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Trail Blazers Climb High In ESPN Future Power Rankings

From fringe contender to afterthought to pleasant surprise, the Blazers have been predictably unpredictable in the past year. So what do predictions for their future look like now?

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton of ESPN recently released their power ranking projections for the next three NBA seasons. Rankings were based on five factors to be looked at in the coming years, weighted accordingly; players (50 percent), management (16.7 percent), money (16.7 percent), market (8.3 percent), and draft (8.3 percent). The Portland Trail Blazers shook out rather favorably, rising all the way to No. 8 in the aggregate.

Categorical rankings

  • Players: 9
  • Management: 5
  • Money: 19
  • Market: 15
  • Draft: 18

Here is what Pelton and Ford had to say about the Blazers’ future:

While we were relatively optimistic about the Trail Blazers in September, they've still tied for the largest jump since then. Portland moved back into the top 10 after not only defying expectations by making the playoffs but winning a series (albeit aided by the Clippers' injuries) and competing with the Warriors in the second round.

Now, the Blazers have the opportunity to clear max space while retaining their young core, led by the dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. That's possible because GM Neil Olshey locked up young free agents Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis to contracts that look like enormous bargains.

To threaten the West's upper crust, Portland still must hold off younger teams rising out of the lottery. But a strong management team of Olshey and newly extended coach of the year runner-up Terry Stotts gives reason to believe in the Blazers.

This all seems justifiably optimistic. The Blazers have star players, a smart front office, and enough money to make a splash in free agency, but they are a mid-market team that has not historically drawn interest, and their future cap/draft pick situation is not overly inspiring. Given the level of success they achieved in this early phase of rebuilding, a gradual climb to a high rung is feasible. Yet, the Blazers are ranked between the No. 7 Utah Jazz and the No. 9 Minnesota Timberwolves—two other strong upstarts—so the battle to become the next young success story will be a competitive one.