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.
Tracy McGrady’s Raptors résumé:
- Only player in NBA history with two seasons with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of at least 20.0 before the age of 21
There are more accomplishments I could have listed for Tracy McGrady’s résumé but I thought that one item kind of stood on its own. If you’re not familiar with PER, it’s a measurement of per-minute efficiency created by ESPN basketball writer John Hollinger. It has its proponents and its detractors, but you’d be a fool to argue against how it rates McGrady through the first 10 seasons of his career. He’s one of the most gifted players I’ve ever witnessed on a basketball court, and his PER reflected how great he was at such a young age.
McGrady was one of two players to ever wear a Raptors uniform that made me think that he was capable of doing whatever he wanted on the court — you all know who the other guy was. McGrady and Vince Carter played two seasons together, and I remember watching a Raptors game in 2000 at my father’s house and proclaiming that if the Raptors could only keep one of them, I’d choose McGrady. He was two years younger than Carter and he didn’t have Vince’s offensive polish, but the game came so easy to McGrady that I was convinced he had the higher upside.
It’s debatable which of them made more of their potential, but nobody denies that both of their careers have panned out well below expectations. I know I can say this about McGrady in spite of the fact that he won back-to-back scoring titles before the age of 25 without anyone who remembers T-Mac as a Raptor disagreeing with me. His detractors love to harp on his lack of playoff success, but I feel like he gets a bad rap about that. He’s averaged 28.5 points per game with a 24.7 PER over 38 career playoff matches — it’s safe to say a lack of support from teammates is the primary reason he has yet to play in the second round.
T-Mac was only 21 years old when he forced the Raptors into trading him to the Orlando Magic in the 2000 off-season for a conditional first round draft pick. It’s tough for me to vilify him for that now, since he was too immature to appreciate what he was giving up in Toronto so that he could be alone in the spotlight and play in his home state. He has since expressed regret about that decision, and he might be more wistful than any Raptors fan about what might have been when he considers his post-season failures.
Raptors fans who remember how dynamic McGrady and Carter were together like to wonder how many NBA titles they might have won if T-Mac had re-signed with the Raptors instead of taking his talents to Orlando. I consider one of the biggest tragedies of McGrady’s tenure with the Raptors to be the fact that he was only a full-time starter for the final 29 games of his third and last season with the team. Here are a handful of the statlines he put up over that period:
- Feb. 29 vs. Chicago: 13 Pts, 15 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk
- Mar. 14 vs. Golden State: 20 Pts, 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 4 Stl, 6 Blk
- Mar. 19 vs. Houston: 16 Pts, 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl, 7 Blk
- Apr. 10 vs. Cleveland: 27 Pts, 6 Reb, 9 Ast, 3 Stl, 6 Blk
Allow me to remind you that T-Mac was under the age of 21 when he put up those lines. Why the hell did he only start 53 of his 192 games in a Raptors uniform? If Butch Carter made him feel suitably appreciated in his contract season and communicated to him that he was the real key to the Raptors’ future, would he have given more consideration towards re-signing? We’ll never know, but it will always haunt fans who have followed this franchise throughout its existence. Players like Tracy McGrady only come along once per decade or so, and his place on these rankings have as much to do with the frustrating knowledge of what he could have done for the Raptors as it does with what he actually did.