December 15, 2009

Future Imperfect

So ESPN bigwigs Ford and Hollinger have debuted a new monthly feature called NBA Future Power Rankings, in which they measure the overall outlook for each team in the three seasons after this one. And if you're thinking that Hollinger's presence means they slapped some random numbers on these bad boys, you're thinking right: FPRs can rank from 1 to 1000, with each team being scored in five different categories.

The specificity is pretty amusing. Did you know, for instance, that Orlando's "Market" rates 73 out of a possible 100 points? You probably didn't, because it's not true... it's a made-up number in an arbitrary puff piece produced by a website committed to shitting out content with blinding speed. Ford and Hollinger are savvy analysts, though, and they take the conceit seriously enough to make it entertaining. Anywho, when the feature debuted last month, the Dubs were 26th out of 30. In the new rankings, despite a slightly higher point total, we have sunk to 29th. Only the Bobcats' future is rated as grimmer than ours.

Initial reaction: "Ouch... I mean... ouch. LOL @ Jack. Still, fuckin'... ouch." Second reaction: possible, but let's see how they got there, by walking through the five listed categories and giving our own scores.

PLAYERS: rates "current players and their potential for the future, factoring in expected departures." Out of a possible 400 points, we get 172, tying the Bucks for 19th-highest rating in the category. A little harsh, and I'd quibble with some of the teams ranked above us, including the Bulls and Grizzlies. Overall, though, this strikes me as roughly fair. In Curry, Monta, Azubuike, Morrow, Randolph, Wright and Biedrins, we have more genuinely promising young players than almost any other team (Ford and Hollinger mention Curry, Monta and Randolph). The bad news is, serious questions about effectiveness or health or both remain about every single one of them, and they're not in an organization that can be trusted to develop them optimally. If there's a star in that bunch, this rating is way too low; if there isn't, it's probably on target. I'll throw in a little token optimism and up us to 185. Kiss my ass, Brandon Jennings (dear god i wish we'd drafted you)!

MANAGEMENT: rates "quality and stability of front office, ownership, coaching." This will not shock you: we're in last place, rating a giggle-inducing 9 out of a possible 200 points. No arguments here. One could argue even that's way too high, but I suppose the competent dumpings of Crawford and Jack move the needle about that much. We'll stick with 9.

MONEY: rates our "projected salary-cap situation; ability and willingness to pay the luxury tax." Out of a possible 200 points, we get 98, ranking us 13th in the league. Might surprise some people, but this strikes me as exactly right; our cap situation brightened significantly with the Jack dump, and Cohan, while a bad owner, is not the skinflint some believe him to be. We'd rate even higher than this if we dumped Maggette, but we ain't pulled that one off just yet. No change necessary here; we'll stick with 98.

MARKET: rates our "appeal to future acquisitions based on team quality, franchise reputation, city's desirability as a destination, market size, taxes, business and entertainment opportunities, arena quality, fans." We get 34 points out of 100, making us 24th in the league. My verdict: a little too low. We'd have no appeal to free agents as things stand based on our ownership's complete dysfunction, but that seems like a hit we already took in the Management rating; if Cohan were to sell, the balminess and scale of the Bay Area, the solid arena and the excellent home crowds would turn this into a moderately attractive destination pretty much overnight. Cohan hasn't sold, of course, but the chance that he might should goose this a tad. Let's call it 42.

DRAFT: rates our "future draft picks and draft positioning." 66 points out of 100, good for 8th in the league. Our recent assiness sure makes the '10 pick look like it's gonna be a good bit higher than eighth; on the other hand, we'll probably be giving the Nets a first-rounder in the near future. 66 works fine.

Where Ford & Hollinger gave us a total of 379, I gave us a total of 400, nudging us past the T-Wolves and Wizards and within a point of the Suns. That sounds closer to accurate to me, as I would still take our near future over that of the Wolves and Wizards. Still, I didn't find much to quibble with here. Their broad-stroke sketch of our situation is, while hugely depressing, not hugely off-base. Fine execution of a silly concept from Messrs. Ford and Hollinger.

A final note: we skyrocket from 29th to 17th in their rankings if you simply remove "Management", something we'd all very much like to do.

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