The Toronto Raptors are the NBA’s only Canada-based team. There were two, but the Vancouver Grizzlies were relocated to Memphis, Tenn., in 2001. The Raptors play their home games at the Air Canada Centre. Their head coach is former NBA player Sam Mitchell.
The Toronto Raptors were established in 1993 and played their first NBA games in the 1995-96 season. They were named after the velociraptor, a character made popular by the movie Jurassic Park. The team’s first General Manager was former point guard Isiah Thomas. Their first head coach was Brendan Malone. The team’s first draft pick was point guard Damon Stoudamire out of Arizona.
The team’s first season was typical for an expansion club. The Raptors won 21 games in the 1995-96 season, the main bright spot being Stoudamire’s selection as Rookie of the Year.
The Raptors averaged just over 22 wins in their first four seasons, failing to make the playoffs until the 1999-2000 campaign.
Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady
The Raptors drafted Tracy McGrady straight out of high school in 1997. The 6-foot-8, smooth shooting swingman averaged only seven points per game his rookie year, but his potential was apparent to coaches and fans alike.
The Raptors traded their 1998 top pick, forward Antawn Jamison, to the Golden State Warriors for Vince Carter, a high-flying swingman out of North Carolina who happened to be McGrady’s third cousin.
Carter was named Rookie of the Year for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
Under the leadership of Carter and McGrady, the Raptors made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in the 1999-2000 season. They were promptly swept in three games by the New York Knicks.
During the 2000 offseason, the Raptors traded McGrady to the Orlando Magic for a first round draft pick.
In the 2000-01 season, the team posted a franchise-best 47-35 regular season record and made the playoffs a second straight season. They faced the Knicks in the first round again, but this time the story ended differently. The Raptors beat the Knicks, 3-2, in a highly competitive series.
The team had a tight second round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, losing four games to three.
The following year, the Raptors made the playoffs yet again, facing the Detroit Pistons in the first round. They lost that series in three games, and did not make the playoffs again until the 2006-07 season (in which they lost in the first round to a New Jersey Nets team led by the departed Vince Carter).
The Raptors posted a .500 season in 2007-08, led by 2003 draftee Chris Bosh. They made the playoffs and faced the Orlando Magic. The Magic beat the Raptors, four games to one.
The Raptors have made some offseason moves with the hopes of bolstering the team’s frontline play. They acquired center-forward Jermaine O’Neal from the Indiana Pacers and they drafted center Roy Hibbert from Georgetown. Coach Mitchell and the Raptors hope the extra big bodies will help keep Bosh from absorbing a lot of punishment down low. A successful season for the Raptors would be 45 to 50 wins.
Vince Carter, Doug Christie, Antonio Davis, Tracy McGrady
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