CLEVELAND– ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks released their NBA future power rankings this morning, which looks at all 30 teams in the league and ranks them based on projections for the next three seasons.
In order to calculate the rankings, ESPN.com looks at five separate categories: players, management, financial flexibility, market and draft assets.
Last year, the Cavaliers were ranked No. 2. This year, they have dropped to No. 7. When broken down by category, ESPN ranked the Cavs 10th in players, 19th in management, 16th in money, eighth in market and fifth in draft assets.
As you may be able to guess, a lot of this uncertainty hinges on LeBron James’ status as a free agent next summer, as Pelton writes:
Will LeBron James stay or will he go? That question looms heavily over Cleveland’s future projection.
Having swapped Irving for a package including Jae Crowder and All-Star Isaiah Thomas, the Cavaliers should again be one of the NBA’s best teams in 2017-18 provided Thomas is able to return from his hip injury. The outlook is hazier beyond that because James can become a free agent, and whispers around the league suggest he’s likely to leave Cleveland again.
If James departs, the Cavaliers could pivot to a rebuild using the 2018 Nets’ first-round pick they acquired from the Celtics as a starting point. So this time a year from now, Cleveland could rank near the bottom of the future rankings.
The Brooklyn Nets pick that the Cavs acquired from the Boston Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade no doubt raised their ranking when it comes to the draft and the market. Based on how far they are over the salary cap, and considering their off-season struggles with naming a general manager, it’s not really surprising that they received lower rankings in management and money.
With LeBron James, Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas all due to become free agents in the next two years, it’s also really not surprising that their overall ranking and player ranking dropped compared to last season.