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.
Donyell Marshall’s Raptors résumé:
- Second in franchise history in 3Pt%, minimum 500 3PA
- Third in franchise history in Player Efficiency Rating, minimum 4,000 MP
Who would you think of if I asked you to name some of the great “sixth men” in Raptors history. Dell Curry? Voshon Lenard? Jason Kapono? Yeesh. Manu Ginobili ain’t walkin’ through that virtual door. But Donyell Marshall did, and he is unquestionably the greatest sixth man this franchise has ever had.
Donyell “Luda” Marshall came to the Raptors as part of a blockbuster deal that sent Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Chris Jefferies to the Bulls for Jalen Rose, Lonny Baxter and Marshall. Rose was widely viewed as the marquee player Toronto received in that trade, but in 131 games as a Raptor, Marshall proved to be the best value.
While starting 66 games for Toronto in 2003-04 — manning the power forward position next to an extremely undersized 19-year-old rookie center named Chris Bosh — Marshall averaged 16.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He remains one of only three Raptors to average a double-double in a season. Vince Carter was the superstar of that team and Bosh was the exciting young rook, but Marshall’s excellent all-around play in that season deserved recognition.
How was Marshall rewarded for that level of performance? He was demoted to the bench next season so Bosh could move to his natural power forward position and rookie meat slab Rafael Araujo could start at center. Donyell accepted his new role without complaint (to the best of my recollection) and continued his valuable contributions in a smaller role. His playing time was reduced to 25 minutes per game, but his per-36-minutes numbers (16.3 Pts, 9.4 Reb) indicated that he was still a starting lineup quality player.
In the most memorable performance of his Raptors tenure, Marshall scored 38 points in just 28 minutes off the bench in a March 13, 2005 win over the 76ers. As remarkable as that scoring performance was, how he got those points was even more incredible: he tied Kobe Bryant’s NBA record with 12 three-pointers. Poor Chris Webber and his bad knees were no match for Donyell and his patented side pick-and-roll to set up a deadly corner trey.
Ben Gordon won the NBA’s sixth man award as a rookie for the 2004-05 season, but I think Marshall got robbed when you compare their relative contributions. Gordon was a better scorer, obviously, but I think Donyell’s all-around performance should have given him the edge. Perhaps more importantly, he really shouldn’t have lost his starting job to friggin’ Araujo. I know he was undersized for a center, but you can’t tell me that he still wouldn’t have given the Raptors more than Hoffa did.
There’s no question that Marshall’s career peak was in Toronto. He signed with the Cavs for the 2005-06 season and he declined significantly from that point onward. But as a Raptor, he was a legitimate stud as well as an all-around good guy. He was the one player who I knew would contribute something positive to the team when he entered the game off the bench. He’d grab a rebound one minute, effortlessly block a shot with those deceptively long arms the next minute, and then float over to the offensive corner where he’d smoothly bury a three-ball. He didn’t get nearly enough credit from Raptors fans then, so I’m correcting that injustice here.