Joey Graham

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.

Joey Graham’s Raptors résumé:

  • 13th in franchise history for minutes played (4,772)
  • Third-highest free throw percentage (82.7 percent) among Raptors with at least 4,000 minutes played

What I remember most about Joey Graham is that he had a fan club consisting of people who were convinced he could be a quality NBA starter if Sam Mitchell or Jay Triano would just give him “a fair shot”. I understand why some people were infatuated with him — he’s a hard worker, he’s built like he was chiseled from granite, and he occasionally showed flashes that he could be a good basketball player instead of someone who just looked good in a basketball uniform.

There were a few things that Joey did well for the Raptors — he rebounds well for a small forward, he’s a strong finisher at the rim, he’s a solid free throw shooter and he’s a great overall athlete as proven at his draft combine where he boosted his stock with the most impressive scores in his class. The problem is that he never really converted those abilities into NBA-level skills such as shooting, passing or defending.

The biggest stigma that was attached to Joey as a Raptor was that he was drafted with one of the picks acquired in the disastrous Vince Carter trade with the Nets. When the Raptors traded the other pick to the Knicks along with Jalen Rose in February 2006, Joey remained the only piece on the Raptors from that Carter trade. It didn’t help some fans’ view of him that he was picked before Danny Granger, David Lee and Monta Ellis in the 2005 draft.

Joey Graham is supposedly a smart guy — he has a degree in aviation management — but that was rarely apparent on the court. “Basketball IQ” is a bit of a clichéd term, but Joey didn’t often exhibit it. Case in point…

Oh, Joey. I said that a lot during his four seasons in a Raptors uniform. I never really got mad at him because he’s a good guy and he tries really hard — he’s just not particularly good at basketball.

When he signed with the Nuggets in 2009 for the league minimum, it didn’t cause much of a stir among Raptors fans. Even the diehard Joey fans had to admit that we had probably witnessed his ceiling by that point, and you didn’t need to have Graham’s vertical leap to touch it.

Nevertheless, Graham spent four seasons with the Raptors in which he was generally well-liked — if not beloved — by fans so he makes these rankings based on his longevity and the fact that there always seemed to be Raptors fans who believed that he could have had a better career if he was ever given consistent playing time in the starting lineup.

Graham is entering the last guaranteed year of his contract with the Cavaliers and when you consider that he only averaged 15 minutes per game last season on a 19-win team, it’s possible that his NBA career could be over if the 2011-12 season is wiped out by the lockout. Thanks to his pilot license, his days of flight will likely continue in some form.

Comments (18)

  1. This is unebelivably depressing. Joey Graham shouldn’t make any team’s top 25 – not even the Thunder, if you ignored their time as the Sonics. This is one of the meanest , most depressing things you’ve ever posted on this site, Scott. Problem is, how can we complain about who else should be listed ahead of him without knowing the rest of the listings?

    …okay, wait, I’ve got it – Rafer was better than Joey. So was Mike James. So no matter who comes next, this was a mistake. I watched Joey Graham since he came into the league, and how many good games did he ever have? A dozen?

  2. If Joey was able to fuse with his twin brother Stephan into one “Mega Graham” that could result in one very capable yet borderline starter.

  3. Tyrone: Longevity matters in these rankings. Mike James only played one season with the Raptors, that’s we he’s ranked where he is. Same deal with Rafer: season-and-a-half.

  4. Joey Graham is even on this list??? This is what, a 15 year old franchise, and Joey is top 25? I can’t even describe the gut-wrenching nausea I’m feeling right now. I have absolutely, without a doubt wasted the last 15 years of my basketball viewing life. I will now eat broken glass.

  5. It gets better, guys. I promise! Next week’s selection will cheer you up, I hope.

    • Scott, I think you’re right on the money with your Top 25 pick. Call me one of the die hard Joey fans. He is a good guy with a lot of potential. Sam Mitchell tore down more than one player and given ample opportunity, I’m sure Joey would have proven himself. Shame on anyone that doubts that.

  6. I agree with everyone (except Scott), this is terribly depressing.

  7. How embarrassing is it that we have a bench warmer listed in the top 25 of this franchise?
    Are you serious? Are you going to put Donyell Marshall in the top 10? I know the raptors have a under-average history but you guys should of made a top 15 for the 15 yrs since this the other players are fillers.

  8. I love the look on AP’s face after Joey catches the ball going out of bounds. And Rasho scolding him… that’s classic.

  9. Longevity should be factored in, sure, but Joey made no impact on this franchise in a positive way at all. If he had never put on a Raptors uniform, how much worse would the teams he played on have been? How many memorable plays (in a good way) did he have in career in Toronto? Listing him seems more like a mean joke on him and the fans – I know that’s not what you’re going for, but that’s what it feels like.

    I ain’t mad at cha, but I think you are wrong with this one. When we get to the end, I look forward to suggesting a few Raptors not on your list more deserving than Joey. Shit, I’d say the mascot is more deserving, but I know that you’re limiting it to players…

    And don’t get me wrong – stimulating debate in the dog days of the lockout is very worthwhile; I’m looking forward to the rest of the list.

  10. There are many other players who should make this list over Joey but will likely not:

    How aboout Alvin Robertson – the first points in Raptors history (also happened to be a 3 pointer)?

    How about Vincenzo Esposito – the first player signed by the team?

    I would like to see Bonner on there – both as a HUGE fan favourite as a Raptor, but njot to mention him wanting to become a Canadian citizen.

    Heck I would even argue that Zan Tabak deserves to be on there more than Joey. Seriously.

    Joey simply should not be on this list.

  11. How in the… Sure he has longevity with the club, but that’s where it ends. I don’t know if Joey G should even make top 50

  12. I hate to add to the complaints, but longevity is great, but not when you’re as mediocre as Graham. Actually, mediocrity would be a step up. The question should be, would you want Jorge Garbajosa for 1 season or Joey Graham for 4? I don’t know about you, but I’d take Garbajosa every time. He made an impact, Graham didn’t. At all.

    In fact, Garbajosa actually started more games in his 1 season than Graham did in his 4.

  13. Well, that was all pretty funny, including the suggestion for Esposito, the worst guard I have ever seen in the NBA.

    Joey was pretty bad, and the pick never made sense (he was an indifferent college player) but I have to admit, I think the potential was there for him to fit all those tools and skills together. I wish it had worked out differently, and he’s not #25 material, but now that he’s gone (and thank god we don’t have to watch him pass the ball to empty space anymore) I have lost my desire to sink the knife in…

    • I do agree he wasn’t the worst guard ever. In fact he wasn’t even a guard. I do disagree that he had the potential. He was a great athlete, but that’s it’ In order to have the potential he would have had to show far more basketball skills other than running and jumping. Basketball instincts is one of the most under-rated skills and Joey simply did not have them.

  14. as I expected this top 30 is depressing

  15. Hey,

    You should’ve included Joey Graham’s breakout when he started a numerous amount of games after Garbajosa got injured…. He played fairly well! I remember he put up 16/10 against the Wizards (Random games like that)…. You also should’ve mentioned his struggle in the playoffs that season as well..

  16. I believe that many of those expectations that fans had for Graham were FAR from being realistic. The man wasn’t even a lottery pick and folks were expecting him to be a superstar. If you look at his stats, you can see that he was quite an efficient player on both sides of the floor. So much of the harsh criticism he had recieved from raptor fans were FAR from justified.

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