When it comes to any discussion or debate surrounding the Raptors all-time anything, the first name you’ll hear is inevitably Vince Carter. (Unless, of course, it’s the all-time greatest contract run. Mike James has that one locked down).
And for good reason. Carter was the franchise’s first superstar, a perennial leading all-star vote-getter who brought the Raptors to relevancy among NBA circles and helped expose the team to a global audience like no player has before or since. Oh, and he was a damn fine player, too, averaging nearly 25 points per game in his prime (in an NBA in which offences were far less potent than today) and helping to carry the team to its first playoff appearances beginning in the 1999-2000 season.
But with each passing season another star shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, has been surpassing Carter in the Raptors’ record books again and again.
In his ninth season — and best to date by a country mile, which is saying something given he’s already a three-time all-star — DeRozan holds the franchise record for, among others, games and minutes played, field goals made, and points scored (by a margin of over 2,000 points and counting).
The latest, of course, was his franchise-best 52-point performance on New Year’s Day, eclipsing Carter’s (…and Terrence Ross’s) single-game scoring mark of 51 points.
Here’s a look at how Carter and DeRozan compare on the stat sheet during their time in a Raptors uniform:
In the immediate aftermath of that 52-point game — part of a stretch of ball that has seen DeRozan average just shy of 28 points per game, including 43 per cent from deep, since the start of December — fans and media alike asked: Has DeRozan has officially surpassed Carter as the greatest player in franchise history?
Given all we’ve seen, it would make a lot of sense to pose the question to somebody who played with one and helped coach the other.
Enter: Alvin Williams, a teammate of Carter for six seasons in Toronto, and later a player development coach for the Raps, joining the staff the same year DeRozan was drafted.
“It’s hard for me to say anybody other than Vince, because I was there and saw the things that Vince did night in and night out,” Williams said during an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Thursday. “I got a chance to play with Vince, and I remember games when it didn’t look like we had a chance and he stepped up over and over again.
“But DeMar is making a strong case. And I used to always tease DeMar [saying], ‘You’re no Vince. You’re not as athletic as Vince.’ We used to joke about it. But honestly, the things he’s doing and the success the team has had, it’s very hard to argue against the case that [DeRozan] is the best player in franchise history.”
As Williams eludes to, the best argument for DeRozan may lie in the Raptors success with him as their go-to-player, a multi-year stretch that has already included the three winningest regular seasons in team history, four straight playoff appearances, and their lone trip to the Eastern Conference Final to date.
In any event, a difficult argument indeed. Make your case in the comments below.