Despite all the losing this year, the Raptors are 9th in total attendance and are only surpassed by Detroit, Chicago, Portland, Dallas, Utah, Cleveland, New York and LA. We’re a step ahead of Golden State who are the self-proclaimed “best fans in the league”. As you can see below, the last few years we’ve fared pretty well:

Year Raptors Rank Top 3 Bottom 3
2008-09 9th DET, CHI, POR MIN, MEM, SAC
2007-08 9th DET, CHI, CLE SEA, MEM, IND
2006-07 13th CHI, DET, CLE IND, PHI, MEM
2005-06 17th DET, CHI, DAL HOU, ATL, POR
2004-05 16th DET, CHI, DAL CHA, ATL, NO
2003-04 8th DET, DAL, CHI ORL, NO, ATL
2002-03 10th DET, WAS, DAL HOU, ATL, CLE

So this year’s weaklings are Minnesota, Memphis and Sacramento. Three towns that aren’t exactly economically flourishing and as local economies suffer, so does the income generated by the team.

Teams and leagues have become so closely tied to corporations — through sponsorship dollars, luxury suites and high-end tickets — that the fall of big business is bringing down sports with it. That’s what could make this slump unprecedented.

Keeping the Raptors’ interest in mind, it would be a good idea to see if these kinds of clubs are sellers in the trade market. For example, Memphis would have to sign Rudy Gay to a contract in the 2010 summer to prevent him for being an unrestricted free agent the following year. Would they be willing to shell out the maximum money he’s going to ask but probably doesn’t deserve? Randy Foye in Minnesota is in the same situation. Kevin Martin of Sacramento is signed to an 11M/yr contract till 2012-03 and the Kings are going nowhere fast, would they be willing to part with him and shed some salary in the process?

As the recession continues, teams that would naturally hang on to their talent in hopes of building for the future might be forced to sell instead of build. The Raptors have been fortunate enough to avoid these kinds of tough decisions. Our problems are restricted to those concerning actual basketball, not financial – many thanks to the hated Leaf Nation for holding our hands through these years. Last year the franchise was valued at $400 million by Forbes, good for 11th in the NBA. If that’s not good enough news, the head of the Bank of Canada says that the Canadian recession will be short, unlike the US. In theory, that should tilt the advantage towards the Raptors even more.

With money seemingly not being a problem, it’s surprising to find the Raptors so far back in the standings.

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