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2004-05 End of the Carter Era

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2004-05: End of the Carter Era
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After letting go of general manager Glen Grunwald and head coach Kevin O’Neill, the Raptors rebuilt the front office by hiring new general manager Rob Babcock and also former NBA player Sam Mitchell to be the head coach.

Babcock also brought in an experienced front office staff to work with the young Raptors. Coming on board were Wayne Embry and Alex English who are two of the biggest names in NBA history.

English is one of the top scorers in the history of the NBA and Embry became the first African-American general manager in NBA history with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972.

Babcock’s first move came at the 2004 Entry Draft when the Raptors chose centre Rafael Araujo. In his rookie season, the centre struggled to adjust to the NBA but he showed a toughness on the court that the Raptors weren’t accustomed to seeing.

On the court it became evident that Chris Bosh was starting to become the Raptors new franchise player. Bosh averaged 16.8 points in his sophomore season and a team high 8.9 rebounds. On most nights he was the best player for the Raptors and it was apparent that he was destined to become a star in the NBA.

Bosh took over the leadership role on December 17 when Babcock traded Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, Alonzo Mourning, two-first round draft picks. With the trade the Raptors youth movement continued and the true outcome of this trade will be determined down the road.

While scoring was an issue under O’Neill, that wasn’t the case with Mitchell at the helm. The Raptors averaged a franchise best 99.7 points which is third biggest turnaround in NBA history.

One of the highlights of the season came on March 13 against the Philadelphia 76ers as the Raptors made a franchise and NBA record 21 three-pointers. Donyell Marshall tied the NBA record by hitting 12 triples on his own.

One of the biggest surprises was the play of Matt Bonner. The rookie forward became a fan favourite for his hustle, hard work and shooting touch. Bonner led all rookies in three-point efficiency (.424) and second in field goal percentage (.533). In a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bonner got into a little mix up with Kevin Garnett and as Bonner left the court after being thrown out the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Although Carter was dealt away, Morris Peterson remained the longest serving Raptor and heading into the 2005-006 season he played in 279 consecutive games making him the NBA Iron man.

The Raptors finished the season 33-49 and they had two first round draft picks in the June draft. The Raptors had the seventh pick which was the club’s own and then they had the 16th choice which they received in a trade with Philadelphia.

Babcock’s first choice was University of Connecticut forward Charlie Villanueva. The 6’11” native of Queens New York was only 20 years-old. At UConn Villanueva showed an ability to be a top scorer and rebounder. Babcock envisioned Bosh and Villanueva on the front court at the same time with both being match up problems for the opposition.

As for the second first round pick, Babcock chose Joey Graham a small forward from Oklahoma State. Graham was known for his defence, toughness and ability to hit the open shot in college. With Bosh, Villanueva and Graham the Raptors have a very strong core group of young players that they hope to build around for years to come.

The Raptors also had two second round picks and with those picks they selected Roko Ukic and Uros Slokar. Both are expected to be in the NBA in two to three years.

The Raptors signed European point guard Jose Calderon, one of the top guards in Europe.

After an off-season that saw many young faces come in, fans were eager to see how all the young players would fair in the upcoming season.

2004-05 saw the end of Carter's
tenure with the Raptors