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.

Unfortunately, Garbajosa's time in Toronto is usually defined by images like this

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.

Once again, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to join our new RaptorBlog Facebook page, where you can view all of our new blogs (including our latest Ultimate Raptors Rankings posts), web videos and news and be able to take part in discussions with fellow Raptors fans.

Comments (16)

  1. “With or without Jorge Garbajosa, the Raptors were not going to beat the Nets in the 2007 playoffs.”

    Have to disagree about your comments on the post season after losing Garbo. He was the guy who got the team fired up when they floundered with a couple timely stops, rebounds or three balls. He was the guy who could orchestrate a mismatch when the offence got shut down. He might have been enough to win against the nets (Raps were in it until the last play). And with the confidence gained after that, in that conference that was so weak, who knows what might have happened?

  2. @Alex

    I think what Scott is saying that Tim Donaghy was going to make sure we lost since he had $$$ on the Nets.

    Garbo was the man. Yeam hasnt been the same since.

  3. It always seems we lose an important piece when we face Boston why?

  4. Raptorman: Check the byline. Joseph wrote this one. Your impending fatherhood is making your brain even foggier than usual.

  5. @Raptorman

    Tim Donaghy ruins everything!!

  6. Leo loved Garbo. I remember him always talking about “men’s league” during the games, comparing Garbo to those older dudes in your local b-ball leagues who aren’t athletic but beat you with their smarts. Pretty good analogy, IMO, and I love that he was known for sneaking cigarettes.

    Solid role player, but BC pinning the beginning of the fall on Garbo’s injury is seriously delusional. He was definitely a nice pickup, but not a big impact player. The demise of the TJ/Jose tandem was a much bigger issue. Everything just clicked that first season, then kaboom.

  7. That was *hardly* the 2nd best team the raptors have ever fielded, but i do like Garbo… player, gritty, and a great glue guy.

  8. Alex, I agree with you that Garbajosa often came through with key plays for that team, but aside from the failed Jose-to-Bosh pass at the end of Game 6, the series was more decided by veteran savvy than single moments. Also, people forget that the Raptors were a failed Bostjan Nachbar buzzer-beater away from being eliminated in five games that year.

    Dribbles, you’re right, there were bigger issues than Garbo’s injury that led to the Raptors’ quick fall from grace, and the Ford/Calderon mess was probably one of them. I’d also say that Bargnani never really returning to form after his appendectomy was a bigger blow to the Raptors in the playoffs than missing Garbo was.

    Chris, the 06-07 team was definitely not the second best team in franchise history on paper, but I meant the comment in relation to actual team-success. In terms of wins and losses, that was the second best team in franchise history, until another edition of the Raptors either wins more than 47 games or wins a playoff series.

    As always, thanks for the reads and the comments/feedback. These rankings were meant to generate discussion and debate.

  9. Joseph – correct, the series was “more decided by veteran savvy than single moments” – hence, having our savviest veteran play may have made a difference.

  10. He also had the best pre-Raptors nickname “Pornoplayer” – because he was obscenely talented, and a good sense of humour. When he was named to the All-Rookie team, he was asked how he felt about about the fact that he was classfied as a rookie after playing internationally for so many years, and if it meant anything to him. He smiled and said something along the lines of “It means this league is fucked”.

  11. Congrats on the kid, Efman.

  12. Some of you seem to forget Garbajosa arrived to the league when he was 29 YEARS OLD, with a lot of experience in Europe, here dunks a spectacular shows are not very usual, in the nba the game is faster with a lot of fastbreaks and dunks so the guy is not used to do that.

    If Garbajosa is number 29 lets see which players come up next.

  13. I completely disagree regarding the statement that the Raptors would have lost even with Garbajosa.

    First of all, that 9-3 record was deceptive because if I remember correctly, it came against weak competition. (My memory could be off.)

    Second, Garbajosa was our tough guy. One of the glaring things we lacked in that series against the Nets was toughness. Pretty much what Alex said.

  14. I also disagree about the Raptors losing to the Nets if the Raps had Garbojosa. At the very least, Garbo wouldn’t have let someone named Bostjan Nachbar look like an all star that series. He probably would’ve also at least slowed down either Carter or Jefferson on the wing.

  15. Garbajosa should have exploded the “soft Euro” meme forever in Toronto. Somehow he didn’t, probably because he only had 74 games for us.

    I recently called him “tougher than burnt elephant steak”. It’s one of the favourite phrases I’ve turned about a basketball player.

  16. You are disrespecting Garbo. As a media sports figure, I expect you to be able to see more than the casual fan.

    You need to look deeper into the stats of when Garbo was on the floor vs when he wasn’t. You didn’t see much from him because you weren’t supposed to. Don’t be fooled by highlights and stats. Garbo was the best defender on that Raps team and was able to guard the 3,4 and 5 albeit the 5 was not his best position to guard.

    He was boxing out other players so other raptors were getting the rebound. He was doing the dirty work for other players to do what the raps needed them to do. Raps would of made the second round with garbo on the squad. That Nets team weren’t that good.

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