In 1998, the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors made a draft day trade involving two North Carolina Tar Heels standouts in Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. For all those who may not know, Carter was initially slated to go to the Warriors with the no. 5 overall pick. Meanwhile, the Raptors took Jamison at no. 4.
Shortly after, however, in an unprecedented event, the two former college teammates swapped draft caps on stage. Golden State immediately traded Carter and cash considerations for Jamison.
Looking back into this draft day blockbuster, this certainly had a lot of ramifications involving the two struggling franchises at that time.
With Carter, the Raptors blossomed into one of the most exciting teams in the NBA through the early 2000’s. Carter’s high-flying dunks became a staple on every SportsCenter and top 10 highlight reel. And he brought life to a Raptors franchise that sorely needed a household star. In fact, many attribute Vinsanity for putting Toronto on the map.
On the other hand, while Jamison eventually became a 20-a-night scorer as soon as his sophomore campaign, the Warriors were never able to find much success with him at the helm. Golden State continued to stay at the bottom of the league standings. Jamison played with Golden State until the 2002-03 campaign, totaling five seasons where the Warriors recorded a horrendous 116-262 mark.
While Carter’s tenure with the Raptors ended on bad terms, there’s no question that they won this draft day swap. Vinsanity made Toronto known to the basketball world. Not only did Carter bring them more success on the court, he also grew the interest of basketball among Canadians and became a cultural icon in the country.
With that said, what if the Warriors and Raptors never made that trade? Let’s examine the butterfly effects if Golden State did not trade Vince Carter to the Toronto Raptors in the 1998 NBA draft.
The effect on the Raptors
Vince Carter instantly brought life into the Raptors franchise when he arrived as a 22-year old rookie. His high-flying antics and offensive wizardry placed their name on nightly highlight reels. Likewise, it also featured the franchise in more nationally televised games.
And in just two seasons, Carter led Toronto to its first ever playoff appearance, bringing the experience of postseason basketball on Canadian soil. That certainly had a massive impact on the sport’s popularity in Canada.
Thus, it’s worth examining whether Toronto would have eventually been put on the map even without the man they dubbed Air Canada himself. Would basketball become as popular in the country if Carter never came? Perhaps the straight answer would be “no.”
But what if, instead of Carter, maybe Tracy McGrady would have been the man to do it? T-Mac started his career under Vince’s shadow. It’s a known fact that he left the Raps so he could have his own team and thrive as the main man. If the Raptors didn’t draft his cousin, maybe McGrady would have stayed in Toronto and electrified the crowd just as much with his own high-flying antics and ability to get buckets.
Could he have brought the same hype and attention Carter did? That’s another “what if” worth thinking about.
As for Jamison, maybe he would have thrived as the no. 2 option next to McGrady. He certainly wouldn’t have generated the same buzz that Vince Carter did, and maybe T-Mac does that for them. Nonetheless, he was no slouch in terms of putting the ball in the basket. Perhaps he and McGrady could have created a scary dynamic combo for the North.
Examining Toronto’s roster at the time, Jamison would fit in as combo forward, playing the four and the three. Certainly, he would get a ton of touches in the offense, but he won’t carry the same burden of being the no. 1 option like he did with Golden State.
Then again, there’s also the possibility that the Raptors wouldn’t have gotten any buzz at all without Carter. Maybe T-Mac wouldn’t generate that same media hype like his cousin did. Perhaps, much like the Grizzlies, the Raptors wouldn’t have survived playing in a different country and relocated to the United States.
The effect on the Warriors
Meanwhile, if the Warriors indeed stuck with Half-Man/Half-Amazing, then all the buzz would have went their way. Being a huge market, it wouldn’t take long for the media to bring its attention to the Bay Area, with Carter electrifying those rabid Oracle Arena fans with his breath-taking dunks.
In the 1998-99 season, Golden State’s leading scorer was a 33-year old John Starks, who averaged just 13.8 points per game. Only Donyell Marshall, a future teammate of Carter’s, and Chris Mills averaged in double figures. Thus, the 1998 no. 5 overall pick would have certainly led the team in scoring, much like he did in real life with the Raptors.
With Vince Carter on board, he would have probably led them to a better mark than they did, finishing each season with one of the worst records in the league. Still, it’s hard to predict whether Vinsanity would have led those Warriors to the postseason like he did with the Raptors. Given their roster at the time and being in a loaded Western Conference during those early 2000’s, Golden State probably wouldn’t have been a playoff team just the same.
Still, in this alternate universe, maybe the Warriors front office constructs a better roster around Carter. Perhaps the young superstar guard, along with Golden State’s attractive market, lures in high-profile free agents to the Bay Area to make them a threat in the Western Conference 15 years earlier.
All of these what ifs are fun and all. But all we can do now is ponder and let the possibilities run free.