Shortly after the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011, news broke that former Raptors GM Glen Grunwald denied a Mavericks trade offer that would have sent Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki to the Toronto Raptors for Vince Carter and Antonio Davis.
This deal would have turned out to be perhaps the biggest blockbuster trade in NBA history. It’s not often that you see a team trade away its best player, but if they do, they rarely get the other teams’ best player in return. It usually ends up being a plethora of players and picks for the one All-Star.
Let’s take a stroll down good ol’ fashioned “What-if” Lane and try and think about what could have happened if this deal went through.
The Trade Details:
Toronto Raptors Receive: Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Vince Carter, Antonio Davis
During the time of the supposed trade offer, Steve Nash was 26 years old and Dirk was only 22. Steve Nash was at the rising point of his career, averaging a career-high 15.6 PPG and 7.3 APG. While Dirk Nowitzki was already averaging 21.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG.
On the other hand, Vince Carter was taking the league by storm at the age of 23 averaging 27.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 3.9 APG. Vince Carter had emerged as one of the best players in the league and led this Raptors team to a top 3 seed during his first 3 seasons. Antonio Davis was 32 years old at the time averaging 13.7 PPG and 10.1 RPG.
New Starting Lineups:
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Morris Peterson
SF: Jerome Williams
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Hakeem Olajuwan (Age 39)
PG: Nick Van Exel
SG: Michael Finley
SF: Vince Carter
PF: Juwan Howard
C: Antonio Davis
What Could Have Happened
This trade would have altered the future of the NBA as we know it. It comes as a shock to me that the Mavericks would even offer this, but the Raptors made the mistake of not accepting it.
I mean cutting ties with a 28 PPG All-Star that was only 23 years old wouldn’t be an easy decision to make. But, the duo of Nash and Dirk looked very promising. Dirk was already averaging 20+ and Nash had just begun to develop into one of the leagues’ most efficient point guards. Now that I think about it, If I were the Raptors GM at the time, I don’t think I could let go of Vince. He was way too gifted and exciting to watch. Not to mention one of the best players in the entire league at 23.
The Raptors management at the time made some very questionable decisions in the early 2000s… they had just traded up and coming superstar Tracy Mcgrady to the Magic. Yes, T-Mac and VC played a similar position, but I believe they could have made it work and become one of the greatest scoring duos of all time.
Vince would eventually demand a trade two years later and move onto the New Jersey Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, and 2 first-round picks.
Looking back it at now, Steve Nash went on to become a back-to-back MVP and one of the greatest passers in NBA history. And Dirk became one of the best shooting big men in league history and brought an NBA title to the Dallas Mavericks. Ironically, Vince Carter joined forces with Dirk and the 2011 championship Mavericks as a role player the next season.
Vince Carter continued to play until he was 43 years old. 22 seasons. Toward the end of his career, he had been playing in the league longer than some rookies had been alive. He is the only player in history to play for that long. So while Vince had a great and long-lasting career, if we know what we know now, this trade would have been a no-brainer for the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors may have made some mistakes in the early 2000s, but they made the right move in hiring Masai Ujiri as their President in 2013. Ujiri has since turned this Raptors organization around and brought Toronto its’ first championship in franchise history in 2019.