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[ESPN] Future Power Rankings

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by J.R., Sep 9, 2014.

  1. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

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    Future Power Rankings

    [rquoter]The Future Power Rankings are ESPN Insider's projection of the on-court success expected for each team in the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

    Consider this a convenient way to see the direction in which your favorite team is headed.

    Each of the NBA's 30 teams received an overall Future Power Rating of 0 to 100, based on how well we expect each team to perform in the next three seasons.

    To determine the Future Power Rating, we rated each team in five categories.

    As you can see, we determined that the most important category is a team's current roster and the future potential of those players -- that category accounts for 50 percent of each team's overall Future Power Rating.<br/><br/>At the same time, we looked at many other factors, such as management, ownership, coaching, a team's spending habits, its cap situation, the reputation of the city and the franchise and what kind of draft picks we expect the team to have in the future.

    To rank the 30 teams, we asked ESPN Insider analysts Chad Ford, Amin Elhassan, Tom Haberstroh and Kevin Pelton to rate each team in each category.

    Here are our latest rankings:

    1. San Antonio Spurs

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    This is the first time in Future Power Rankings' five-year history that the Spurs have ranked No. 1. Winning a championship will do that, and despite the age of San Antonio's three long-tenured stars, the Spurs' short-term future still appears bright. San Antonio brings basically everyone back from last year's roster with exception of reserve center Aron Baynes.

    Given the way coach Gregg Popovich has managed his players' minutes, there's reason to believe the Spurs can wring at least one more championship-caliber season out of aging veterans Tim Duncan (38) and Manu Ginobili (37).

    Looking ahead, the question of replacing Duncan -- when he decides to head off to retirement -- looms large. San Antonio is counting on Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, 23, developing into the kind of player who can anchor a contending team.

    Leonard is likely to sign a long-term extension this fall, the Spurs having already locked up point guard Tony Parker through 2017-18 this summer. San Antonio also will have to re-sign starting guard Danny Green, which will cut into the team's cap flexibility the next two summers.

    Still, if there's any management we trust to manage the future, it's the Spurs, who earned a perfect score. Popovich is clearly the league's best coach -- he might be as difficult to replace as Duncan when he decides to retire -- and GM R.C. Buford earned overdue honors as the league's Executive of the Year in 2013-14. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 4)

    2. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The Cavs jumped a whopping seven spots from No. 9 to No. 2 in this year's FPR. Adding LeBron James and Kevin Love had everything to do with it.

    The Cavs jumped from No. 13 to No. 1 in our players category. Adding the best player in the NBA and another top-10 player to your roster while giving up young players who have yet to contribute anything will do that. The core of James, Love and Kyrie Irving looks like the best big three in basketball. When you add in support players such as&nbsp;Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller -- the Cavs look like a stronger edition of last year's No. 1 team -- the Heat.

    The Cavs' market value also got a big bump. The team ranked No. 21 last year and moved all the way up to 11 this year. No, global warming has yet to take hold in Cleveland. But James himself is a destination and already has shown the muscle to lure free agents. (There was no way Love or Miller would have come to Cleveland without James.)

    The team will actually have significant cap room for 2016-17, but we expect most of that will be used up re-signing James and Love. Still, there's a willingness to spend and the Cavs will have some flexibility in two years. The Cavs also can swap picks with the Bulls and they own a future Grizzlies pick down the road, which brightens Cleveland's fortunes a bit as far as the draft goes.

    As for management, our panel wasn't willing to give them full credit for James (that was the city of Cleveland's doing), Love (that was LeBron's doing) or dumb luck (that's the NBA draft lottery's doing). They got lucky, but hey, sometimes luck is the thing you need the most in the NBA.

    Now the Cavs are as well positioned as any team in the NBA to take home an NBA title or two. -- Chad Ford

    (Previous rank: 9)

    3. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The Thunder have rated in the top three of the Future Power Rankings every iteration since December 2009. That has translated into plenty of wins (only San Antonio has more over the past three seasons), but only one Finals appearance and no championships ... yet.

    Oklahoma City has enough talent on hand to change that. Only the Cleveland Cavaliers scored better in terms of players. Visionary GM Sam Presti, the driving force behind the Thunder ranking third in management, continues to add young talent to the team's core of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. Last season, Reggie Jackson emerged as a premier reserve, and 2013 first-round pick Steven Adams demonstrated he's Oklahoma City's future at the center position.

    Internal development will be crucial because of the Thunder's unwillingness, thus far, to exceed the luxury tax, as reflected in their bottom-five ranking in money. Oklahoma City's marquee offseason acquisition was journeyman shooting guard Anthony Morrow, who replaces departed starter Thabo Sefolosha, to give the Thunder more shooting but weaker defense at the position.

    Besides staying healthy after untimely injuries to Westbrook and Ibaka the past two postseasons, the key to the Thunder breaking through will be the progress of recent first-round picks such as Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones to bolster the team's bench.

    There's added urgency to win now, too, with Durant's free agency looming in the summer of 2016. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 3)

    4. Houston Rockets

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    While they haven't dropped far in the Future Power Rankings, the Rockets' future doesn't look quite as bright as it did 12 months ago, when they ranked second. Houston won 54 games, tied for fifth in the NBA, but the season flamed out in a six-game loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round that reinforced questions about James Harden's defense and the Rockets' supporting cast.

    Worse yet was an offseason that saw the Rockets lose starting forward Chandler Parsons to the rival Dallas Mavericks and saw them deal away Jeremy Lin to create cap space that went largely unused. Despite the presence of two All-Star talents in Harden and Dwight Howard, and the addition of Trevor Ariza, the Rockets tumbled from third to seventh in the players category.

    Houston's slide was arrested by strong ratings elsewhere. The Rockets are one of three teams not to rank in the bottom 10 in any of our five categories. Houston GM Daryl Morey, who built a contending roster without going through a rebuilding process, earns high marks in management. And the Rockets' moves this offseason ensured continued cap flexibility as well as help through the draft.

    Though Houston's own first-round pick went to the L.A. Lakers with Lin, the Rockets added a potential lottery pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for center Omer Asik. Add in a top-10 market and the Rockets should contend for years to come. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 2)

    5. Los Angeles Clippers

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The tumultuous Donald Sterling saga this spring and summer had a happy ending for the Clippers, who have made a massive upgrade in the owner's box from Sterling to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. That change drives a jump from 20th in management a year ago to eighth this season, which has pushed the Clippers into the top five of the Future Power Rankings.

    Ballmer promised championships during the pep rally introducing him as owner, and the Clippers have the roster to deliver. In Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, they boast one of the league's best duos, and they've supported them with a strong group of role players. Only the San Antonio Spurs had a better point differential than the Clippers during the 2013-14 regular season, and the Clippers have upgraded their bench with the addition of Spencer Hawes as a free agent. As a result, the Clippers rank third in players.

    Sterling's demise helped coach Doc Rivers consolidate his power as president of basketball operations. Rivers the coach must avoid the temptation to overrule Rivers the executive at the cost of the Clippers' long-term future. Already, they rank near the bottom of the league in both money and draft value (29th in each), and that doesn't factor in the 2017 first-round pick Rivers sacrificed to shed Jared Dudley's contract this summer. With little help on the way, the Clippers need this group to win and win big. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 8)

    6. Golden State Warriors

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The Warriors have been consistently in our top five for the past two editions but take a step back in our rankings this year. They moved down only one spot despite moving up four points in their overall score.

    Our panel continues to be impressed with the overall depth of the players the team has assembled (the Warriors ranked fourth behind the Cavs, Thunder and Clippers), though we can safely assume had the Warriors made the Kevin Love deal with Minnesota, they might have moved up a few spots.

    The Warriors management, led by general manager Bob Myers, continues to earn respect from the panel. Last season, management was ranked eighth. This year they moved up three spots to fifth. For the most part the team has drafted and traded well. While some might argue they missed an opportunity to land Love and perhaps overvalued guard Klay Thompson, the Warriors' front office is one of the most respected and consistent in the league.

    The Warriors' draft and market scores remained consistent. We think they have one of the better markets in the NBA and while they've drafted well, the team will be likely drafting in the 20s every year and still owe another future first to the Jazz in 2017, which hurts their score in that section.

    Where the Warriors took their biggest hit was in the money section. The team is essentially capped out the next two seasons and a big payday is coming for Thompson next summer, which should limit the Warriors' flexibility to add players through free agency.

    Still, the Warriors remain one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA over the next three years. If they can stay healthy and new head coach Steve Kerr can get them over the hump, they look like serious contenders in the West for the next three seasons. -- Chad Ford

    (Previous rank: 5)

    7. Chicago Bulls

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    No Carmelo Anthony, no problem. The Chicago Bulls became the rare team that saw their raw score rise and their rank dip in this edition. Gotta make room for the surging Cavs and Clippers! The Bulls weren't able to snatch Anthony away from the New York Knicks, but they still rank just outside the top five thanks to additions such as Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and overseas stud Nikola Mirotic.

    Oh, and did we mention Derrick Rose is back? Granted, Rose's Team USA performance hasn't lit the world on fire, but the Bulls have set themselves up to contend for the East crown for years to come. The strong core of Rose, Gasol, Mirotic, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson is locked in for at least two seasons and McDermott figures to help loosen up their offense a bit more. If Rose can return to anywhere near MVP form, we'll have to bump up their player score, but for now, they'll sit at sixth in the category.

    Retaining all that talent comes at a price, however. The Bulls won't be big players on the free-agent market any time soon and they have $50 million already on the books for 2016-17 even before accounting for Butler's possible extension. They're cash-strapped so that big-city appeal can only go so far to lure free agents. But this is a star-studded core and we're confident that Tom Thibodeau and the front office will keep them in the championship hunt for years to come. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 6)

    8. Dallas Mavericks

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    Welcome back to the top 10, Dallas. For the first time since August 2012, the Mavericks have crept back into the upper echelon when the glow of the 2011 championship was beginning to wear off. Mavs owner Mark Cuban reloaded around Dirk Nowitzki once again, this time by plucking Chandler Parsons away from Houston and trading for former Mavs defensive ace Tyson Chandler.

    The Mavericks have a chance to boast the top frontcourt in the NBA as long as Chandler can stay healthy, but it's hard to see what this team might look like long term. As far as we know, Nowitzki is human and he will fall off at some point, and the surrounding lack of youth makes us leery of their roster down the road. As such, we like eight Western Conference teams' collection of players better than the Mavs'.

    But Cuban leads a rock-solid management team all the way down to Rick Carlisle. And they will have money to spend next summer when Chandler's contract comes off the books, thanks in part to Nowitzki's crazy bargain extension. Throw in the fact that they have retained all their picks going forward, the Mavericks are sitting pretty. In fact, this is the only team in the NBA that boasts above-average scores in each of the five criteria. Not bad for a team whose best player is 36 years old. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 12)

    9. Miami Heat

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The future is still bright in Miami, just not nearly as bright as if the Heat still employed, you know, the best player on the planet. LeBron James is gone and so is the Heat's No. 1 Future Power Ranking, a throne on which they sat since February 2012.

    The Heat didn't just lose the King; they lost their best Dwyane Wade insurance package in Ray Allen, a player-coach in Shane Battier, playoff starter and 3-point sharpshooter Rashard Lewis James Jones. Sure, they added names such as Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng and Danny Granger, but the haul wasn't large enough to buoy their ranking in the player category, which slid from second to No. 10.

    Not all is lost, however. We're actually feeling better about the Heat's books going forward in James' wake. Heat godfather Pat Riley and GM/cap expert extraordinaire Andy Elisburg signed Chris Bosh and McRoberts long term, but they have retained serious flexibility for the summer of 2016 when Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah and Al Horford are set to hit the market. The dollars on Wade's contract aren't ideal, but that's the cost of buying goodwill from a shell-shocked fan base.

    Even though losing James put a dent in Riley's mystique, the Heat still boast the second-best management score in the NBA. Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and Heat owner Micky Arison made a surprisingly soft landing after watching James split. With tropical weather, tax-free allure and a strong roster, no one's feeling sorry for the Heat. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 1)

    10. Portland Trail Blazers

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    Our panel was high on the Blazers' future a year ago, and that optimism was rewarded by a 54-win season and Portland's first playoff series victory since 2000. Because we were ahead of the curve, the successful 2013-14 did relatively little to bump up the Blazers' spot in the rankings.

    This offseason was quiet for Portland, which brings back 13 of the 15 players from last year's roster, having added Steve Blake and Chris Kaman to add experience to an otherwise young second unit. The summer of 2015 will be far busier. The Blazers can re-sign forward LaMarcus Aldridge and clear max salary space to add to their core of Aldridge, fellow All-Star Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum. That explains why Portland ranks in the top 10 in both players and money -- something only the Miami Heat can also claim.

    Last year's results did improve the Blazers' score in management from 14th to 10th. Terry Stotts had his most effective season as an NBA head coach, putting together an offense ranked fifth in the league, and Neil Olshey stole Robin Lopez in a trade that built one of the league's strongest starting fives. Olshey has hit (Lillard) and missed (Meyers Leonard) big in the lottery in Portland, and the development of 2013 lottery pick C.J. McCollum will help determine whether the Blazers maintain that rating. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 11)

    11. Toronto Raptors

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    So much for the Rudy Gay era, huh? The Raptors became the second franchise to reach new heights after wiping their hands clean of Gay's services. First it was Memphis. Then, it was Toronto, who traded Gay to Sacramento after a 6-12 start in 2013-14 and promptly finished the season as the Atlantic Division winners with a franchise-best 48 victories.
    As such, the Raptors skyrocketed through our standings, leaping 12 other teams to rank just outside the top 10. Only Phoenix and Charlotte saw bigger jumps since our last ballot and it's easy to see why we're high on the Raptors. They're young and they're good. And thanks to strong management, they should be for a long time.

    In his first year on the job, general manager Masai Ujiri continued to work the magic he spun in Denver, getting rid of Andrea Bargnani and Gay's bloated contracts while somehow getting real assets in return. Also, Kyle Lowry is back on a team-friendly deal after a breakout season. Dwane Casey deservedly got some coach of the year pub and the training staff kept them healthy all season.

    Thus, the Raptors' management score improved dramatically since the last vote. Every indicator is up in Toronto except for the market score, which is down only a smidge. With a budding young core, there's a lot to like here. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 23)

    12. Phoenix Suns

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    It's time to eat some crow. Last year, I -- and the rest of our panel -- blasted the Suns, ranking them No. 27 in our Future Power Rankings. The only thing we really liked about them was their potentially high draft position and their warm, Arizona market. What a difference a year makes.

    After our rankings, the Suns went on to move center Marcin Gortat (one of their best two players) for a broken Emeka Okafor and still managed to nearly steal a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference. It turned out Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe had career years. Gerald Green also had the best year of his career. Ditto for Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris. And Channing Frye basically made the comeback of the year.

    All of that led us to double the Suns' score on their roster from 20 to 41. That score might be even higher if the Suns had managed to lock up Bledsoe to a long-term contract this summer. If he bolts the desert next year, that number will take a hit. We also increased the Suns' management score (we're big Jeff Hornacek fans) and still give them pretty high marks for the draft thanks to future picks they own from both the Lakers and Wolves.

    While the Suns aren't necessarily contenders in the West, they aren't the bottom-dwellers we thought they would be. But the biggest question in my mind then is: Have they gone from underrated to overrated? I wouldn't be shocked to see the Suns settle into the late teens or early 20s next year. -- Chad Ford

    (Previous rank: 27)

    13. New Orleans Pelicans

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The Pelicans are a case study in how the brilliance of one superstar talent can outweigh subpar decision-making and mediocre supporting talent. When you talk about the future of the NBA, the name Anthony Davis figures to be a central part of that reality, and as LeBron James starts the downhill portion of his career, Davis has a real shot to vie for the "Best Player on the Planet" title over the next three years as a two-way force.

    Beyond Davis, the roster does not feature players with an opportunity for significant improvement other than point guard Jrue Holiday, who is only 24 years old and two years removed from an All-Star appearance. Ryan Anderson has been one of the best stretch 4s in the NBA, and the addition of Omer Asik should boost team defensive performance and alleviate some of the burden placed on Davis.

    It goes downhill from there, for a variety of reasons. Asik's acquisition came at a very dear price (lightly protected first-rounder that will likely be conveyed this season, leaving New Orleans pick-less in 2015), and there's no long-term guarantee of his presence (his deal expires at year's end). Barring a major salary cap rise, the Pelicans figure to be over the cap until 2016 (although they are well below the luxury tax threshold), and traditionally, New Orleans has not been a desirable destination.

    All of these factors influence the low management rating the Pelicans drew, as there still persists a perception that they haven't effectively managed their cap and pick inventory. -- Amin Elhassan

    (Previous rank: 16)

    14. Washington Wizards

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    Even though the Wizards seem to be a team on the rise, we're still skeptical about their staying power. Yes, John Wall is an All-Star. Yes, they ripped through the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Yes, they brought in Paul Pierce to stabilize their wing position. Yes, they signed Marcin Gortat to a long-term contract. We get all that.

    Still, we're not sold. The management score of 34 reflects our uneasiness about Randy Wittman getting a contract extension to stay on as head coach and general manager Ernie Grunfeld's ability to make sound long-term decisions (signing a 30-year-old Gortat through 2018-19 seems a bit hasty). The roster makeup is promising, but thanks to big paydays for Wall and Gortat, the Wizards are already tight on flexibility even before Bradley Beal's extension kicks in. For that, we're docking them points on the money side, where they rank 20th.

    Ultimately, the Wizards are still caught in no man's land. They're not threatening to be a title contender anytime soon, nor are they flush with rebuilding assets. Wiz fans finally have something to cheer about and that counts for something. But we're not bullish on their upside. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 15)

    15. Charlotte Hornets

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    After finishing dead last in every previous edition of the Future Power Rankings, the former Bobcats changed their name and their trajectory, making the biggest leap of any team -- they've vaulted into the middle of the pack. Part of this can be attributed to the improvements the Hornets have made across the board (we'll get into those in a second), but it is necessary to take the time to acknowledge the underappreciated decisions they made in the past. The team's 2013 offseason was widely panned, but it shifted the course of the franchise. Signing Al Jefferson gave them an offensive centerpiece, and head coach Steve Clifford managed to craft an elite defense around him.

    Looking forward, the increased confidence in management following the appointment of Rich Cho as lead basketball decision-maker (along with the departure of former president of basketball operations Rod Higgins), combined with Clifford's masterful coaching job and managing partner Michael Jordan's willingness to simultaneously invest more money into the roster and take a step back from day-to-day control led to a corresponding rise in score.

    Adding Lance Stephenson to a very team-friendly contract gives them some more scoring punch without sacrificing defense, and young talents such as Kemba Walker and 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh give hope for future growth.

    Best of all, the Hornets' books are in order for the future, including cap flexibility and possession of all of their first-round picks. Additionally, the rebranding of the franchise with the old Hornets nickname, combined with their newfound competitiveness, has helped bring Charlotte back as a more desirable destination. -- Amin Elhassan

    (Previous rank: 30)

    16. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    On the court, the Memphis Grizzlies look to be in pretty good shape. First-year head coach Dave Joerger weathered the storm after Marc Gasol missed 23 games because of a knee injury and the 50-32 Grizzlies pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies' big three of Mike Conley, (the newly extended) Zach Randolph and Gasol will be back for another go at the Western Conference crown along with Vince Carter, Kosta Koufos, Tony Allen, Courtney Lee and promising rookie Jordan Adams.

    So, why the fall from 10th to 16th in the rankings?

    Because no one seems to know what the heck is going on upstairs. In May, Memphis' owner Robert Pera blindsided the NBA world by firing CEO Jason Levien and director of player personnel Stu Lash just two years after Levien helped broker Pera's deal to purchase the team. Former FPR ranker John Hollinger, whom Levien helped bring on board in 2012, remains while Pera invited Chris Wallace back from hiding to reinstall him as general manager. Oh, and Pera gave Joerger permission to talk to Minnesota for a head-coaching job before bizarrely reeling him back in for a long-term deal.
    Because the Grizzlies management features the stability of a baby giraffe riding a Crisco-lathered surfboard, we ranked them 18th in that category, down from ninth last year. Memphis hails from the seventh-worst market in our eyes and and they'll send their 2015 first-rounder to Cleveland if it doesn't fall between 1-5 or 15-30. In other words, better make the playoffs, Memphis. While the Grizzlies figure to be a force again in the West, they're standing on shaky ground. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 10)

    17. Atlanta Hawks

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    It's beginning to sound like a broken record for the Hawks: They're very fluid and flexible with their cap spending, they have good draft pick inventory (consisting of several unprotected second-rounders and the right to swap first-rounders in 2015 with the Nets), and they have a good collection of underrated talent, headlined by Al Horford.

    So what's the problem? They haven't been able to convert the immense potential they've built up into tangible results: no elite free-agent signing, no blockbuster trade and no blue-chip draft picks of late. As a result, they've placed themselves firmly in the NBA's version of the friend zone: good, but never great.

    The roster is filled with versatile talents who can play multiple positions. Thabo Sefolosha was a nice pickup as a defensive wing, and Adreian Payne was a solid draft selection as a pick-and-pop big with length and defensive potential.

    It's somewhat puzzling that a popular road trip destination such as Atlanta has never been able to convince players that it's a great place to play, but perhaps it's fitting in that it's like the Hawks: full of unrealized potential. Philosophically, it's hard to argue with their approach, but perhaps the time has come to act more aggressively and take swings at some riskier plays.

    With the unexpected news of Hawks managing partner Bruce Levenson's decision to sell his stake in the team, there is a degree of uncertainty as to how this will affect the team moving forward. While new ownership could help, it is premature at this juncture to try to assess the impact it would have on the team's future. -- Amin Elhassan

    (Previous rank: 13)

    18. Indiana Pacers

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    It has been a rough year for the Pacers. After looking as if they were poised to make a serious challenge to the Heat last September, the wheels have come off. The Pacers dropped from No. 7 to No. 18 in this year's rankings thanks in large part to the regression of a few key players, the Paul George injury and the inability of management to surround a solid core with a bench that can sustain them in the playoffs.

    The Pacers took a huge hit in the players section of the rankings. George's injury is a big part of it. But that's not the only problem. The team lost Lance Stephenson to free agency this summer, Roy Hibbert was just a shell of himself last season, George Hill posted his worst PER since his rookie season and David West is getting old. The Pacers' two additions this summer -- Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles -- don't really come close to making up that gap.

    Management also took a hit, dropping from No. 5 to No. 9 in our rankings. Larry Bird and Kevin Pritchard either acquired or drafted Andrew Bynum, Evan Turner, Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, Ian Mahinmi, C.J. Watson, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and Solomon Hill over the past two seasons to shore up their bench.

    Scola was the only one of them to have made a significant impact on the court for the Pacers (though he posted the worst PER of his career in Indiana last season). If one or two of the other signings had panned out, the Pacers might have been competing for a NBA championship the past two years.

    The team's scores for money, market and draft remain essentially the same, with a slight bump in their draft position now that ESPN Forecast is predicting that they won't make the playoffs this year.

    The Pacers might be able to bounce back in 2015-16 if George has a full recovery, they draft well and they have more success in free agency. But the future hasn't looked this bleak in Indiana in several years. -- Chad Ford

    (Previous rank: 7)

    19. Philadelphia 76ers

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    There's nothing quite like a 26-game losing streak to inspire hope for the future. Alas, this is the NBA and the 76ers are trending upward even though everything seemed so down. The Sixers epically dreadful bid for the No. 1 pick didn't work out as planned, but they still ended up with Joel Embiid, easily the most promising big man in the draft. Rookie general manager Sam Hinkie also hoarded every second-round draft pick until the year 2099* and nabbed Croatian standout Dario Saric with the 12th pick even though he likely won't hit stateside for a couple years.

    Between Rookie of the Year (by default) Michael Carter-Williams, Embiid, Saric and Nerlens Noel, who is returning after missing last season with a torn ACL, the Sixers have as much promising young talent as any team in the league. But they're not likely to realize their full potential until 2017 at the earliest and the rest of the roster is embarrassingly bad. Hence, despite the upside, we're slotting their player category tied for 25th along with Orlando and New York.

    Elsewhere, management led by Hinkie and coach Brett Brown appears to be progressive, but unproven. The city of Philadelphia isn't a top draw, but it's a fairly large market waiting to be tapped. The Sixers are trying to be the team of the future, but the target is just so far away at this point that we can't justify a higher ranking. Sit tight, Philly fans. This is going to be a long, bumpy ride.

    *Not really, but it sure feels that way. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 25)

    20. Detroit Pistons

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    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    Major changes went down in Detroit this summer when longtime GM Joe Dumars stepped aside and Stan Van Gundy took the helm. Detroit has been in a death spiral of sorts for several years and, according to our panel, they don't appear to be coming out of it anytime soon.

    The team fell three spots in this year's rankings and their rankings for players took the biggest hit. On paper, Josh Smith with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond make for an impressive collection of frontcourt talent. But now that we've seen how their skills overlap and cancel each other, we're not nearly as bullish.

    Drummond is the only player on the roster really generating much enthusiasm in the long term. Monroe has his fans as well, but it's looking more and more likely that this might be his last year wearing a Pistons uniform after he recently signed a one-year deal. Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each still have upside. Smith is now largely seen as a liability -- especially if he keeps playing the small forward position. And the three-year, $18 million contract given to Jodie Meeks on the first day of free agency certainly didn't help.

    The Pistons got a significant bump in the draft section reflecting our panel's pessimism that this team will be a playoff squad anytime soon. The team's management, money and market scores held relatively firm, which reflects our uncertainty about what to expect. Van Gundy has never run a team before, which creates a certain amount of doubt.
    Overall, the Pistons seem to be caught in the mire of "not bad enough to land an elite draft prospect" but "not good enough to make the playoffs." Unless a big trade is coming, it doesn't appear that's changing any time soon. -- Chad Ford

    (Previous rank: 17)

    21. Utah Jazz

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The Jazz ranked No. 14 in these rankings last year but dipped to No. 21 this season with essentially the same roster. What gives?

    A couple things seem to be pressing for Utah. They had to overpay Gordon Hayward this summer, essentially stripping them of much of their cap room and cap flexibility.

    The Hornets offered Hayward a crazy four-year, $62 million deal the Jazz had to match. Hayward's deal, combined with Derrick Favors' extension, means the Jazz are going to have make some tough decisions on Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. While they theoretically have cap space in the summer of 2015 and 2016, they won't have much wiggle room if they sign either or both players to a significant contract.

    Second, while the Jazz's roster is intriguing, they've yet to add that go-to player who could be a star. Their roster feels like a collection of good second or third starters on a playoff team. That's why they are ranked No. 20 in roster despite so many young, promising players.

    The Jazz thought they had a chance to bring home a franchise player in one of the best drafts of the past decade. But when they fell to fifth in the lottery, the three players they most coveted -- Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid -- were all out of the picture. Still, there's hope that Dante Exum could be that player. He has a very high ceiling and has unique size and skill for his position. But he was one of the youngest and least experienced players in the draft and likely it will be a couple of years before he has a positive impact on the Jazz's win-loss record.

    The Jazz's other three scores in market, management and draft stayed about the same. Everyone knows Utah isn't a top-flight free-agent destination. Management, now led by GM Dennis Lindsay and new head coach Quin Synder, has been making good decisions, but they have not distinguished themselves yet. As for the draft, the Jazz should be looking at a couple of more lottery picks in the next few years plus another first-round pick from the Warriors -- which is why they rank fourth in the draft category.

    While the Jazz no longer have the same sunny forecast they did several Future Power Rankings ago, if the rankings window was five years instead of three, their future would be much brighter. -- Chad Ford

    (Previous rank: 14)

    22. Denver Nuggets

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    So, what is the Nuggets' identity? Are they building around Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and, gulp, JaVale McGee? Are they loading up on veterans to hold a fire sale at the trade deadline? What is going on here?

    We're still trying to figure that out. The Nuggets couldn't recover from the array of injuries and predictably finished well outside the playoff hunt last season. Four of their five highest-paid players missed 20 games or more; McGee and Danilo Gallinari basically took the year off. Although the Nuggets might have more luck with health, it's hard to see how this team will compete in the cutthroat Western Conference.

    Even with Arron Afflalo and rookie Jusuf Nurkic joining the fold, we're not enamored with their roster composition. There's just a giant heap of mid-sized contracts going to OK players -- J.J. Hickson, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov -- with little trade value. In turn, Denver saw drops in four of the five categories since we took their temperature last year.

    Needless to say, it wasn't a banner start for rookie general manager Tim Connelly and rookie head coach Brian Shaw last season. With the right to swap the Knicks' 2016 first-rounder, there's some glimmer of hope on the horizon, but moves need to be made to avoid the treadmill of mediocrity. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 18)

    23. Orlando Magic

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    Two years into the Magic's post-Dwight Howard rebuild, it's still difficult to see the finish line. Orlando's 43 wins over the past two seasons are the league's lowest total, yet a series of lottery picks have yet to yield a surefire star talent. Victor Oladipo, the 2013 No. 2 overall pick, is the Magic's best bet. Orlando has now tripled down on athleticism and defense, adding Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton as 2014 lottery picks to Oladipo. Payton shined at the summer league hosted by the Magic, while Gordon disappointed.

    The key question on draft night was who exactly would make outside shots for Orlando, because shooting is a weakness for all three lottery picks and holdover wing Maurice Harkless. The Magic answered that question in the short term by signing veteran stretch 4 Channing Frye, one of the league's premier floor spacers. Orlando's other moves in free agency were head-scratchers. The Magic paid $7.25 million to sign aging guards Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour, who both rated below replacement level last season.

    Orlando still has plenty of cap flexibility, and scores third in future draft value. However, our skepticism in coach Jacque Vaughn and GM Rob Hennigan is growing as the team's rebuild goes on. The Magic's score in management dropped from 16th a year ago to 21st. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 20)

    24. Boston Celtics

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The summer of 2014 appeared to be a pivotal one for the Celtics as they chose between accelerating their rebuild by parlaying draft picks and young talent into a star or extending their stay in the lottery. Boston chased Kevin Love but came up short, and with point guard Rajon Rondo now heading into the final season of his contract, a trade appears all but inevitable, and so too a lengthy rebuild.

    Our panel certainly isn't sold on the Celtics' talent, ranking the team 29th in players. To improve that score, Boston will need recent draft picks Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger to take a major step in their development. Lottery pick Marcus Smart also figures to step into a larger role at point guard when -- not if -- Rondo is traded. Beyond that group, Boston is paying a lot of money to inconsistent wings Avery Bradley and Jeff Green and has young prospects with more questions than answers at this point.

    The good news is only the Philadelphia 76ers rank higher in terms of future draft value. The first of three picks coming from the Brooklyn Nets fell to 17th and was used on Kentucky wing James Young. The next two, unprotected in 2016 and 2018 (plus the option to swap in 2017) could have far more upside given our panel's pessimism about the Nets' future. The Celtics have a third first-round pick from Cleveland in 2016 and can clear $30 million or more in cap space that summer. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 22)

    25. New York Knicks

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    Despite their 54-win season in 2012-13, the Knicks have rated no higher than 25th in any of the past three incarnations of the Future Power Rankings. That skepticism proved well-founded last season, when New York slipped to 37 wins and out of the playoffs. Typically, the Knicks didn't even benefit from a lottery pick, having sent it to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

    Things don't look much better for New York in 2014-15. The Knicks ranked 25th in players, tied with the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. Mercifully, the contracts of Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire are up after this season, allowing the Knicks to get nearly $20 million under the cap next summer. Alas, with Kevin Love likely off the market, New York may find few max-caliber options and choose to save its space for a run at Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016.

    Despite the arrival of Phil Jackson to run basketball operations, our rating for Knicks management actually went down. Mike Woodson went from Coach of the Year contender to ex-Knicks coach in just a few months, and we have questions about Derek Fisher's readiness to coach a marquee team. Plus, James Dolan, who finished 30th in our owner rankings in April, is still around to meddle. Jackson's first few months at the helm have gone reasonably well, offering hope he can follow the Pat Riley front-office career path. -- Tom Haberstroh

    (Previous rank: 26)

    26. Milwaukee Bucks

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    After a league-worst 15-67 record in 2013-14, the Bucks have moved up two spots in the Future Power Rankings. The easiest explanation is that the darkest hour has already passed in Milwaukee. The disastrous season, plus the sale of the team from longtime owner Herb Kohl to a group led by Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, have allowed the Bucks to embrace a rebuilding path that should offer more upside than their years of aiming for a bottom-four spot in the playoffs.

    There is talent on hand, enough for Milwaukee to rank 23rd in the players category. The highlight of 2013-14 was Greek rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo contributing far ahead of schedule and showing star potential. A frontcourt of Antetokounmpo, No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker and center Larry Sanders is an exciting building block, given the crucial caveat that Sanders can overcome the off-court issues that marred his 2013-14 season. The Bucks' backcourt remains a bigger question mark, but one they can address with future lottery picks. Milwaukee ranks a healthy sixth in the draft category.

    Our panel's ranking of Bucks management improved from 28th to 24th, in part because of the ownership change. There are still questions about GM John Hammond, who has fared poorly in free agency, but he may have been responding to Kohl's desire to avoid the lottery. And as sketchy as new coach Jason Kidd's move from Brooklyn to Milwaukee was, Kidd demonstrated significant growth over the course of his first season on the sideline. -- Kevin Pelton

    (Previous rank: 28)

    27. Minnesota Timberwolves

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    It was an eventful summer for the Wolves, as they once again hit the reset button on their franchise by trading Kevin Love, and figure to extend their playoff drought for at least two more seasons (as the old joke goes, the last time the Wolves made the playoffs, Latrell Sprewell could afford to feed his family).

    That choice was inevitable, because Love would certainly have departed at season's end through free agency, leaving the Wolves empty-handed. Despite knowing this eventuality, Minnesota management (led by coach/GM Flip Saunders) made some curious decisions, such as signing veteran guard Mo Williams and opting to take Thad Young via trade instead of receiving draft considerations.

    And yet, the Wolves have a lot to look forward to in young talent. They got a nice haul in extracting the past two No. 1 overall picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, and drafting Zach LaVine 13th overall was a steal. Gorgui Dieng, another 2013 first-rounder, finished the season strong and has parlayed that momentum into a terrific showing at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

    But Minnesota will likely never be seen as a place players clamor to be, and the curious comments of owner Glen Taylor following the Love trade highlight some of the issues facing the Wolves from a management perspective. -- Amin Elhassan

    (Previous rank: 24)

    28. Los Angeles Lakers

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    This is rock bottom for the Lakers franchise. The roster is nearly bereft of talent. Armed with ample cap space, L.A.'s offseason began with the champagne dreams of signing a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony (or both?!), and ended with the bitter-beer reality of bringing back many of the same faces who "starred" for the second-worst team in franchise history. For Kobe Bryant, dreams of winning a sixth ring wearing the purple and gold have been all but been extinguished.

    Drafting Julius Randle and stealing Ed Davis for the minimum qualify as two rays of sunlight in an otherwise dismal summer, but neither of those players project to be the type of blue-chip talent who can change the fortunes of the team in the next three years. Making matters worse, the Lakers' first-round pick is only top-five protected next year; otherwise, it goes to division rival Phoenix from the Steve Nash trade.

    Despite the presence of one of the shrewdest general managers in the league in Mitch Kupchak, the perception that co-owner Jim Buss exerts heavy influence, exacerbated by some of the puzzling decisions of the past few years, has serious damaged our panel's confidence in Lakers management.

    But there is a bright side: Los Angeles and this franchise's legacy will very likely continue to make the Lakers a top destination for players, and they still have tremendous cap flexibility. As history has shown, those two factors alone can turn things around in a hurry for the Lakers. -- Amin Elhassan

    (Previous rank: 21)

    29. Sacramento Kings

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    The good news: The Kings didn't decline in the Future Power Rankings! The bad news: they didn't improve either. The laundry list of decisions made by management over the past year or so has consisted mostly of head-scratchers. The Kings seem intent on adding players whose first inclination is neither "pass" nor "defend," from Ben McLemore to Derrick Williams to Rudy Gay. This makes the franchise appear to be the West Coast rebirth of the 2005 New York Knicks: a compilation of underachieving, big-name talent with little regard for chemistry or role definition.

    The kicker: replacing spark plug Isaiah Thomas with Darren Collison, ostensibly (at least in part) because of his defensive acumen, an opinion that surely is not shared by many people in NBA circles.

    Indeed, outside of the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins and perhaps 2014 lotto pick Nik Stauskas, it's hard to look at the Kings roster with any sort of optimism, and therein lies the rub: Sacramento is not a "sexy" market, the Kings owe a protected first-round pick to Chicago that has a decent chance of being conveyed and they haven't made wise decisions in free agency or draft. That means we see a perpetually mediocre roster from which the more-than-capable coach, Mike Malone, is tasked with coaxing winning basketball.

    Much of this can be traced to the new ownership, which has all the hallmarks of being too "hands-on" without having a clear idea of what it's doing. The franchise is signaling that it wants to think outside the box for the sake of thinking outside the box. Unfortunately, the end result is an inferior product on the court. Simply put, this is not a good team and the process indicates that won't change soon. -- Amin Elhassan

    (Previous rank: 29)

    30. Brooklyn Nets

    [​IMG]
    The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

    This is Russian for "welcome to the basement!" -- which is where the Ghosts of Bad Decisions Past have banished the Nets to for the foreseeable future. When they gave pick-swap rights to Atlanta for the right to overpay Joe Johnson, we said in unison, "No!"

    When they gave up all those unprotected first-rounders for the last gasps of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, we all cried, "Don't do it!" When their luxury tax dwarfed the total payroll of every other NBA team, we collectively face-palmed.

    But it didn't matter, as the Nets steamrolled their way to a team destined to be a second-round knockout, doubling down on an aging roster with limited upside. Add onto that Lawrence Frank debacle a month into last season, and the failed coup (and eventual departure) by Jason Kidd this summer, and it's easy to place the Nets among the most dysfunctional franchises in the NBA. As a result, here they are, with no cap respite until 2016, a depleted pick inventory and no blue-chip talent outside of the oft-injured Brook Lopez.

    Mason Plumlee, Sergey Karasev and Bojan Bogdanovic are nice complementary pieces, and hiring Lionel Hollins was a solid move after the Kidd misstep, but the infrastructure in Brooklyn is so rotten that success cannot be realized without serious overhaul. -- Amin Elhassan

    (Previous rank: 30)[/rquoter]
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. swyyyguy

    swyyyguy Member

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    lol wow, we are way overrated. we should be 9 at best.

    i've never seen espn give us so much respect before though!
     
  3. swyyyguy

    swyyyguy Member

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    ok upon further review, i think we should be 11th at best. thoughts?
     
  4. VanityHalfBlack

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    4, really??? I feel like ESPN is being ironic cause when we had T-mac/Yao healthy, they would never have us up that high even at 4, lol.
     
  5. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member
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    My thought is that if people take off their haterade glasses for a few seconds they can see that the Rockets long-term/future is pretty good, which is what this supposed ranking is about.
     
  6. swyyyguy

    swyyyguy Member

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    rockets fans say that every year but every season ends in disappointment. :(
     
  7. jordnnnn

    jordnnnn Member

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    "GM Daryl Morey earns high marks for management"

    Interesting... Something tells me someone will have a thing or two to say about this.
     
  8. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member
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    Every team except for 1 has their season end in disappointment.
     
  9. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member
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    Even the most bias of reporters/writers at ESPN can overlook the fact that Morey went from having a pseudo-nucleus of Trevor Ariza, Kevin Martin, and Luis Scola to Trevor Ariza, James Harden, and Dwight Howard.

    Even his "bad" signings of Lin and Asik were moved for either a marginal asset (the TPE) or a potentially great asset (Pelicans' pick). Most GMs would have either done nothing with those two or would have taken overpaid players back just to get rid of them.

    Morey's made some indefensible mistakes but his track record is better than 90% of the GMs in the NBA.
     
  10. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member
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    *can't
     
  11. CantGoLeft

    CantGoLeft Member

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    Impossible to predict the future of the Rockets w/Morey around, but overrated @ 4th. Harden and Howard are flawed "superstars", so role players are more important. If the role players struggle so will the Rockets.

    People keep knocking the importance of chemistry, but you cant really play good team D without chemistry. Time played together is an important part of building chemistry.
     
  12. NL Rocket

    NL Rocket Member

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    4th is very generous
     
  13. FTW Rockets FTW

    FTW Rockets FTW Contributing Member

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    Despite losing Asik, Parsons and Lin and having literally no bench Rockets only dropped 2 places from 2nd to 4th?

    Perhaps they do know that this will be the last season of the pathetic hack of a coach in McHale and that in itself should translate to a brighter future.
     
  14. swyyyguy

    swyyyguy Member

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    seems like most of the people on here agree with us being overrated. do y'all trust in morey or is it time to give up on analytics?
     
  15. jordnnnn

    jordnnnn Member

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    A grand total of 7 people replied to this thread and not everyone of those 7 said we are overrated.

    If you look at how they scored and ranked teams it's not hard to see why we rate highly. A few spots too high? Maybe, but the majority of the other teams would love to be in our position.

    Good market, good owner and a city that lots of NBAers call home.
    Despite the doom and gloom of the offseason, we actually do have a very young and talented roster that includes 2 top 15 players.
    Despite what some people on the board believe, Morey is widely viewed as one of the better GMs in the league.
    Our cap situation and future picks are all solid.
    The only criteria they used that we are really lacking is coaching.
     
  16. EightDoobies

    EightDoobies Member

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    ESPN showing Houston love? Shocking.
     
  17. Aleron

    Aleron Contributing Member

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    We never had such a thing...
     
  18. Easy

    Easy Very Calm
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    This is not totally true. Disappointment by definition is linked to expectation. For example, a tanking team would not be be disappointed by not making the playoffs. And only contending teams should be disappointed by not winning the championship.

    Rockets fans have been disappointed because every year, management managed to convince the fans that we are almost there to be a contending team.
     
  19. Obito

    Obito Contributing Member

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    We should be 7, Wizards should be higher, there are much worse teams than the Nets.
     
  20. TheRealAllpro

    TheRealAllpro Morey only fan
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    Clutchfans has to be the most ironic places you can visit. A place for Rocket fans that's full of clandestine cynics hidden under the guise of "not being a homer". Some of you on here sound like 15 year old girl who has had her heart broken and talks about how much she hates guys.
     
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