Top 3 Raptors – 1998-99 Season

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Andrew D. Bernstein | Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

What’s that? A trade on draft day?

We have a spreadsheet going.

3. Doug Christie, 15pts, 4.1reb, 3.7 ast

It was tempting to put a young Tracy McGrady on this list but Doug Christie is still owed dues. The all-rounder was the linchpin in the club’s bounce-back towards relative respectability. He mentored McGrady, played Carter tough in practice and was an exemplar of professionalism, which was vital for the cousins in their early career. He played five years for the Raptors and in his last four seasons he started every single game:  81, 78, 50 (lockout-shortened) and 73. Despite McGrady’s uptick, Christie was firm in his hold of the starting spot and earned the respect of both old and new teammates, including the guy up next.

2. Charles Oakley, 7pts, 7.5 rebs, 3.4ast

Stats have little to do with this pick and it should probably be shared with Kevin Willis. But let’s give it to Oak who brought to the club a measure of toughness and character that was grossly lacking. Oakley’s bruiser style rubbed off and cemented Toronto’s frontcourt as one that would knock you down in an East where paint protection was a necessity.  After trying to chase titles it would have been easy for Oakley to shun Toronto and opt for contenders, but he stayed because he knew had an important role to play in the embryonic stage of the Carter era.  It was a different sort of challenge for Oak and he recognized and accepted it.

This was nothing short of a genius move by Glen Grunwald, reminiscent of a move exactly 10 years earlier when it was Oakley who got shipped to New York for Bill Cartwright, who at the time was considered the grizzly vet. The dates are eerily close: Oakley got traded to New York on June 28, 1988. On June 25, 1998, he got traded to Toronto in exchange for Marcus Camby.

1. Vincent Lamar Carter, 19pts, 6reb, 3 ast

Veteran broadcaster Peter Vescey broke the news on draft day that the Raptors had agreed to trade Antawn Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for Vince Carter – a 4/5 pick swap. Antawn Jamison turned out to be a fine player but Vince kept the franchise in Toronto and became an icon.  Odds at the time were that the Raptors were heading the Grizzlies way but Vince changed everything.  Saving money on draft positions was part of the Raptors narratives for wanting the trade. The real reason we were able to swap for him was because of GM Glen Grunwald’s nonchaltance towards Carter. He did not utter a singular word about wanting him leading up to the draft.

The strike-shortened season meant Vince’s first made shot was in early February 1999 –  a turnaround fade on the baseline in a win at Boston, fed of course by a behind-the-back pass from Charles Oakley. The high jump on the turn gave the ball an extra rainbow arc as it swooshed in. The Raptors started off 1-5 and then went 22-22 to finish 23-27 on the season. It was about two weeks into the season when the league realized that the Raptors had stolen the draft. We were on the up and up.

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