The Toronto Raptors have the fourth pick in the NBA Rookie Draft for the first time since 2003 when they selected Chris Bosh with the fourth pick overall in between his good friends Carmelo Anthony (3rd) and Dwyane Wade (5th) in one of the all-time great draft classes in the league's long history. In 2021, the Raptors will be selecting fourth overall for the third time in franchise history, with Bosh being the second and the first being Vince Carter, a man who many believe to be the most iconic player in Raptors history. Chris Bosh sent out a little reminder to every one of the significance of drafting fourth overall to the franchise in a tweet on draft night.
It's funny how Bosh tags Vince in this tweet of his since if it were up to the latter, the association between the two as former Raptor fourth picks would not be possible, as Bosh himself mentioned it. He knew Carter wanted Toronto to trade the fourth pick in 2003 for a more experienced big man so that the Raptors could become a force in the East right away after losing to Sixers in the 2001 Conference Finals and first-round exit hands of the Detroit Pistons the year before. It was reported that the candidates for the swap were Raef Lafrentz, Stromile Swift, and the late Eddie Griffin. The Raptors eventually kept the pick, and Carter left in the following offseason, but with Bosh's talent, it was not too long until the Raptors were back in the playoffs in a first-round match-up with Carter's Nets in the 2007 playoffs. Imagine if Carter did not leave and Bosh developed the way he did, the Raptors would have been elite.
That is not familiar territory for the Raptors, which is probably why they do not always get it right. Vince Carter and Chris Bosh are legends in their own way and possible future Hall of Famers, but their last top pick did not end up working out so well for the Canada-based franchise. In 2006 the Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani first overall ahead of University of Texas standout LaMarcus Aldridge and scoring savant Brandon Roy. Still, the hope is that this year with all the talent available, the same mistake will not be made.
Chris Bosh was a problem on the block; his slight frame almost masked his ability to get in good post position, almost like a Kevin Garnett. He had a back-to-the-basket game to exploit mismatches and the versatility to take slower guys off the dribble, finishing either at the rim or stopping for a pull-up from ten to fifteen feet. Like his predecessor, he took the Raptors to the playoffs and supercharged the fans in the city, but after coming up short multiple times, he decided to leave Toronto in free agency to join the Miami Heat in 2010.
Vince Carter was initially selected fifth by the Golden State Warriors only to be traded to the Raptors for fellow Rookie Antawn Jamison. Sure Jamison became a fine player who fought alongside Gilbert Arenas and LeBron James in the playoffs, but Vince was pure electric. If Bosh supercharged the city of Toronto, Vince provided that initial shock of electricity in a city that was still learning how to love the game of basketball. He went by Half-Man Half-Amazing, Air Canada, and even drew comparisons to Michael Jordan by virtue of his high flying dunks and North Carolina pedigree.
He is, without a doubt, the greatest dunker of all time, both in-game and in the dunk contest. Vince made you jump out of your seat with those ferocious attacks on the rim while helping the Raptors become a contender in the Eastern Conference as well. Vince also got traded to the New Jersey Nets in free agency, leaving a sour taste in Toronto's mouths. Perhaps another player would have stayed longer and brought a chip to the six, but we would be missing an essential part of NBA history if Air Canada was never established. It may not have been for long, but the timing and fit were perfect without a doubt.
The question in the draft is always do you draft for the best talent or the best fit, and the answer often depends on the plans of the front office. There have been cases such as Detroit in 2003, drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, who many thought was every bit as good as number one pick LeBron James. Detroit was a contender back then, but in the case of the Raptors, they were out of the playoffs each of the previous times they drafted fourth, the city was looking for a spark, and boy did VC and CB deliver in that regard.
Toronto is in a similar position this time around but is also two years and a superstar short of a title, so for the Raptors, they should undoubtedly draft the best talent available at number four. Cade Cunningham seems to be the consensus first pick, but the second and third selections will be up-in-the-air even on draft night. Given the Raptors' young but playoff-tested core, it will be interesting to see who they pick on draft night and why.
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