The loss of triple-double machine Ben Uzoh has the Raptors stuck near the bottom of ESPN's latest "Future Rankings"

One of the cool features ESPN provides for their “Insider” subscribers is the Future Rankings.  Chad Ford and John Hollinger use their analysis of each franchise’s players, management, money, market and expected draft positioning to put together a ranking of how they believe teams will fare in the future.

The most recently released Future Rankings project how teams will stack up between 2013 and 2016. If you’re a Raptors fan and take Ford and Hollinger’s words as bond, you won’t like what they have to say.

The Raptors come in tied for 23rd with the Trail Blazers, and right off the bat, the pair’s break down isn’t pretty.

Raptors fans are hopeful that their team is about to turn the corner. Our formula isn’t nearly as optimistic. ”

The Raptors did move up slightly from a 26th-place ranking last time around, and the potential of players like Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas is mentioned, but the general tone is negative. If you read my last post, you’ll know that Ford is among those who are grossly overrating how bad the Landry Fields contract is, so it should come as no surprise that in the Future Rankings, they write that “the Raptors spectacularly overpaid for Landry Fields.”

Colangelo and co. overpaid, but by no means was it “spectacular.”

Though knowing how much Ford hated the Fields deal and how he practically believes it ruined the Raptors’ summer (According to Ford, the Raptors drop from an A all the way down to a B- this off-season because of the offer-sheet), I’m just surprised he didn’t write that Toronto would have landed in the Future Rankings’ Top-10 if not for the astronomical albatross that is Landry’s contract.

But, I digress…

The Raptors’ lack of “big-time cap space” next summer is noted, as is the fact that much of their 2014 space will be used to re-sign Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The easy rebuttal to this is that the Raptors should have roughly $10 million in cap space next summer, and that’s without using the amnesty clause. In addition, what’s to say that the Raptors will be looking to lock up DeRozan long term? We all hope DeMar will evolve into something resembling a star over the next couple of years, but if it doesn’t happen, a guy like Terrence Ross could easily pass him on the organization’s depth chart when it comes to who’s worth what.

In addition, the lack of good draft positioning in the coming years and the forfeited pick in the Lowry deal is referenced in the rankings summary.

The conclusion is that the Raptors have taken “baby steps” this summer, but that “Toronto needs a much more dramatic overhaul to be truly relevant again.”

For what it’s worth, the three teams directly ahead of the Raptors in the rankings are the Pistons, Grizzlies and Knicks, while the only teams behind them are the Bucks, Magic, Kings, Wizards, Suns and Bobcats.

In terms of the individual categories, the Raptors ranked 25th in Players, 20th in Management, 10th in Money, 21st in Market, and 12th in Draft.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the reasoning Ford and Hollinger provided for Toronto’s low ranking, I can’t argue against the actual positioning too much. The only two teams the pair have ranked ahead of the Raptors that I vehemently disagree with are the Cavaliers (who are shockingly ranked 12th) and the Pistons.

I like Kyrie Irving and think he’s a future All Star point guard in the East, but if Cleveland doesn’t surround him with more talent, it’s no lock that he’ll be able to resurrect the Cavaliers or that he’ll even stay in Ohio long term. The Cavs took risks by passing on Jonas Valanciunas and Harrison Barnes to draft Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, which I think they’ll come to regret in the next couple of years. As for Detroit, I’m intrigued by a young core of Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and Andre Drummond, but no more so than I am by a core of Lowry, Valanciunas, Bargnani, Ross, DeRozan and Fields, among others.

Ford and Hollinger have the Raptors ranked as the 23rd/24th-best team in the NBA between 2013 and 2016, and the 11th-best in the Eastern Conference. I’d probably have them around 20th overall, and eighth or ninth in the East, though I think I’ll be singing a brighter tune in a year’s time.

Of course, with the unpredictability of pro sports, it’s a little ridiculous that any of us actually try to forecastt the distant future of these franchises, especially when we’re talking about a future that goes beyond the end of the Mayan Calendar.

Nevertheless, columns like ESPN’s Future Rankings create discussion and debate, and I won’t deny that I eat them up.


If the low ranking has you feeling down, it gets worse. Ben Uzoh has signed with French team Cholet, so if you weren’t already convinced that the Raptors’ future was going to hell in a handbasket, the loss of Uzoh should do it. Thanks a lot, John Lucas III.

Who’s going to get triple-doubles now?!