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?!

Oh…right.

Comments (18)

  1. Well, sounds like we can get rid of that late lottery pick that we owe Houston next year, barring a lucky bounce from the ping pong balls.

  2. Can’t really argue much with what they say because the Raptors haven’t done much to build a contender. They’ve made the necessary changes to make the playoffs, but nothing other than to simply make the playoffs for the next few years.

    Disagree with you though on the Pistons. I really like what the Pistons have done in the last 3 drafts. Could potentially have the 3 biggest steals in the last 3 years in Monroe, Knight, and Drummond. Potential franchise-type talent in all 3? Possibly. All star potential in all 3? Absolutely. Could even have a 4th if they get lucky in next years draft lottery.

  3. I’d take issue with the market rating. 21st in the NBA? Behind Cleveland? I disagree. Everything else seems reasonably fair.

    • Agreed. I guess they did it by the perception among NBA players or maybe took team success into it instead of judging the market itself. But still, I don’t think there are very many guys in the NBA who would rather play in Cleveland, Indiana or Denver instead of Toronto.

  4. I don’t have a problem at all with the Cavs ranking, in Irving they already have the most difficult piece to acquire for any building team ie a true franchise player and he even had them on the periphery of the playoff race as a 19-year old rookie with no supporting cast before he got hurt/team started to shamelessly tank. The potential difference between Thompson and Val and say Barnes and Waiters isn’t enough to offset just how special Irving is/will be.

    Also, while I agree that it’s pointless to predict anything in pro sports, it’s not completely pointless to do it in the NBA where title contenders, conference contenders and even low level playoff teams don’t really spring up overnight and there is usually a progression that leads to a certain team’s ceiling so a list like this isn’t completely baseless because the NBA is by far the easiest league to forecast even years in advance.

    • I agree that the NBA is probably the easiest to predict near the top because of the lack of parity, but I’d say once you get out of the top-5 or top-10, it’s nearly the same crapshoot as any other league when you’re trying to forecast 2-4 years down the road. So much can happen.

      A perfect example is the Pacers. Two years ago, they were ranked 17th in the Future Rankings for the years 2011-12 to 2013-14. They ended up finishing fifth in the overall NBA standings in 2011-12, and now the Future Rankings have them ranked 5th for 2013-2016. And if you think about the Pacers over the last couple of years, it’s been a steady climb with the addition of some good players, but they haven’t added a true star in the last two years since they were ranked 17th, or even 26th before that in the Future Rankings.

      We can all confidently predict that the Heat, Lakers and Thunder (and Bulls with a healthy Rose) will be among the NBA’s elite for the next few years. But as teams like the Pacers and Grizzlies have shown us, outside of the truly elite top tier, lower ranked teams (like the Raptors) can ascend into the second or third tier, behind the obvious true contenders, quicker than you realize.

    • As for the Cavs, I agree that finding a true franchise player is the hard part, and I like Irving as a future All Star, but I don’t like their core outside of Kyrie enough to believe they’ll be a top-12 team within the next couple of years.

      • Whoa, that Pacers current ranking is definitely surprising as you can easily make the case that they have already peaked as a team but your point is definitely valid, there does seem to be (or at least there is the potential to be) quite a bit of shuffling outside of the top 10 of the league in the secondary tiers.

        Back to the Cavs, I don’t think they’re specifically saying the Cavs will be a top 12 team at any point over the next 4 years, just that they have an above average outlook over the next four years. At least that’s how I interpreted these rankings.

        • Yeah, and the Jazz are No. 4! I was one of the few who actualy picked them to make the playoffs last season, and I really like how they’ve sort of re-built or re-tooled on the fly, but I think forecasting them as having the fourth-brightest future between 2013-14 and 2015-16 is a major reach.

          Back to the Pacers, In March 2010, they had a future rank of 26th for seasons 10-11 to 12-13.
          Just one year later, in March of 2011, while the team is in position for a measly eighth-seed in the East, the ESPN Future Rankings for 11-12 to 13-14 propels them all the way to No. 7.
          Then they take a big step forward in 2011-12, and in the midst of that solid season, they jump to their current future rank of fifth, which is forecasting the 2013-14 to 2015-16 seasons.

  5. I believe that it’s a fair assessment because the Raptors do not have the firepower nor the talent to make it in their own division let alone the league. They will certainly make a lot of games interesting provided that everyone stays healthy and that they showed the same effort and grit last season on the defensive end; however, if you look and compare rosters, the Raptos just will not cut it in the East.

    • JT, Before last season, with an abysmal roster, first year coach, etc, you ripped any blogs that were negative of the Raptors and were absolutely convinced that we would all eat crow because the team was going to surprise everyone and make a playoff push. Now, with a vastly improved/deeper team and a potential open spot in the playoff race, you think that the Raps “will not cut it in the East?”
      I’m all in favour of readers and fans sharing their opinions in the comment section, even if they don’t match mine, but I have to say, your outlook of the team over the last year or so has really puzzled me.

  6. lol u guys are overreacting to every little thing. these guys are writers just like you… its just there opinion.

  7. Colangelo needs to GO !. What has he done with this team?

    The first year he was GM he got lucky and won teh Atlantic division. He hasnt done anythign since? Sign bad contracts, thats about it….. trade Ford for Oneal, the Oneal fro Marion, then Marion For Hedo, then Hedo for Barbosa…then Barbosa for no one???? what has this guy done for the team? Draft foolish players? this guy is a moron adn needs to go!

    You cant win with a bunch of Euros unless his name is Dirk, and you surround him with grimey hood players like dallas did (terry, chandler, wife beater kidd, butler?, etc)

    Raptors are doomed ! trade everyone!!!!!!!!!! and draft PROPERLY YOU IDIOTS

    • I agree, Colangelo hasn’t done anything at all to improve the team. I’d hate to say it but I doubt they’ll even make the playoffs this season. Maybe with the purchase of MLSE from Bell & Rogers the new owners will grow a brain and fire this guy.

    • Haha, those are some borderline questionable generalizations my man (Euro’s vs “Grimey Hood” players). #TheyHaveGhettosInEuropeToo

      I thought we were past the, “I only want American players on the raptors” thing. Sigh

  8. I guess you guys want Babcock back as GM? Believe it or not the Raps are still feeling the pain from his trades and draft pics. No Iggy, no Granger, no Vince. Franchises don’t bounce back when knuckleheads have the keys to the car.

    • He did sign Jose Calderon and wanted a long-term rebuild, but he was a rookie GM and Bryan Colangelo offered instant gratification. It’s surprising that nobody ever bothered to look at Colangelo’s advanced track record at the time.

    • Babcock set up Colangelo with alot of cap space, tanked which gave Colangelo have a high draft pick and handed over Jose.

      Where this team is at has NOTHING to do with Babcock. This is 100% entirely Colangelo’s baby.

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