ESPN’s Future NBA Power Rankings

Chad Ford and John Hollinger tag-teamed a piece [Insider subscription required] where they ranked all 30 NBA teams with five criteria — players, management, money, market and draft — with an eye on the future.

The top three were the Blazers, Magic and Lakers. The bottom three were the Bobcats, Bucks and Kings. Here’s the writeup for the Blazers:

On paper, no other team possesses as bright a future as the Portland Trail Blazers. It all starts with the players. Nobody, not even Oklahoma City, can match the stable of young talent the Blazers have built. Brandon Roy is already a superstar, and joining him are potential stars like LaMarcus Aldridge (24), Greg Oden (21, even if he looks more like 51), Nicolas Batum (20) and Martell Webster (22). That doesn’t even count the other assets the Blazers have that could eventually pan out, such as talented second-year benchwarmer Jerryd Bayless and a veritable farm team in Europe that includes Joel Freeland, Petteri Koponen and Victor Claver.

Portland also gets strong grades in other categories. The management under GM Kevin Pritchard has been rock-solid, with the only minor quibble being the decision to draft Oden ahead of Kevin Durant — a decision, one should remember, that all 30 GMs were prepared to make, even if a lot of fans and analysts weren’t. In terms of money, the Blazers have no cap room to speak of for the foreseeable future, but being owned by one of the world’s wealthiest men in a rabid city where sellouts are the norm means the Blazers can comfortably go into luxury tax and beyond should the need arise.

Portland market didn’t score as highly in the market category — witness Hedo Turkoglu’s about-face — as sad, dreary winters, the nation’s highest state taxes and a relative lack of diversity for a major metropolitan area limit its attractiveness to free agents. They stay in the middle of the pack in this category largely due to Allen’s largesse, with first-rate team facilities, and the fact that a lot of players grow to like the place once they’ve been there — it helped bring Steve Blake back, for instance.

The draft is where Portland scored poorly, but even that is a positive in a sense — with such a bright future, it can expect to pick in the mid-to-late 20s in coming seasons.

The feature does a pretty nice job of evaluating how each team is positioned heading into the next five years.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

There’s something wrong with John Hollinger’s NBA rankings

John Hollinger is ESPN’s NBA numbers guy, and I have a lot of respect for his approach. His Player Efficiency Rating is a good way to statistically compare players who play vastly different minutes.

Anyway, he debuted his NBA power rankings, and something weird is going on. Take a look at the top 10:

1. Lakers (6-0)
2. Hawks (6-0)
3. Hornets (4-2)
4. Celtics (7-1)
5. Cavs (6-2)
6. Pacers (3-3)
7. Jazz (6-1)
8. Suns (6-2)
9. Pistons (5-2)
10. Heat (4-3)

The Indiana Pacers are ranked #6?!?

While it’s true that the Pacers have played a hard schedule that included the Pistons, Celtics, Suns and Cavaliers, and they played all of those teams pretty tough (and even beat the Celtics by 16 at home), their two other wins were against the Nets and the Thunder. I don’t know what kind of formula he’s using to come up with these rankings, but there’s something wrong with one that has a 3-3 team ranked #6 with two wins against bottom-feeders like the Nets and the Thunder.

The other ranking that seems odd is the Miami Heat at #10. While it’s true that Miami has nice wins against the Spurs and 76ers, they also have losses to the Knicks and Bobcats. I do think Miami will make the playoffs; I’m not so sure about the Pacers.

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