and John Hollinger rank
the Portland Trail Blazers No. 23 in the latest rendition of ESPN.com's
"Future Power Rankings," a look at which NBA teams have the brightest futures.
When we first started doing this, Portland ranked right near the top. But since then it has been a steady descent. Since our last traipse through the Future Power Rankings, the Blazers imploded on the court and their pursuit of free agents failed. So you won't be surprised to see them drop more than any team in this edition, slipping 10 places to 23rd.
While they still have a star power forward in his prime in LaMarcus Aldridge and a solid wingman in Nicolas Batum, Portland's other young players are unproven and the depth of its talent pool is questionable.
Money-wise, Portland has a history of being willing to spend, but its free-agent miss this summer hurts because the club may be capped out for the next three. Portland has some trade assets and has always been willing to use its exceptions, but matching Batum's offer sheet from Minnesota assured there wouldn't be a second dip in the pool for a Roy Hibbert.
Throw in a mid-tier market that ranks high on player amenities (and, yes, bike lanes) but low on weather, and a future first-round draft pick owed to Charlotte for the Gerald Wallace deal, and Portland's future looks as iffy as ever. Don't look now, but Aldridge is a free agent in 2015. The Trail Blazers have three years to give him a reason to stick around. At least they finally hired a GM to put a plan in place; we'll see if this one lasts more than a year.
The top-5: Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers.
The teams below Portland: Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats.
The Blazers were ranked No. 13 in February 2012
, No. 10 in March 2011
, No. 5 in March 2010
and No. 1 in November 2009
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter