Toronto Raptors: Five biggest what ifs in franchise history

Tracy McGrady (L) consoles Vince Carter after Carter fouled out against the Charlotte Hornets April 27, 1999. Kevin Willis (r) looks on dejectedly. (BERNARD WEIL/TORONTO STAR) (Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Tracy McGrady (L) consoles Vince Carter after Carter fouled out against the Charlotte Hornets April 27, 1999. Kevin Willis (r) looks on dejectedly. (BERNARD WEIL/TORONTO STAR) (Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Vince Carter (Photo by Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

What If Vince Makes the Buzzer Beater Against Philadelphia?

The Toronto Raptors trailed by one with no time-outs left. Dell Curry was tapped to inbound the ball. There were two seconds left on the clock. Plenty of time.

The inbound pass was on target. It caught Vince in motion coming of a screen, getting the switch they wanted. Carter’s pump fake took his defender, Tyrone Hill, out of the play, clearing up Vince from just inside the 3-point line.

“It was on line,” Jerome Williams said. “I knew it had a great chance of going in.”

But, it was long.


The conversation would unfortunately turn to a graduation, a private plane, and a broken daily routine.

Vince had 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and his Raptors were down by one. He shot 33-percent from the field. All while never leaving the floor.

What if  Vince had skipped his graduation ceremony?

What if he had taken a split second more to square up his shot?

This kind of thinking is what makes up Raptors fan’s DNA.

Could they Beat the Bucks?

If the Raptors move on, they’d be playing against a formidable Bucks squad, who had their number in the regular season.

Yes, they are in the Eastern Conference Finals with the most dynamic and watchable player in the series.  Yes, they have been playing great basketball, beating the Knicks in 5, with the game five victory on the road at the mecca of basketball.

But, I’m not here to argue that Vince hitting that shot gives the Raptors a free pass to the Finals. In fact, I don’t think that shot going in changes the Raptors fortunes for the better much at all. I’m here to say that I think nearly the same events play out.

Losing Against the Bucks

During the regular season, the Bucks finished 52-30, while the Raptors finished with a record of 47-35. Head-to-head the Bucks squeaked out three of four. The Bucks would have had home-court advantage against the Raps and were very impressive that year at home, sporting a 31-10 record at home during the regular season and an 8-2 record during the playoffs.

The trio of Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson was a formidable force, one which the Raptors would have struggled with. It took the Sixers seven games against the Bucks before they prevailed in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Against the Sixers, Robinson averaged 19.6 per game, Cassell averaged 16.6 ppg with nearly seven assists, and Ray Allen scored 27.1 per game while shooting over 50-percent from downtown.

It would’ve been a heck of a series. But I’m going on a limb and saying the Bucks take this one.

Failed Off-Season Moves

Following the loss to the Sixers, the feeling was that the Raptors seemed like a team on the precipice of great things. Bringing in the right piece or pieces helps to push the team up that mountain.

Glen Grunwald followed resigning Vince Carter for six more years with a trade for Hakeem Olajuwon for a first and a second round pick.

The hope was that the 38-year-old, who had been slowed by injuries in previous years, could harness some of the magic he had earlier in his career.

Unfortunately, his year in Toronto marked his lowest scoring (7.1 ppg) and rebound single-season averages (6.0 rpg) of his career.

He played in 61 regular season games and five playoff games before retiring after one season north of the border, due to back problems.

”It was a gamble and I think we lost on it,” Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald said at the time. “It didn’t turn out the way we had  hoped.”

It’s a gamble and a move the team still has access to make whether Vince makes the shot or not, especially if they lose to the Bucks.

That year, with Hakeem, the team fell to a good  Detroit team in five games in the first round.


Carter began showing the effects of what would become career-altering problems with his knees.

The injury cost Carter 22 games in 2002 and 43 the following year. He missed the playoff series loss against the Pistons in 2002 and two years later the team failed to make the playoffs altogether.

Fans in some corners questioned his toughness and commitment. These questions would plague the remainder of his time in Toronto. The die had been cast.

He’d come back, but his best days in Toronto were behind him. 

These injuries happen whether he makes that shot or not. The doubts from the fan base about his toughness, his leadership, his commitment, also still happen, although maybe to a lesser degree, if he makes the shot.

The rest of the story plays out with Carter showing some discontent about the franchise’s direction and then unsuccessfully pushing for a Hall of Fame dunker named Dr J to take over as GM. Then a mishandled trade, and well the rest is history.

These factors, a tough Bucks squad, a bad trade with Houston and chronic knee problems, don’t magically go away with the hitting of the shot against Philly. 

If Vince hits that shot, we probably see a similar series of events.