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.

Anthony Parker’s Raptors résumé:

  • 10th on Toronto’s All-Time Games Played and Minutes Played lists
  • Third on Toronto’s All Time Three-point Field Goal percentage list
  • Starting shooting guard for only division championship team in franchise history

Perhaps it was fitting that in what turned out to be one of the more embarrassing moments in Raptors history, it was little known Anthony Parker that made a name for himself. For a man that has spent most of his NBA career being overlooked, it was Parker who hit the winning shot in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s  shocking exhibition win over the Raptors in 2005.

If fans in Toronto wanted to know who this American playing in Israel was that just handed their team another in a long list of shameful moments, they would get their chance to find out about the man they called “Euro Jordan” over the next few years.

Much is still debated about the selection of Andrea Bargnani with the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft or the trading of Charlie Villanueva for T.J. Ford. Jorge Garbajosa’s “basketball IQ” is still lauded years later. But when looking at that thrown together roster of underdogs in the summer of 2006, you could easily make the argument that it was the acquisition of Anthony Parker that was the marquee pick-up for that Raptors team.

After a seven-year hiatus from the NBA, Parker made quite the splash when he finally returned. Most were unsure what to expect from a guy who never scored more than 3.6 points per game in his first three NBA seasons but then went on to a legendary career in Europe.

While he couldn’t replicate his European success in Toronto, Parker was a more than a serviceable NBA shooting guard for the Raptors, and was a staple in one of only two periods of relative success this franchise has ever seen.

A.P. burst back onto the scene with a 22-point performance in his first game back in the Association, then went on to start 73 games while averaging over 12 points for a 47-win, division championship team. He brought the clutch shooting of Morris Peterson, the veteran defensive savvy of Doug Christie and the leadership of Alvin Williams to a young team that desperately needed all of those intangibles.

While the Raptors fell short in the playoffs against the Nets and struggled with consistency the next season before bowing out to the Magic, it was hard to fault the consistency of Anthony Parker. From the 2006-2007 season to the 2007-2008 season, his points per game average increased by 0.1 points, his field goal percentage dropped by 0.1 and his three-point percentage changed by only 0.3 per cent.

Unfortunately for Parker, his numbers really began to drop off in the midst of one of the most disappointing seasons in Raptors’ history (2008-2009), and so his decline seemed much worse than it really was. The reality was that the honeymoon period with the entire Colangelo era had come to an end. Fans were frustrated with anyone and everyone involved. Raps fans went from loving Parker and his clutch fade away to cringing every time he made what looked to be a rather routine shot more difficult than it needed to be.

Looking back on it, Parker probably got more flak than he deserved, and I’ll admit to being one of those frustrated fans using Parker as one of many scapegoats. Parker still averaged nearly 11 points per game that season while earning less than $5 million, so you can’t exactly say he failed to live up to his end of the bargain. He was also entering the season at the age of 33, with 11 seasons of pro basketball under his belt. It’s not unlikely that age and minutes simply started to catch up to him.

Perhaps the real problem was that a team that “expected” to actually challenge for the Eastern Conference title went in to the season with a 33-year-old who had never averaged more than 13 points per game as their starting two-guard. At his age, it would have been hard enough to be who he had been for the last couple of years on the court, let alone be a player he had never been.

Since he’s moved on from Canada’s NBA team, Parker has played two seasons in Cleveland while watching his field goal percentage drop below 40 as his overall game continued to decline.

Based on his last season in Toronto, it’s too easy to look at everything Parker couldn’t do and wasn’t as an NBA player. But in the spirit of these Ultimate Raptors Rankings, we must look at what Parker could do and did do as a Toronto Raptor, and what he did do and helped accomplish was enough to earn him a place here.