ESPN released their annual future power rankings and the Los Angeles Lakers placed 28th out of 30 teams, The future power rankings are determined by a poll given to their NBA analysts that asks them to project where a franchise is headed over the next three seasons, meaning this batch of rankings spans from 2014-2017. The scores are based on five categories: Roster, management, money, market and future draft picks and positioning. A team's current roster, and player potential, is weighed as the most important category.
The full rankings can be seen here (Insider), but here's an excerpt on what Amin Elhassan had to say about the purple and gold:
This is rock bottom for the Lakers franchise. The roster is nearly bereft of talent. Armed with ample cap space, L.A.'s offseason began with the champagne dreams of signing a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony (or both?!), and ended with the bitter-beer reality of bringing back many of the same faces who "starred" for the second-worst team in franchise history. For Kobe Bryant, dreams of winning a sixth ring wearing the purple and gold have been all but been extinguished.
Drafting Julius Randle and stealing Ed Davis for the minimum qualify as two rays of sunlight in an otherwise dismal summer, but neither of those players project to be the type of blue-chip talent who can change the fortunes of the team in the next three years.
This is a dive from last season, where they ranked 21st out of 30 teams, which is a surprising drop considering the Lakers situation doesn't look notably worse than it did last year. Los Angeles managed to draft a highly-ranked prospect in Julius Randle, whereas last summer there was still uncertainty on what their 2014 first-round draft pick would turn into.
ESPN projects only the Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets to have more of an uphill battle than Los Angeles from now until 2017, which isn't a good place to be. On the other end of the spectrum, the San Antonio Spurs took No. 1 honors despite their aging trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The team may look significantly different by the 2016-2017 season, but their momentum, Kawhi Leonard's development and no reason to believe they'll fall off in the upcoming season boosts their ranking.
The Cleveland Cavaliers follow closely at No. 2, while the Oklahoma City Thunder round out the top three.
As for the good? Elhassan notes that the Lakers cap space and legacy can change the trajectory of the franchise in the blink of an eye:
But there is a bright side: Los Angeles and this franchise's legacy will very likely continue to make the Lakers a top destination for players, and they still have tremendous cap flexibility. As history has shown, those two factors alone can turn things around in a hurry for the Lakers.
28 seems a bit low despite a valid concern regarding the current roster, but the Lakers are coming off a franchise-worst season and have plenty of proving to do going forward.
Where would you rank the Lakers in your own future power rankings? If I had to peg a number, somewhere around 21 again feels right.