft pick back.
11 Best - Antonio Davis
I feel like Antonio Davis is one of the most underrated players to ever don a Raptors jersey. Perhaps this is because the Raptors traded a 5th overall pick to land him in 2000 season. However, the 5th pick that the Raptors traded, Jonathan Bender did not go on to have great NBA career, so that is not too much of an issue for me. Davis helped put Toronto on the map and was a crucial factor in helping the team make their first playoff appearance and achieving a team-record (at the time) 47 wins in the regular season. He even had an All-Star game appearance as a Raptor.
Skill set-wise, Davis was a great rebounder and could get you a double double on many nights. This can be seen in his 13 points per game and close to 10 rebounds per game averages while with the Raptors. He was also a gritty player that did not back down from anyone, providing the Raps with much needed toughness. Davis will always go down as an underrated player for the Raptors.
10 Worst - Kris Humphries
Kris Humphries has managed to establish himself a solid NBA career, but his time with the Raptors was not that great. He did provide energy and hustle off the bench and there was the rare game wherein he had big rebounding numbers, but that is about it. He did not have a scoring touch around the rim and could not pose an outside threat to defenses during his time with the Raptors. In total, Humphries played three seasons for the Raptors averaging around four points and three rebounds per game. I do have to give credit to Humphries for dramatically improving his game and establishing a real role in the NBA, but his time with the Raps was not good.
I also figured it would be important to mention that there is best bright side for the Raps in relation to Humphries. So what is it? He was acquired in a trade that allowed the Raps to get of Rafael Araujo.
9 Best - Morris Peterson
Morris Peterson had seven very respectable seasons for Toronto. In a time where many players did not want to play in Canada, Peterson was loyal and never complained. Mo-Pete was a part of the unforgettable 2000-01 team (first Raps team to make the playoffs) and was also a significant contributor during the Bosh Era. Peterson was known for his three-point shooting, (including the remarkable buzzer beater against Washington) and solid defense.
To this day, he holds the franchise record for three pointers at 801. Kyle Lowry is the only person in sight that can catch him and Lowry would need to re-sign in Toronto this summer to break the record. In total, Mo Pete averaged 12 points per game in Toronto, including a career high 16.8 in 2005-06.
8 Worst - Joey Graham
Joey Graham was selected 16th overall in the 2005 draft by the Raptors. You could argue this was one of the worst drafts in Raptors history. They used the seventh pick on Charlie Villanueava and then the 16th on Graham. Graham was one of those players that had all of the tools; he was a physical specimen, but he just could not put everything together and establish himself as a good NBA player. Consistency was a huge issue for Graham, as he had some plays that made you think 'wow this guy is going to be special', but then would disappear for the next five or six games.
In total, Graham only played four seasons with the Raptors, averaging around six points per game and three rebounds per game. Hopefully the Raptors have learned that having huge muscles does not always translate into being a good player at the NBA level. Currently, Graham is unsigned and remains a free agent.
7 Best - Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh was a part of the star studded 2003 draft and was selected 4th overall by the Raps. He was a major contributor in taking the Raptors from a horrible team to a team that could fight for a playoff spot. He was also a walking double-double, capable of producing 20 and 10 on any given night. Overall, Bosh had great numbers with the team, averaging around 20 points per game, over nine rebounds per game, and over a block per game in his Raptors career.
In the end, many people may be surprised to see Bosh listed this "low" on this list, but remember he was being labelled as franchise player during his time in Toronto. Most fans expect franchise players to take their teams past the first round, which is something Bosh was unable to do during his tenure with the Raps. His commitment to the team was also questioned when he decided to sit out the last few crucial games of his Raptors career (team was fighting for a playoff spot) due to what many perceived as a minor injury.
6 Worst - Landry Fields
The only reason the Raptors signed Landry Fields was because they really wanted Steve Nash. There were rumors indicating that the Knicks were going to offer up Fields to the Suns in a sign and trade for Nash. So the Raptors reacted by signing Fields to an overpriced offer sheet to stop the Knicks and Suns deal from happening. Well, half of the plan worked out as the Knicks were unable to acquire Nash.
The Raptors of course, were unable to acquire Nash and ended up being stuck with a huge over-payment for Fields. To be fair, part of Fields' struggles can be blamed on a horrendous injury that forced him to learn a new shooting motion, but in the end, the numbers and eye test both failed to live up the expectations. In total, Landry was only able to average around three points and three rebounds per game in his three seasons with the team. Hey, at least he got paid.
5 Best - Kyle Lowry
Remember the discussion relating to how badly the Raptors wanted Steve Nash? Well, not getting him may have been the best thing that happened to their franchise. They moved on to other options and eventually landed Kyle Lowry. The start of Lowry's tenure with Raptors was rocky, but eventually he grew as a player and significantly contributed in helping the Raptors to set numerous franchise records over the past couple of seasons, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago with a team record 56 wins during the regular season. If the Raptors ever need a big bucket or play, Lowry is usually the guy to do so. He is just an all-around great player.
Lowry's stats are not too shabby either. In his Raptor career, he is averaging around 17 points per game, around seven assists per game, and around five rebounds per game. Needless to say, it is crucial the Raptors re-sign him this off-season.
4 Worst - Andrea Bargnani
Many people will be surprised by former number one overall pick Andrea Bargnani's place on this list. After all, he has had seasons where he has averaged more than 20 points per game. However, sometimes stats can be deceiving and Bargnani is definitely an example of that. Half of the time Bargnani looked like he was not giving his full effort and he was lost on defense many times. For a big man, his rebounding was atrocious (maybe he was too busy thinking about his next Primo Pasta commercial). Finally, Bargnani was never able to step up when it mattered most. If the Raptors needed a big bucket, or big play Bargnani was nowhere to be found.
In the end, the Raps should be thankful that somehow Masai managed to fleece the Knicks and get a high first round pick in return for this guy.
3 Best - DeMar DeRozan
In a day and age where loyalty in the NBA is rare, DeMar DeRozan is the opposite. In free agency, DeRozan did not even meet with other teams, instead opting to sign with the Raptors shortly after the signing period opened. Many people wondered if DeRozan's work ethic would take a hit after the mega contract he received, but this has not been the case, as he looks better so far this year than he has at any other point in his career.
Like Lowry, DeRozan has significantly contributed to helping the Raps reach levels they have not previously been able to. He has made the All-Star game twice and will continue to get better as he is still only 26 years old. In addition, DeRozan will soon hold many Raptor records, such as games played and points. In total, DeRozan has averaged 18 points per game in his career, a number that will likely increase over the next few seasons.
2 Worst - Rafael Arajuo
There is no justification in the Raptors drafting Rafael Arajuo 8th overall in the 2004 draft. I mean, what were the Raptors thinking? This guy had red flags coming into the draft and the Raptors still took him ahead of guys like Andre Iguodala! Arajuo was a big body, but that was about all he could bring to the table and he was not even very effective in using this big body. He also had very limited offensive skill, was not a good defender and as a result, barely got any playing time.
In total, Arajuo played two seasons for the Raptors, averaging three points per game and three rebounds per game. He was eventually traded to the Utah Jazz, where he lasted one season before never playing a game in the NBA. Thankfully for Raptors fans, Masai is one of the best basketball executives in the league and you can hope for much better drafting.
1 Best - Vince Carter
Half man-half amazing. Overall, it was a tough decision to put Vince Carter ahead of Lowry and DeRozan, but Carter has meant too much to the game of basketball in Toronto. At one point, I do expect Lowry or DeRozan to pass Carter on this list, but not today. Even though Carter left on terrible terms, fans realize how important he was and this is why he now receives loud ovations every time he returns back to Toronto versus the massive boos he used to receive. He himself made basketball must-watch in Toronto and helped fill the stands. Who knows, if it was not for him, the Raptors may have lost their team just like the Vancouver Grizzlies did.
His statistics were pretty good too. In total, he averaged around 24 points per game in seven seasons with the Raptors. Overall, many Raptors fans still wonder what could have been if both Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter stayed and played for the Raptors deep into their primes.