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.
Walt Williams’ Raptors résumé:
- Second in scoring (16.7 PPG) on 1996-97 Raptors
- First in three point shooting accuracy (.400 3P%) on 1996-97 Raptors
- One of seven Raptors in franchise history to average at least 15 points and five rebounds per game in a season (minimum 50 games)
The Raptors have had their fair share of players who signed juicy contracts and then failed to come close to living up to expectations: Hedo Turkoglu, Yogi Stewart and Jason Kapono are a few memorable examples. But if these rankings were based on value for the money, Walt “The Wizard” Williams would pretty much have to be at the top.
After a 1995-96 season divided between the Sacramento Kings and the Miami Heat in which he averaged 13.6 points per game and shot a career-high 38.9 percent from three-point range, Williams turned down a $2.8 million offer from the Miami Heat with the assumption that he would receive a better offer elsewhere. Not only did that offer never arrive, but he ended up taking a significant pay cut from the previous season’s $2.4 million salary when he had to settle for signing with the Raptors at the veterans’ minimum of $247,500. Needless to say, other players noticed. Michael Jordan said, “He was one who truly got burned.”
You can imagine how Williams must have felt about his predicament. But rather than merely sulk about it (although I bet he did a little of that), he filled the void left by Tracy Murray (who signed a seven-year, $19 million contract with Washington) as the team’s second scoring threat after Damon Stoudamire. The Wizard’s smooth shooting stroke — as he drained 175 treys at a 40 percent success rate in 1996-97 — was almost as distinctive as his high socks, helping him to become a fan favorite.
Williams’ success as a Raptor also helped him get paid the following off-season — he re-signed with the Raptors for five years at around $20 million. However, Williams only played 28 more games as a Raptor under that new contract. He was packaged along with Carlos Rogers and a disgruntled Stoudamire in a deal that sent him to Portland in return for Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, Kenny Anderson and a handful of draft picks.
The Wizard remained fairly productive when he was on the court, but he became increasingly plagued by injuries over the following years and he retired from the NBA at a young 32 years of age. He certainly never lost that smooth stroke — in the six seasons after his full Raptors season, he never shot lower than 36.5 percent from deep and once made an impressive 43.8 percent of his shots beyond the arc.
While he had a nice NBA career, you could make the case that Williams didn’t live up to some people’s expectations. He was a highly touted prospect when he was drafted seventh overall in the 1992 draft (after Tom Gugliotta and right before Todd Day) after he averaged 26.8 points per game as a senior at Maryland. When Pat Riley acquired Williams for the Heat in ’96, Riley said that he had once thought Williams had the tools to be “a 6’8″ Magic Johnson”. That seems like a bit much, but he was actually a pretty damn good athlete and leaper before his body started to break down.
These days, The Wizard can be seen doing sideline reporting for Maryland games for the Terrapin Sports Radio Network. I haven’t been able to confirm if he’s still rockin’ the high socks. And if you haven’t checked out his “Insight of a Wizzard” rap album yet — and honestly, what kind of a Raptors fan are you if you don’t already own this? — I encourage you to click the preview links. It’s actually not half-bad.
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