Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was the difference-maker in this year's Ultimate Standings results.
ESPN recently released their Ultimate Standings list. RaptorsHQ's Brandon Graham takes a look at the results...
For the tenth consecutive year, ESPN the magazine has released its Ultimate Standings, a list that categorizes every professional sports team in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB from 1st to 122nd.
Through the use of a combination of fan voting, a poll conducted by consulting firm Maddock Douglas, and researchers at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, ESPN (which can now stand for Extreme Scientific Polls Network) ranked franchises over the following eight categories:
Bang For The Buck (BNG): Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.
Fan Relations (FRL): Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.
Ownership (OWN): Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.
Affordability (AFF): Price of tickets, parking and concessions.
Stadium Experience (STX): Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.
Players (PLA): Effort on the field and likability off it.
Coaching (CCH): Strength of on-field leadership.
Title Track (TTR): Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.
How did Toronto fare?
With an NBA team in the Oklahoma City Thunder topping the list convincingly thanks to their loyal fan support, our Raptors drifted past the century mark to land at No.103. Sitting between fellow Toronto franchises, the Blue Jays at No. 79 and the Maple Leafs sitting dead last at No. 122, the Raps didn't finish in the NBA's basement -no, that would have been the Sacramento Kings - but there's no question that the team has a lot of work to do.
In fact some may have been surprised that Toronto was not placed in this year's basement, but with the addition of Head Coach Dwane Casey, the fans helped the coaching numbers rise from 116 last year to 40 this year, really boosting up the overall score. The piece went as far as including a quote from a cbssports.com user regarding the signing of Casey; "finally, a move the Raps can be proud of".
One of the bright spots from the considerably dark post-Bosh era, the signing of Casey was a major step into the right direction and ESPN did take that factor into consideration.
Transitioning from being 29th in team field goal percentage in 2010-11 to seventh in the league last year, Casey's defensive-minded presence could arguably be the sole reason for the Raptors not remaining in the basement of these standings. After all, the club ranked as follows in the other categories:
Bang for the Buck: 105
Fan Relations: 93
Stadium Experience: 83
Title Track: 111
Hopefully this isn't somewhat of a "rude awakening" for fans as really, these marks shouldn't come as a surprise. The club hasn't posted a winning record in some time, and redeeming features like fan support and in-game experience have fallen by the wayside.
But again, we're talking about subjective rankings here.
As the Raptors head into training camp with what seems to be the most solid group since the departure of Bosh, I wouldn't buy too much into what ESPN's so-called "accurate" standings reflect. What's crucial is the club's on-court performance and as that improves, so will the bulk of these other metrics.
And really, let's just be thankful that we're not in Leafs GM Brian Burke's shoes right now.