LA Lakers, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and the 10 Most Valuable NBA Franchises

Rich FernandesCorrespondent IMay 26, 2011

LA Lakers, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and the 10 Most Valuable NBA Franchises

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 22: Mario Chalmers #15 of the Miami Heat dribbles through DeMar DeRozan #10 and Jose Calderon #8 of the Toronto Raptors during a game at American Airlines Arena on January 22, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Forbes Magazine recently came out with a listing of the NBA’s most valuable franchises, and their appraisal values are in the gazillions. 

    One surprising franchise that makes the Top 10 is the Toronto Raptors—a team that has had some of the league’s most electrifying players including Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and now Demar DeRozan during their short existence.

    There is a fictitious idea out there that players don’t want to play for the Raptors.  Excuses such as the differences in currency, taxes and the frigid cold come to mind.

    And while there have been a few exceptions to the rule (Antonio Davis didn’t want his kids learning the metric system, for fear they would get confused), it’s pretty much a fallacy.

    The exchange rate isn’t the problem, because the players are paid in American dollars—despite the fact that the two currencies are practically on par, with the Canadian dollar expected to surge past the greenback this year.

    Taxes are not the problem, because they are taken into account and built into the player’s contract—where the player gets more money to account for the higher taxes.

    And the frigid cold can’t be the problem, since Toronto’s climate is not that much different from that of Chicago’s or New York’s, not to mention places like Minnesota, Indiana and Boston.

    And Toronto does boast one of the highest standards of living in the world—so that can’t be the problem either. 

    But the real reason for player discontent in Toronto, however, has been the team’s management, who are too busy turning a profit to care about the fact that they continually run this franchise into the ground.

    Isaiah Thomas was a bright spot for the franchise with an uncanny ability to measure great players.  It was he who brought in the likes of Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby and Tracy McGrady.

    Unfortunately MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Inc.), the company that owns the Raptors, fired Thomas when a power struggle for ownership ensued. 

    Playing by accepted protocol and the rules of forward thinking has never been at the front of MLSE’s playbook.  That includes the way they run their other franchises, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, who by themselves are also worth more than most NBA teams, including the Raptors.

    And as a result, the beautiful yellow brick road that Thomas built became unglued with the first brick.

    Damon Stoudamire was upset with Thomas’ departure and wanted out. 

    Then MLSE became aware of Marcus Camby’s sex scandal during college and as a result, quickly traded him.

    When Vince Carter came on board and became the electrifying star that he was, MLSE went out of their way to let McGrady know that he was second fiddle to his cousin Vince.  That did not sit well with McGrady, who promptly wanted out.

    Then when Vince Carter’s mother started acting like the unofficial GM of the Raptors, MLSE quickly began to draw the line on her ridiculous demands. 

    They made a diplomatic statement in short order by first taking away her parking space, and then proceeded to ignore Vince’s request to bring in Julius Irving as head coach without explanation—after asking his advice in the first place.

    That was enough for Vince to start turning blue in the face and begin his childish tantrums, while demanding a trade out of town.

    It’s important to note that Camby was forced out of town and was upset with leaving the club.  Also, Carter and Chris Bosh both signed second contracts with the club before leaving. 

    Smart management could have prevented both.

    Bosh wanted to increase his brand and thought he could do it in Miami.  But as much as Toronto liked Bosh, he was no Vince Carter—he did not get anything close to Vince’s endorsements. 

    Today (to his surprise) third fiddle Bosh’s major endorser is a car dealership—despite dreaming of LeBron and Wade like deals.

    And Damon Stoudamire has gone on record stating that one of the biggest regrets he has was leaving the franchise that drafted him.

    So after all that, this franchise is still extremely valuable.

    Where does Toronto rank when it comes to the 10 most valuable franchises in the NBA? 

    To think that wherever it is—it could be higher, if only management would get their house in order.

Honorable Mention

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    ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 28:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic reacts after a turnover to the Atlanta Hawks during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    11.  Orlando Magic @ $385 Million

    12.  Golden State Warriors @ $363 Million

    13.  Detroit Pistons @ 360 Million

    14.  Portland Trail Blazers @ $356 Million

    15.  Cleveland Cavaliers @ $355 Million

No. 10: Toronto Raptors @ $399 Million

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors goes up for a dunk in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest apart of NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Michael Jordan's Bobcats are the newest NBA franchise, but along with the Grizzlies organization, the Raptors represent the NBA’s other two newest franchises, as both were founded in 1995. 

    In fact, both these teams marked an international expansion that included the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Toronto, but Vancouver lost their franchise to Memphis several years ago—one of many mistakes David Stern regrets making.

    In recent years, the Raptors have been floundering and Brian Colangelo’s idiotic vision of creating a European team has reduced his credibility as a GM.  In fact, the Raptors are the most expensive losing team in the league, and they are in the absolute cellar.

    Just think how much value this franchise can gain if they can only put a winning team on the floor.

    The Toronto Raptors benefit from a metro area population of 5,113,149 people, with another five million people within one hour driving distance of the Rogers Centre.

No. 9: San Antonio Spurs @ $404 Million

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Tim Duncan #21 and Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs stand on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on December 16, 2009 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Spurs were founded in 1967 and have a total of four championships to their credit, thanks mainly to Tim Duncan.  The Spurs missed out on several opportunities to extend their championship haul during the Tim Duncan era, looking unmotivated after making it to the Finals.

    This past season, the Spurs led the league for most of the year before finishing second to the Chicago Bulls with 61 wins.  But unfortunately, they were beaten by the up-and-coming Memphis Grizzlies in the first round—a real unexpected shocker.

    Like the Boston Celtics, it’s likely that the aging Spurs' dominant days are over.

    The San Antonio Spurs benefit from a metro area population of 2,072,100 people.

No. 8: Phoenix Suns @ $411 Million

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 13:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns drives the ball during the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs at US Airways Center on April 13, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Suns were founded in 1968 and have yet to win a championship, and the era of the Steve Nash run-and-gun offense is nearing it’s end.

    Nash has brought excitement to Phoenix and the NBA with his flashy style of play, and he continues to play like a superstar point guard, one of only five pure point guards in the league along with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Jose Calderone.

    The Suns have made the NBA Finals twice (1976 and 1993) only to lose both times.

    The Nash-led Suns have come close to making it to the Finals, only to be stopped by the Lakers and the Mavericks before they could get there in their two best opportunities to win a title.

    It’s likely that Nash will be considered one of the top 15 greats to ever play the game.

    The Suns are facing the daunting task of rebuilding their team, and the best way for them to start is to trade their star pivot—a prospect that will likely happen sooner than later.

    The Phoenix Suns benefit from a metro area population of 4,364,090 people.

No. 7: The Miami Heat @ $425 Million

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 01:  LeBron James #6, Dwyane Wade #2, Chris Bosh #1, Mario Chalmers #15, and Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat talk during Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at American Airli
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Heat’s value has increased significantly with the signing of Miami Thrice at the beginning of the season.  But according to Forbes, it’s really LeBron James that has made the Heat’s value skyrocket by an estimated $60 million.

    The Heat were founded in 1988 and have one championship to their credit, thanks to Dwyane Wade.

    The 2010-11 season marks Miami Thrice’s first year together and the Heat have faced a constant barrage of criticism from fans and a blitzing media.  They have undoubtedly become the bad boys on the block and the team that everybody loves to hate. 

    Can Miami win a championship in their first year together?  They are on the verge of eliminating the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals and have just one last hill to climb in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

    One thing is for sure, Miami is keeping their end of the Heat-or-Threepeat bargain—it’s the other half of the equation that got swept by the Mavericks in the second round of the 2010-11 playoffs.

    When it’s all said and done, LeBron James will likely be considered one of the top 10 players of all time.  It will be a close call, however, for Dwayne Wade.

    The Miami Heat benefit from a metro area population of 5,547,100 people.

No. 6: Dallas Mavericks @ $438 Million

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Dirk Nowitzki #41, Jose Juan Barea #11 and the Dallas Mavericks celebrate their 100-96 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center o
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks were founded in 1980 and are the highest ranking team on this list to not have won a single title. 

    Their last best chance was in 2006 when the Mavs blew an incredible chance to seal the deal over the Miami Heat. 

    But unfortunately, Dwayne Wade had something to say about it by putting on an incredible show that ranks as the best performance in NBA Finals history.

    Since that matchup against the Heat several years ago, the Mavericks have owned Miami, who have yet to win a single game against Dallas. 

    Now that the Mavs have eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the 2010-11 Western Conference Final, they are on the cusp of their next best chance at a title. 

    It will most likely be another faceoff against the Miami Heat, who have the Chicago Bulls on the ropes with a 3-1 series lead.

    Dirk Nowitzki has been Dallas’ biggest star, but it is unlikely that he will be considered a top 10 player of all time, even if he wins a championship.   

    The Dallas Mavericks benefit from a metro area population of 6,447,600 people.

No. 5: Houston Rockets @ $443 Million

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets takes a shot against the Los Angeles Lakers during their game at Staples Center on October 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Houston has been the home of the cyclops—seven-foot giants that included Hakeem the Dream, Ralph Sampson and Yao Ming.  It was only Hakeem that came through for this city with two championship rings in a row, and only he is considered a top 10 great.

    Founded in 1967, critics say that Michael Jordan would have had a say in the franchises only two championships if he had not retired to play baseball.  That assumption is probably true.

    It’s unlikely, despite the lofty media blitz and expectations, that Yao Ming will add to the championship haul of Hakeem the Dream.

    The Houston Rockets benefit from a metro area population of 5,867,500 people.

No. 4: Boston Celtics @ $452 Million

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 09:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics passes the ball as Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat defends in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 9, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  Th
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Boston Celtics are the most successful team in NBA history with 17 championship banners hanging from their rafters (one more than the L.A. Lakers), yet they rank only fourth on this list.

    Founded in 1946, the Celtics are an original NBA team with a plethora of legends including Bill Russell and Larry Bird, both considered among the 10 best players of all time.

    The Celtics last title came in 2007-08 with the formation of their Big Three that includes Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen—three greats that have contributed greatly to this franchise, despite seeing better years in their younger days.

    The men in green narrowly missed out on adding to their championship haul in 2009-10.  Some people blame the injury of Kendrick Perkins, while others claim they were ripped off by bad officiating that favored L.A during their seven-game series loss in the Finals.

    The Celtics, however, were too preoccupied with constant speculation of Ray Allen and Doc Rivers changing teams the following year—they were distracted by the nonsense.

    The three teams ahead of the Celtics have won fewer titles and the Rockets and Mavs are worth almost as much, yet they combine for a total of only two championships.

    The Boston Celtics benefit from a metro area population of 5,023,900 people.

No. 3: Chicago Bulls @ $511 Million

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a dunk against Udonis Haslem #40 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat in the first half of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at Am
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Bulls will forever belong to Michael Jordan, the greatest player to ever play the game. 

    Not only did he bring six championships to the Windy City, but he made the franchise relevant by filling the once previous empty seats.

    Those six championships rank the Bulls as the third most winning team in the NBA, but the Celtics and Lakers have won almost three times as many titles—each.

    Founded in 1966, the biggest highlight of this franchise was the Michael Jordan-led Bulls Dynasty, which was undoubtedly the most exciting era in basketball. 

    Possibly the only thing stopping Chicago from winning another championship right now is Derrick Rose, who should be moved to shooting guard in favor of a true point guard.

    With that simple move, the Bulls will have all the pieces to contend with the best.

    The Chicago Bulls benefit from a metro area population of 9,557,900 people.

No. 2: L.A. Lakers @ $643 Million

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 30:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers is fouled while shooting by Shaquille O'Neal #36 of the Boston Celtics in the first half at Staples Center on January 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Founded in 1948, the Lakers have had the most team success in the league (16 championships), with the exception of the Boston Celtics, who have one more title.  But without a doubt, they have been the most successful team over the last 30 years (including all major sports).

    But the Lakers and Celtics dominance in the NBA is staggering and accounts for an astounding 33 championships over the NBA’s 65-year history.  The next most proficient team is Chicago with six.

    Giants of the game that wore purple and gold and who are also considered all-time greats include: Chamberlain, West, Kareem, Magic, Shaq and Kobe.

    The cash registers have been ringing nonstop at the Staples center, making 2010-11 a successful season in the pocketbook, if not on the floor.

    Winning two championships in the last three years has ended with a second round sweep to the Dallas Mavericks.

    The L.A. Lakers benefit from a metro area population of 12,874,800 people.

No. 1: New York Knicks @ $655 Million

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Ce
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The New York Knicks are a storied franchise of the soap opera variety, if you look at the last decade at least.  They have provided us with sensational drama from the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Stephan Marbury and of course, James Dolan.

    Founded in 1946, the Knicks are an original NBA team with just two titles to their credit--a very small number, especially considering there years in the league and when compared to the Lakers and Knicks.

    Bad management has been a huge problem in the Big Apple, but Michael Jordan also was a Knicks stopper. 

    A few more titles were expected during the Patrick Ewing era, but unfortunately, MJ had the last word on that ambitious idea.

    Signing both Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony this past season has provided the Knicks with two major pieces to build with.

    But that might turn into a defenseless idea.  

    The New York Knicks benefit from a metro area population of 19,069,800 people.