The Portland Trail Blazers are in the NBA version of limbo: not contending, not stockpiling young stars, and not in possession of a clear road map for the future. Ideally franchises either want to be chasing a ring or growing talent to someday do same. Portland...isn’t.
That probably explains why the Blazers rank 28th out of 30 NBA teams in ESPN’s annual Future Power Rankings [subscription required]. The chart measures where a team is, how much future cap space and how many future draft picks they hold, what market they play in, and how adept their management team appears to be in putting all of these things together into a winning recipe.
Last year the Blazers ranked 18th. In the early years of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum they routinely ranked higher.
The bloom is off that rose. ESPN writers have Portland 27th out of 29 in player potential, 17th in market, and 29th in management, above only the Sacramento Kings. The Blazers do have some raw assets. They’re 3rd in draft potential and 7th in money. Those aren’t enough, on the surface, to keep them out of the basement.
Kevin Pelton writes for ESPN:
Blazers star Damian Lillard recently told Yahoo! Sports he’s confident the team can translate flexibility into a team capable of contending next season. We’re clearly not as optimistic. Lillard and promising youngsters Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons don’t yet look like a contending core. We’re also understandably uncertain about Portland’s management after a season of upheaval. That won’t be resolved until the Blazers decide whether to make interim GM Joe Cronin’s role permanent or bring in a more experienced executive.
The Memphis Grizzlies perch atop this year’s list, finishing Top 10 in every category except market size.