Toronto Raptors: Key Players and Playoff Appearances
Toronto Raptors History and Highlights.
Founding and Early Years
The Toronto Raptors were founded in 1993. However, they didn’t play their first season until two years later, when they joined the NBA in the 1995 league expansion to include two Canadian teams in Toronto and Vancouver.
NBA legend Isiah Thomas was named as the general manager of the team. Selecting guard Damon Stoudemire out of the University of Arizona as the seventh overall pick was the first draft choice made by the team.
Most of the team was completed with the expansion draft, where Thomas selected veterans Jerome Kersey, Willie Anderson, and his former Pistons teammate John Salley. BJ Armstrong was also selected as the first pick in the expansion draft, but he refused to show up, and Thomas traded him to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Victor Alexander and Carlos Rodgers.
A Rough Start
The Raptors had a rough start to their NBA existence, finishing their first season with a 21-61 record but were one of very few teams that managed to defeat the Chicago Bulls in the season when they set the record 72 wins and only 10 losses.
The following season, the Raptors picked center Marcus Camby with the second overall pick. Again, they were among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference but again managed to defeat the champions Chicago Bulls.
Things started to look like they were going well in the 1997-98 season. The Toronto Raptors drafted Tracy McGrady with the ninth pick in the NBA draft. In addition, Thomas made a couple of trades during the season, bringing in players like Chauncey Billups, Gary Trent, and Dee Brown. Yet, the team again finished near the bottom of the conference with a 16-66 record.
Finally, the Raptors became a respectful team the following season. They drafted Antawn Jamison with the fourth overall pick but traded him to the Golden State Warriors on draft night for the fifth pick Vince Carter.
Carter quickly became the face of the franchise and the best dunker in the league, which turned the spotlight on the team from Toronto. In his rookie season, the team made a couple of deals that brought in veterans such as Charles Oakley, Kevin Willis, and Doug Christie. Carter won the NBA Rookie of the Year award, and it was clear that better days were coming.
First playoff appearances
With the addition of center Antonio Davis, the Toronto Raptors made their first playoff appearance in 2000. Unfortunately, they were swept in the first round by the New York Knicks. The following season, they defeated the Knicks in the opening round before losing in seven games to the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, with Carter missing a possible game-winner in game 7. That was the last Playoff game for Carter in Toronto.
2003-10: Chris Bosh
In 2003, the Toronto Raptors drafted Chris Bosh with the fourth pick, and the power forward quickly was seen as the team’s new leader. Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets. That seemed logical at the time, but the Raptors made only two Playoff appearances with Bosh as a leader.
Bosh left Toronto in 2010 to sign with the Miami Heat, and the Raptors were again near the bottom of the eastern conference.
The Modern Era
The new era began in 2013, when the Raptors had Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. However, they lost in the first rounds of the Playoffs in 2014 and 2015. In the following three seasons, the Raptors also made it to the Playoffs, but on all three occasions, they were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers once in the conference finals.
In 2018, general manager Masai Ujiri traded DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs, acquiring Kawhi Leonard. That proved to not be the best possible move despite Leonard stating he would not sign a long-term deal with the team from Canada.
Leonard played his role at the highest level and took the team to the NBA Championship, defeating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in six games.
In the off-season, Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers but the rest of the team had taken their game to the next level. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet became All-Stars and Toronto has a solid cornerstone building another contending team.