A Raptors Team For The Decade

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Mike Ulmer - raptors.com

December 30, 2009

For a franchise in business for only 15 years, you can find a surprising amount of debate around the Raptors All Decade team.

Start with the fact that, no single Raptor came even remotely close to playing through 2000-2010. Its the nature of NBA and sports in general. Morris Peterson is the franchise leader in games with 542. Every one was played this decade. Thats nearly seven full seasons but the field drops off from there.

Obviously with so many truncated Raptor careers, longevity cant be the deciding factor.

So lets start with excellence for a moderate length of time and give some acknowledgment to those such as Charles Oakley who shone briefly but brightly in this firmament.

Point guard: Alvin Williams

Honorable mention: Jose Calderon, TJ Ford

Alvin Williams (1998-2006): Williams narrowly makes the grade based largely on his ability to play with pain. Knee injuries impeded him in the second half of his career but he found a way to boost his scoring average in the playoffs (12.5 per cent against 9.92 in the regular season) and lead the club to a series victory over the New York Knicks as well as a seven game loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. On a team with Vince Carter, Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley, Williams steady management of a game proved invaluable. Williamss stats were not memorable, -as well as the 9.92 points he banked an average of 4.29 assists every regular season game - but his contributions and stature were.

Jose Calderon (2005 to present): Calderon has been beset by injuries. Last years hamstring pull was replaced by a hip problem that has knocked Calderon out of nine of the clubs 32 games. Still, when healthy, Calderon runs the Raptors offence as well or better than anyone in the clubs history. Calderons skills would be ruefully acknowledged this year were it not for the terrific play of Jarrett Jack in his absence. He is a superb teammate with an unsinkable optimism, an excellent passer with a great sense of the game and a tireless worker who transformed a poor jump shot into a good one.

TJ Ford (2006-2008): TJ Ford is the fastest Raptor to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Until his wish to be the number one guard prompted a trade request, Ford worked in lockstep with Calderon and drove to the basket with no regard for his personal safety. He was a charismatic, exciting player who in another era would have lasted a lot longer.

Shooting Guard: Vince Carter

Honorable mention: Morris Peterson, Jalen Rose

Vince Carter (1998-2005): The easiest choice of the bunch. With apologies to Chris Bosh, Vince Carters offensive gifts were a once in a generation phenomenon. He averaged 23.4 points over his 403 games with the Raptors and Carter remains the gold standard in mid-air gymnastics. When looking for the ultimate compliment to describe rookie DeMar DeRozan, GM Bryan Colangelo mentioned DeRozan and Carter in the same sentence. All the other stuff, the flight to North Carolina for his graduation, his sucky play to force the Raps to trade him and the laughably meager returns for the Raptors do not change the fact that Carter was the most talented player in franchise history. For nearly all of his time here, he was also the best.

Morris Peterson (2000-2007): A three-point expert whose demeanour made him a media star, Morris Peterson thrived somewhere between the starters and reserves. He became a much better defensive player late in his tenure with the Raptors. In New Orleans he hasnt come close to matching the dozen points a game he garnered with the Raptors.

Jalen Rose (2003-2006): By virtue of his 16.1 points a game, no list would be complete without Rose. That he was one of the only shooting threats on dismal teams and did little other than shoot can, however, be acknowledged.

Small Forward: Jerome Williams

Honorable mention: Anthony Parker

Jerome Williams (2000-2004) never wanted to leave Toronto. He was collateral damage in the deal that sent Antonio Davis to Chicago. The Junkyard Dog lent a fierce competitiveness to the Raptors best squads. He ran the floor unrelentingly and his seven rebounds per game was number six in franchise history. Mostly, Williams gets the nod because he created his own persona and worked hard enough to do it justice.

Anthony Parker (2006-2009) spent more time as a shooting guard than a small forward but the last thing we would want is to pigeonhole the Raptors most versatile player. When called upon, the six-foot-six Parker could double down as a point guard. An elegant, intelligent player, Parker shot .424 from the three point line. Thats the best percentage in franchise history.

Power forward: Chris Bosh

Honorable mention: Charles Oakley, Matt Bonner

Chris Bosh (2003 to present) is poised to become the Raptors all-time leading scorer at just 25. He already leads in rebounding and minutes played and thanks to a rigorous off-season conditioning program, Bosh is enjoying his finest pro season. Bosh has built an impressive argument that he is the signature player for the franchises first 15 years. The Raptors' captain, hasnt said or done the wrong thing for long as anyone can remember.

Charles Oakley (1998-2001) was as colorful as all the other free spirits in team history combined. Never fancy, the Oak Tree set rock hard picks, competed fiercely for rebounds and ladled out completely incomprehensible quotes better than any other Raptor.

Matt Bonner (2004-2006) was another player whose effort won more admiration than his skills. Despite limited playing time, Bonner always managed a handful of rebounds a night. For a six-ten player with minimal lift, Bonner shot well from beyond the arc and compiled a .421 percentage in his two seasons in Toronto.

Centre: Antonio Davis

Honourable mention: Andrea Bargnani.

Antonio Davis (1999-2006) at six-foot-10 was, at least as far as height was concerned, a little small to play centre. But Davis had shoulders a mile wide and his play under the basket was instrumental in the Raptors early playoff success.

Davis stands sixth in games played, fifth in minutes, second in rebounds per game, third in blocks, free throws made and free throw percentage, fifth in points second in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and rebounds and tenth in career points per game.

Andrea Bargnani (2006 to present) has improved steadily since arriving in Toronto as the first overall selection in the 2006 draft. Since his rookie season, Bargnani has pushed his points per game from 11.6 to 16.3 and his rebounds per game from 3.9 to 6.1. Underrated as a defensive player, Bargnani has the ability and the contract extension that would allow him to usurp Davis.