As the old adage goes, the future is unwritten. But, since basketball writers many don’t care about old adages — we’re looking for that new shit, baby! — the future tends to get written about a lot. ESPN’s crack squad of prognosticators was at it again today with a look at where the NBA’s teams will be in three years. They called it the NBA Future Power Rankings.
In the column, Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks run each team through some sort of math formula and blah blah blah we get a ranking of 30 teams. Where did the Raptors end up? I’m glad you asked.
12. Toronto Raptors (Previous rank: 10)
Give Raptors GM Masai Ujiri credit. Faced with a disappointing finish to the season, Ujiri could have dismantled a Raptors team that appeared in four straight playoffs.
Instead of hitting the rebuild button, Ujiri brought back All-Star Kyle Lowry and veteran Serge Ibaka and acquired CJ Miles in a sign and trade. All three players are on three-year contracts that should keep the Raptors afloat in the Eastern Conference for the next three seasons.
The question remains, is there still upside to this current roster?
Marks asks that loaded question by diving into the two main paths forward for Toronto. The first involves their young players — the Raps are obviously counting on Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby to do something this year. We’ve been saying that all summer. The second involves the kind of moves that Ujiri is a master at: the modest trades that help inch a team forward while maintaining consistency and culture. Yes, neither of those paths will lead the Raptors to a superstar player — and their current crop of top players max out at All-NBA third team at best — so the ceiling will be there. Hence, the ranking: 12.
What’s interesting to me is some of the teams ranked ahead of the Raptors over the next three years. The Warriors at the top is a no brainer, ditto (sadly) Boston. With James Harden (and Daryl Morey) the Rockets will always be in the mix; same for the Spurs with Kawhi (and Pop). Minnesota and Philadelphia just have so much superstar potential, so their mutual rankings make sense. The Cavs with LeBron will always be in the top 10. The Nuggets at no. 8 could be a reach, but there’s a nice young/old balance on the roster now, so sure, it fits.
Here’s where I lose the thread: the Wizards at no. 9 are in a similar if not worse situation as compared to the Raptors. They’ve got a lot of junk on that roster past their starting five — which, admittedly, is a stronger long term starting five than Toronto’s right now. But then we get to Portland at no. 10, tied with the Jazz. To me, both those teams are trending in the wrong direction — the Jazz lost the driving engines of their team, and Portland is betting it all on Jusuf Nurkic. There are obviously good components on both teams (Rudy Gobert is a terror; the McCollum/Lillard pairing is no joke), but will they actually be better than the Raptors over the next three years? I say no.
What do you guys think?