The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the Raptorblog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every Wednesday on this blog.
Jorge Garbajosa’s Raptors’ résumé:
- 74 games, 26:48 MPG, 8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.9 TO, 1.2 PF
- 2006-07 NBA All Rookie Team and Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December, 2006
- Starter on only division championship team in franchise history
- Gruesome injury effectively cut his Raptors/NBA career short
When Bryan Colangelo first came to Toronto and built the 2006-2007 team by embarking on what some called a “Euro-movement,” Jorge Garbajosa was a key component of that movement. Sure, he wasn’t as highly touted as Andrea Bargnani or as known around NBA circles as American Anthony Parker, but “Garbo,” as he affectionately became known to Raptors fans, was a significant pick-up.
He was never supposed to be a star, but I vividly remember constant reports, blogs and stories about what basketball experts referred to as “basketball IQ.” That’s what Garbo was supposed to be — a smart basketball player who played the game the right way on both ends of the floor without having to be spectacular. That’s exactly what we got. I don’t think I can remember a single moment of Garbajosa doing something special, but I also can’t remember a single bone-headed play.
With Jorge, you always knew what you were going to get — stability. And that stability at the small forward position was a big part of why the Raptors came out of nowhere to stun the NBA with 47 victories and an Atlantic Division Championship in 2006-2007. You could easily make the argument that Jorge Garbajosa was the “glue guy” on the second-best Raptors team in franchise history. And based on that fact, he finds a home in our Ultimate Raptors Rankings.
But as we all know, things didn’t end well for Garbajosa in Toronto. On March 26, 2007, Garbo suffered one of the grossest injuries I can recall watching, leaving the floor on a stretcher. It was later revealed after surgery that he had a broken fibula, displaced ankle and ligament damage and that he would miss the remainder of the season.
The immediate reaction in Toronto was that Garbajosa’s absence would be a blow for the young, over-achieving Raptors, but no one really understood Garbajosa’s presence on the team until the post-season rolled around.
Vince Carter and the Nets beat out the Wizards for the East’s sixth seed on the last day of the regular season, leading to a storybook series with the upstart post-Vince Raptors, who had clinched the conference’s third seed with their division title. The veteran Nets proceeded to bully the inexperienced Raptors over a span of six games, with Toronto looking especially lost in Games Three and Four in New Jersey.
Things got murky for Garbajosa and the Raptors after that magical season. Garbo went to play for the Spanish national team during the 2007 off-season, against the Raptors’ wishes, and after just seven sub-par games of the 2007-2008 campaign, he decided to undergo additional surgery which would once again end his season.
The Raptors, who were, perhaps unrealistically, expected to take another step forward by a now eager fan-base, struggled to finish the season at .500 and were easily dispatched by Dwight Howard and the Magic in five games (Garbajosa’s final year of his contract was bought out by the team, and he has never returned to the NBA).
From there, despite frequent roster overhauls, the Raptors continued to spiral downwards without chemistry or leadership in the locker room. They haven’t been back to the post-season since.
Looking at these facts, it’s easy to see why many Raptors fans, and Bryan Colangelo himself, still point to that fateful night in Boston as the turning of the tide for a franchise that looked to finally be on the right track. While I agree that Garbajosa’s injury and failure to return to form was a big moment in Toronto’s brief NBA history, I do not buy the fact that the Raptors’ hopes were dashed by Garbo’s absence.
With or without Jorge Garbajosa, the Raptors were not going to beat the Nets in the 2007 playoffs. Sure, the Raps finished six games ahead of the Nets in the standings, but also didn’t dominate them with Garbo in the regular season. In fact, the two teams split their four regular season games, with each team winning twice at home.
Also, many fans forget that the Raptors actually went 9-3 (including winning nine of their first 10) and played some of their basketball of the season in the final 12 games of the regular season, following Garbajosa’s injury. They just hit a wall and looked in over their heads once the post-season tipped off. Nothing Garbajosa brought to the table would have changed that, and nothing he brought would have been enough to beat a Nets team that knew their veteran savvy would win out.
So in closing, I’ll reiterate that I do believe Garbajosa earned a place in these rankings by playing a significant role in one of the better teams in Raptors’ history, but I have to admit that I’ve always thought his significance to that team was overblown over time so that his injury and departure could be used as an excuse for subsequent failures.
But hey, that’s the beauty of these rankings — with so few legitimate stars, outside of the big two or three, putting on a Raptors uniform, it leaves the Top-30 up to a lot of debate.
On that note, it’s time to turn it over to you to take part in that debate.
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