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Insider: NBA Future Power Rankings
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9/13/2018  9:26 PM
NBA Future Power Rankings - Lakers, Celtics, Warriors and every team 1-30
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NBA Future Power Rankings - Lakers, Celtics, Warriors and every team 1-30
by on 2018-09-13 10:07:00 UTC (original: http://www.espn.com/nba/insider/story/_/id/24604876/nba-future-power-rankings-lakers-celtics-warriors-every-team-1-30)

How will your team perform over the next three seasons?

The Future Power Rankings are ESPN Insider's projection of the on-court success expected for each team in the 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

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


To determine the Future Power Rankings, we asked ESPN Insider analysts Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks to rate each team in five categories and rank them relative to the rest of the league. For an explanation of each category and a full view of how each team did in each individual category, click here. Each team also received an overall Future Power Rating of 0 to 100, based on how well we expect it to perform in the next three seasons.

Here are our latest rankings.

Note: The last version of these rankings dropped in March.

1. Golden State Warriors
Rank Score
Players 1 97.5
Management 1 95.0
Money T-25 22.5
Market T-1 90.0
Draft T-27 30.0
Overall: 84.6
It has now been four years (and three championships) since the Warriors finished anywhere besides first in the Future Power Rankings. In addition to the top-ranked roster and management, Golden State also has ascended to joint No. 1 (with the Lakers) in market, thanks to the appeal of contending for championships in a warm-weather climate near Silicon Valley -- appeal proved again by DeMarcus Cousins taking less money to sign with the Warriors this summer.

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both can be unrestricted free agents next summer, with Draymond Green in line to hit free agency in July 2020, and re-signing all three players could result in a stratospheric luxury-tax bill. It's also possible one or more will want a different role elsewhere. And at some point, age will start to take a toll on Golden State's core. For now, however, the Warriors' future projections remain light-years ahead.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 1)

2. Boston Celtics
Rank Score
Players T-3 85.0
Management T-2 90.0
Money 27 20.0
Market T-8 60.0
Draft 2 95.0
Overall: 79.2
The Celtics first jumped to No. 3 in 2016, back when they were coming off a first-round sweep. Since then, Boston has never finished outside the top three, having made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals. With Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, this is the Celtics' most talented roster yet. And there's still more room for internal development from young wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum plus as many as three extra first-round picks on the way -- including the Sacramento Kings' pick, which Boston gets in June, unless it's No. 1 overall.

The big iceberg on the Celtics' horizon is Irving's free agency next summer. If he leaves, Boston won't have any cap space to sign a replacement, and they would have to rely on their young talent stepping up. However, we trust their second-ranked management team to handle that or any luxury-tax woes if Irving does re-sign.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 2)

3. Houston Rockets
Rank Score
Players 2 87.5
Management T-2 90.0
Money 29 12.5
Market 7 65.0
Draft T-24 32.5
Overall: 75.2
Last season's run within a game of knocking off the Warriors and reaching the NBA Finals might have been a highpoint for the Rockets, who lost starter Trevor Ariza in free agency and replaced him with lower-cost forwards Carmelo Anthony and James Ennis III. Age is also a concern for Houston, what with Chris Paul starting a four-year, maximum contract at 33. Paul's deal and a supermax extension for James Harden that kicks in next year will likely leave the Rockets in the luxury tax for the foreseeable future, and they come in nearly last in the money category.

For all that pessimism, the Rockets still have our second-ranked roster, led by the reigning MVP Harden; and the combination of Daryl Morey's creativity and Mike D'Antoni's visionary offense has them second in the management category, as well. It's just that Houston might be third trending downward rather than upward.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 3)

4. Los Angeles Lakers
Rank Score
Players 7 77.5
Management T-11 57.5
Money T-8 67.5
Market T-1 90.0
Draft T-13 47.5
Overall: 71.9
The Lakers have been steadily climbing in FPR over the past two years, and that optimism was rewarded when LeBron James decided to sign with L.A. this summer. Now the question is just how far the LeBron-led Lakers can go. Though there are still question marks about their current roster, particularly for this season, the Lakers have the ability to add another max free agent to the mix next summer. Add in the development of L.A.'s young talent and the pieces and future options of a championship contender could be in place.

Despite the Lakers' confounding moves in free agency after signing James and re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a series of wise deals to maintain cap flexibility -- including agreeing to a buyout with Luol Deng that will reduce his cap hit over the stretched portion of his contract -- and the Lakers' solid second season under Luke Walton have improved their management score.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: T-11)

5. Philadelphia 76ers
Rank Score
Players T-3 85.0
Management T-15 55.0
Money T-8 67.5
Market T-17 45.0
Draft 18 42.5
Overall: 71.7
The Process yielded initial dividends in the spring, as the Sixers went 22-5 after the All-Star break and won their first playoff series since 2012. As Sam Hinkie envisioned, Philadelphia remains positioned to add around a young core headlined by budding stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The 76ers should again have max cap space next summer and have a shot at landing the No. 1 pick from the Kings, thanks to a deal made on Hinkie's watch.

Perhaps the biggest long-term question in Philadelphia is who will be calling the shots in the front office. The 76ers have yet to replace Bryan Colangelo after a Twitter scandal led to his resignation, and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that ownership is meeting with potential candidates. If the Sixers find a strong decision-maker and add a star next summer, they could climb even higher in the rankings.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 4)

6. Utah Jazz
Rank Score
Players 8 72.5
Management T-4 80.0
Money 12 60.0
Market T-25 30.0
Draft T-20 40.0
Overall: 66.5
Thanks to Donovan Mitchell's rapid rise, the Jazz have an ideal combination of current talent and future flexibility. Having gone 30-8 after Rudy Gobert returned from injury in January, a 65-win pace over a full season, Utah has the third-best 2018-19 projection of any team, using ESPN's real plus-minus (RPM). With Mitchell scheduled to make less than $12 million total over the next three seasons, the Jazz could still clear max cap space next summer to add to their core of him and Gobert.

Granted, Utah has questions to answer. Clearing max cap room would require the Jazz to waive starting power forward Derrick Favors and renounce the rights to starting point guard Ricky Rubio, an unrestricted free agent next summer. Utah also must prove it can maintain this level over a full season. If so, the Jazz could move even higher in the rankings.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 6)

T-7. Denver Nuggets
Rank Score
Players 6 80.0
Management 7 70
Money 30 7.5
Market T-19 42.5
Draft T-24 32.5
Overall: 65.2
It is rare for a team that has missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons to find itself this high in our rankings.

The Nuggets move up one spot based on the current roster being under contract for the foreseeable future. That trend started in October, when Gary Harris was signed to a cap-friendly four-year, $74 million extension, and continued this summer with franchise center Nikola Jokic and wing Will Barton signing long-term contracts.

Denver does find itself outside of the top five based on two factors -- the lack of a first-round pick in 2019 and a below-average grade for management. Despite drafting well, the Nuggets' ranked toward the middle -- 19th -- in management. One question we have is about the job security of head coach Mike Malone if Denver fails to make the postseason.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 8)

T-7. Oklahoma City Thunder
Rank Score
Players 5 82.5
Management T-19 45.0
Money T-18 45.0
Market T-17 45.0
Draft T-29 25.0
Overall: 65.2
Uncertainty surrounding Paul George was the main reason why the Thunder were outside of the top 10 in March despite having two-All Stars on the team. Now with George under contract for a minimum of three seasons (with a player option in Year 4) and Russell Westbrook committed for at least four, Oklahoma City has two franchise players on the roster long term.

More reasons for OKC's bump: the return of Jerami Grant, the addition of Dennis Schroder and the Carmelo Anthony trade.

Despite reducing payroll from $308 million in mid-July to $219 million now, Oklahoma City ranks last in money and projects to be a luxury-tax team in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 13)

9. San Antonio Spurs
Rank Score
Players T-15 55.0
Management T-4 80.0
Money T-20 42.5
Market 12 52.5
Draft 8 62.5
Overall: 58.5
The retirement of Manu Ginobili and departure of Tony Parker make this the end of an era in San Antonio. The loss of Kawhi Leonard via trade might make it the end of the Spurs' run. This is the lowest the Spurs have ranked in FPR since 2012, before Leonard's development helped San Antonio unexpectedly start another period of title contention.

We rate the Spurs' roster right around league average. Not only do statistical projections like ours using RPM suggest San Antonio will be around .500 this season, this is still one of the NBA's oldest teams, even without Ginobili and Parker. Adding DeMar DeRozan's $28 million salary means the Spurs won't be able to create appreciable cap space next summer. So San Antonio ranks this high largely due to management, and even there we've got more reason to question the Spurs' moves than at any point in the past two decades.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 7)

10. Toronto Raptors
Rank Score
Players T-10 62.5
Management T-11 57.5
Money T-13 57.5
Market T-13 50.0
Draft T-24 32.5
Overall: 57.7
Toronto falls five spots despite being a threat to win the East this season. The reason? The uncertainty surrounding both Kawhi Leonard's long-term status and rookie coach Nick Nurse inheriting a 59-win team.

Can the Raptors steal the script from the Thunder with Paul George and recruit Leonard in-house to eventually land a long-term commitment? Or will GM Masai Ujiri's high-risk move turn into a full rebuild?

Nurse is in a similar position to that of Jason Kidd when the former point guard inherited a veteran Brooklyn team that had a win-now approach. However, Nurse has been on the Raptors' bench since 2013, while Kidd was months removed from playing in his final NBA game.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 5)

11. Indiana Pacers
Rank Score
Players 12 60.0
Management T-9 60.0
Money 7 70.0
Market T-25 30.0
Draft T-13 47.5
Overall: 57.3
Not only do the Pacers return their core, but they also bolstered their bench with the addition of Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott and Kyle O'Quinn.

However, Indiana is sitting at No. 11 because half of the roster can hit free agency in 2019, including starters Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Some advantages for the Pacers: All-Star Victor Oladipo is under contract through the 2020-21; they can extend Myles Turner's contract or match any offer if he becomes a restricted free agent; and GM Kevin Pritchard will have plenty of cap space to transform the roster once again.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: T-11)

12. Washington Wizards
Rank Score
Players 9 65.0
Management T-21 42.5
Money 28 15.0
Market T-15 47.5
Draft 17 45.0
Overall: 54.0
Washington's core is signed up for the foreseeable future, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the downside, the Wizards have committed an estimated $320 million-plus to guards Bradley Beal and John Wall and small forward Otto Porter Jr., a major factor in the third-worst score in the money category. At the same time, Washington knows it will have Beal and Wall under contract through the next three years and Porter for a minimum of two. (Porter has a player option for 2020-21.) That certainty helps the Wizards to a top-10 finish in the player category.

To make the formula work, Washington will need all three players to stay healthy and perform at a high level -- something that wasn't the case with Wall last season. It's also imperative for the Wizards to maximize their role players, where the franchise has been hit and miss during Ernie Grunfeld's long tenure as president.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 14)

13. Miami Heat
Rank Score
Players 17 47.5
Management 6 72.5
Money 22 37.5
Market T-4 82.5
Draft T-20 40.0
Overall: 53.1
Since locking up their core players to long-term contracts in the summer of 2016, the Heat have ranked no higher than 12th or lower than 16th. Mired in the luxury tax, Miami had little flexibility this offseason, and the same will be true next year unless Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside both decline their player options. So expect more of the same from the Heat, who have been no more than seven games above or below .500 since LeBron James' departure.

By 2020, Miami's roster could have a different look. Contracts for Dragic and Whiteside will be up by then, along with that of Tyler Johnson, giving the Heat the opportunity to potentially get back into free agency and build around a younger core of Josh Richardson and 2017 first-round pick Bam Adebayo. At some point, Miami would surely love to take advantage of a market tied for fourth in our rankings.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 18)

14. Portland Trail Blazers
Rank Score
Players T-13 57.5
Management T-11 57.5
Money T-25 22.5
Market T-15 47.5
Draft 18 42.5
Overall: 52.5
A disappointing first-round sweep renewed questions about Portland's future after a strong second half of the regular season allowed them to claim the No. 3 seed in the West. When the New Orleans Pelicans were able to limit Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Portland had few other options on offense. Due to limited cap flexibility, the Blazers brought back their starting five, though their bench will have a slightly different look.

Lillard has made it clear he wants to believe Portland can contend in the West, adding some urgency to those efforts. If the Blazers are on the borderline of making the playoffs as statistical projections (including RPM) suggest, Lillard's unhappiness could become an issue, even though he has three years left on his contract. Portland's best hope of avoiding that fate is player development, particularly from second-year center Zach Collins.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 9)

15. New Orleans Pelicans
Rank Score
Players T-15 55.0
Management T-19 45.0
Money 11 62.5
Market T-23 35.0
Draft T-13 47.5
Overall: 51.7
Despite losing Cousins in free agency, the Pelicans moved up eight spots after their surprising run to the second round of the playoffs in the spring. Cousins' departure averted a potential luxury-tax squeeze for New Orleans, which could have cap flexibility next summer. Better yet, the Pelicans found a winning formula with Nikola Mirotic stretching the floor alongside Anthony Davis.

The pressure is still on New Orleans to win now with Davis having the potential to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020. If the Pelicans struggle, they might have to consider trading Davis before this year's deadline lest he lose value entering the final season before his 2020-21 player option. Last weekend's report that Davis is changing agents stoked fears he will ask out, though New Orleans has a trump card in the super-max extension he'll be eligible to sign next summer.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 23)

16. Milwaukee Bucks
Rank Score
Players T-13 57.5
Management 17 52.5
Money 16 50.0
Market 29 22.5
Draft T-27 30.0
Overall: 50.8
The next 12 months will help determine the Bucks' path for years to come. In Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has the kind of superstar building block necessary to win an NBA championship. Thus far, however, the Bucks have yet to win more than 44 games or a playoff series with Antetokounmpo. The hope is that new coach Mike Budenholzer will change that this season, and indeed, Milwaukee's management score improved more than 20 points.

If the Bucks aren't more successful this season, changes could be in store with both Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton potentially unrestricted free agents next summer. That could give Milwaukee more than $20 million in cap space but would leave two big holes in the starting lineup. And a new-look Bucks squad in 2019-20 would feel pressure to win immediately before a decision about Antetokounmpo's future with his free agency looming in 2021.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: T-15)

17. Dallas Mavericks
Rank Score
Players T-19 42.5
Management T-11 57.5
Money 2 87.5
Market T-10 55.0
Draft T-20 40.0
Overall: 49.6
The Mavs' five-spot jump is largely due to the draft-night trade to acquire Slovenian guard Luka Doncic. With a pairing of Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas has the makings of one of the top young backcourts in the NBA. But how will the two fit together on the court?

The Mavericks were able to make themselves competitive this season by signing an All-NBA-level center in DeAndre Jordan while using his one-year contract as a placeholder for 2019, creating future flexibility. They project to have $55 million in room in 2019.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 22)

T-18. Brooklyn Nets
Rank Score
Players 26 32.5
Management 8 62.5
Money 1 90.0
Market 6 75.0
Draft 4 75.0
Overall: 49.4
After a summer of shrewd trades by the front office, Brooklyn has replenished its draft assets, opened cap flexibility for the future and built a roster combining young players (six players selected since the 2015 draft) with reclamation-project veterans (such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Shabazz Napier).

If Brooklyn can get winning basketball from point guard D'Angelo Russell, the Nets will not only challenge for a playoff spot but also will have a selling point to free agents in June. Even if not, at least they finally can use their own first-round pick.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: 19)

T-18. New York Knicks
Rank Score
Players 22 40.0
Management T-21 42.5
Money 6 72.5
Market 3 85.0
Draft T-5 70.0
Overall: 49.4
Amazingly, 18th is the highest the Knicks have ranked in FPR since February 2012, back when Jeremy Lin was inflating the hopes of New York's faithful fans. While the steadier management of Steve Mills and Scott Perry is unlikely to translate into many more wins this season -- not with Kristaps Porzingis coming back from a torn ACL -- they've positioned the Knicks to be players in free agency as soon as next summer.

Simultaneously, New York is looking to accumulate young talent to complement a marquee addition. The Knicks' 2018 draft picks, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, both flashed potential in summer league. If this formula sounds familiar, it's similar to the one the Lakers have employed under Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Granted, New York is unlikely to land a free agent like LeBron. Nonetheless, this is the most sensible strategy the Knicks have employed in decades.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 24)

20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Rank Score
Players T-10 62.5
Management 24 35.0
Money 24 27.5
Market 30 15.0
Draft T-20 40.0
Overall: 49.2
Besides Cleveland, no team has stumbled more in our rankings than Minnesota. While Cleveland's drop was primarily due to the departure of the best player in the league, the Timberwolves have fallen due to questions surrounding the roster moving forward and a drop in management (from No. 17 to No. 24).

Impending free-agent Jimmy Butler's future is unpredictable, extension talks with Karl-Anthony Towns remain at a standstill and Andrew Wiggins has yet to prove he can live up to his $148 million deal. And If the roster does stay together, it will come with minimal flexibility. Minnesota will have three max players under contract, with a projected commitment of $90 million in Butler, Towns and Wiggins for 2019-20.

The apprehension in management stems from the consistent failure by NBA head coaches who have control of basketball operations.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 10)

21. LA Clippers
Rank Score
Players T-24 35.0
Management T-9 60.0
Money 4 82.5
Market T-4 82.5
Draft T-11 52.5
Overall: 48.5
The Clippers dropped six spots despite building their team the right way through the draft, preserving cap space until 2019, making shrewd trades and putting together a management group that ranks in the top 10. So this ranking is more a reflection of the current roster that will compete for one of the final playoff spots and a future that only has Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell and lottery picks Jerome Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander under contract.

Expect the Clippers to jump into the top 10 next summer if their rookies excel and management can take advantage of a projected $50 million in cap space.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: T-15)

22. Phoenix Suns
Rank Score
Players 18 45.0
Management 28 20.0
Money 17 47.5
Market T-10 55.0
Draft 3 82.5
Overall: 45.0
Since our last FPR update, the Suns won the NBA draft lottery, earning the right to take Arizona center Deandre Ayton No. 1 overall. They also accelerated the timetable on returning to contention by signing Trevor Ariza to a one-year, $15 million deal and adding Ryan Anderson in a trade with the Rockets. Nonetheless, Phoenix might be hard-pressed to compete after finishing with both the NBA's worst offensive and defensive ratings a year ago.

With their own first-round picks plus an additional one from the Bucks, the Suns remain well-positioned to add through the draft. However, a max contract extension for promising shooting guard Devin Booker will make it difficult for Phoenix to create substantial cap space next summer. Whether it's via free agency, trades, the draft or unexpected development of their young prospects, the Suns still must find a starting-caliber point guard to go along with Booker and their frontcourt talent.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 25)

23. Detroit Pistons
Rank Score
Players T-19 42.5
Management T-15 55.0
Money 23 35.0
Market 21 40.0
Draft T-11 52.5
Overall: 44.6
The Pistons have been steadily trending downward since peaking at 15th in FPR in September 2016, when they were coming off their first playoff appearance in seven years. That proved the high-water mark for the Stan Van Gundy era, and a second consecutive season in the lottery cost Van Gundy his dual role as president and coach.

Replacements Ed Stefanski and Dwane Casey have upgraded Detroit in the management category, but they've got a difficult task managing a roster that is capped out through at least next summer after the Blake Griffin trade. The Pistons have enough talent on hand to compete for a playoff spot, but improving will require Detroit to nail its draft picks after giving up this year's first-rounder to the Clippers. By the end of the three-year period covered by FPR, Griffin's salary ($39 million in 2021-22, a player option) could be a weighty anchor.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 21)

24. Chicago Bulls
Rank Score
Players 23 37.5
Management 25 32.5
Money T-8 67.5
Market T-8 60.0
Draft T-5 70.0
Overall: 43.8
When we last did this exercise in March, only the Lakers had a better score in the money category than Chicago. Though the Bulls can create max cap space again next summer, all that translated to this year was signing Jabari Parker to a short-term contract he has little chance of outperforming. That and a lucrative long-term deal for Zach LaVine create additional questions about the vision of Chicago's management, despite the success of 2017 lottery pick Lauri Markkanen and our optimism about 2018 pick Wendell Carter Jr.

With Markkanen aboard, we're higher on the Bulls' future than a year ago, when they ranked dead last. Still, it's going to take more time -- and savvier moves in free agency -- for Chicago to return to playoff contention.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 20)

25. Orlando Magic
Rank Score
Players T-24 35.0
Management 18 50.0
Money T-13 57.5
Market T-13 50.0
Draft 7 67.5
Overall: 43.3
For a team that has spent six seasons in the lottery, the Magic remain poorly positioned for the future. Naturally, Orlando has accumulated a number of intriguing young talents, primarily in the frontcourt. Aaron Gordon enjoyed a breakout season after finally sticking to his natural power forward spot, Mohamed Bamba has the potential to become an elite rim protector and Jonathan Isaac has a strong combination of size and skills.

Yet with Gordon signing a four-year deal worth a minimum of $76 million, the Magic won't have max cap space next summer even if they let unrestricted free agents Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic walk. They've also been unable to find any kind of solution at point guard, where journeyman D.J. Augustin projects to remain the starter. So although we respect Orlando's current management, the team might not get back in the playoff mix any time soon.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 26)

26. Memphis Grizzlies
Rank Score
Players T-19 42.5
Management 26 30.0
Money T-18 45.0
Market T-25 30.0
Draft T-13 47.5
Overall: 40.0
The Grizzlies spent the offseason recommitting to the "Grit 'n' Grind" philosophy that fueled their deep playoff runs early this decade. The question is whether it's too late to build around the core of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol after Conley missed 70 games due to injury last season and with Gasol heading into his age-34 season.

After several years of missed opportunities in the draft, No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. represents a potential building block for Memphis' long-term future. Alas, the Grizzlies are walking a tightrope with the draft, because they owe a first-round pick to the Boston Celtics that is top-8 protected in 2019, top-6 protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021. Unless Gasol declines his 2019-20 player option, Memphis won't have appreciable cap space until the summer of 2020, so internal development is the Grizzlies' best hope of supporting Conley and Gasol.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 27)

27. Cleveland Cavaliers
Rank Score
Players T-27 27.5
Management 23 37.5
Money T-13 57.5
Market 22 37.5
Draft 10 57.5
Overall: 35.0
Cleveland dropped 10 spots in the spring rankings over the fear that James would depart as a free agent, which proved well-founded. Without LeBron, the Cavaliers have sunk near the bottom of our projections for the next few years. Despite the presence of a newly extended Kevin Love, Cleveland has one of the league's worst rosters looking forward. And although several partial guarantees for 2019-20 will help create additional flexibility, the Cavaliers have atypically little cap space for a rebuilding team.

The good news is that Cleveland starts with an additional lottery pick in hand in point guard Collin Sexton, thanks to 2017's ill-fated Kyrie Irving trade. Sexton and the likely high draft picks to come -- though the Cavaliers owe a protected first-rounder to the Atlanta Hawks in the event they do contend for the playoffs this year or next -- will form the core of the next winning Cleveland team.

-- Kevin Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 17)

28. Atlanta Hawks
Rank Score
Players 30 17.5
Management 27 25.0
Money 3 85.0
Market T-19 42.5
Draft 1 97.5
Overall: 33.1
Atlanta continues to follow the blueprint for rebuilding, placing an emphasis on the draft, player development and future flexibility.

The Hawks rank no. 1 in the draft category for a second-straight time and once again could have three first-round picks in June -- their own, a top-five protected Mavericks pick and a top-10 protected pick from the Cavs.

Though a bystander in free agency over the past two offseasons, Atlanta has taken advantage of cap space by acquiring picks attached to salary dumps. A conservative approach should leave Atlanta with $50 million in cap space next offseason.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 28)

29. Sacramento Kings
Rank Score
Players T-27 27.5
Management 30 17.5
Money 5 80.0
Market 28 25.0
Draft T-29 25.0
Overall: 29.8
Sacramento holds firm at No. 29 because of a roster stockpiled with recent draft picks with uncertain potential and veterans on expiring contracts who could be on a different team following March waiver buyouts.

Out of the nine first- and second-round picks drafted since 2015 on the roster, only De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic (drafted by Phoenix) and rookie Marvin Bagley III can stake claim to be building blocks for the future. That could change if former first-round pick and once-heralded recruit Harry Giles returns to form after being hampered with injuries for the past 18 months.

The Kings do rank well in money, not only because of the $11 million in remaining room this season but also the projected $45 million in space in 2019. Even with money to spend and one of the NBA's top venues, there is no guarantee of moving up. Sacramento needs to produce a homegrown All-Star or start attracting top free agents with success on the court to significantly rise here.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 29)

30. Charlotte Hornets
Rank Score
Players 29 22.5
Management 28 20.0
Money T-20 42.5
Market T-23 35.0
Draft 9 60.0
Overall: 27.9

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Turnover in the basketball operations department -- bringing in new head coach James Borrego and GM Mitch Kupchak -- has not moved the needle in Charlotte.

The Hornets rank dead last again due to the pending free agency of Kemba Walker, $120 million in committed salary and a roster that is mediocre, at best. The Hornets appear to have a limited ceiling for the next few seasons unless former lottery picks Malik Monk and Miles Bridges develop into starters.

If Walker does leave next summer, Charlotte still will not be in a position to hit the reset button because of the $75 million in salary tied up between Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller.

-- Bobby Marks

(Previous rank: No. 30)


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9/14/2018  10:17 AM
Very fair, I think. We're still a ways out, but no longer in the bottom.
Knixkik
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USA
9/14/2018  12:20 PM
franco12 wrote:Very fair, I think. We're still a ways out, but no longer in the bottom.

Yeah it's definitely fair. We are tied for 8th, so the expectation of us being in the playoff hunt within 3 years is more than reasonable. Hopefully it's less.

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