Celtics #2 in latest ESPN NBA Future Power Rankings

The Boston Celtics have clocked in at number two in ESPN's latest NBA Future Power Rankings.

The ranking, designed to predict team's success over the next three seasons, was done by Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks, and according to the World-Wide Leader, measures:

"a team's current roster and the future potential of those players -- that category accounts for more than 50 percent of each NBA team's overall Future Power Rating. At the same time, we looked at many other factors, such as management, ownership, coaching, a team's spending habits, its cap situation, the reputation of the city and the franchise, and what kind of draft picks we expect the team to have in the future."

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the Celts are in second place, but if this is a confusing rubric to you, that's because it ought to be. While there's certainly empirical elements woven in, a lot of what these two are talking about are highly subjective aspects, like "the reputation of a city", for example.

Are we talking the reputation of Boston, say, as one of the coldest and most expensive cities in the league? What makes it a "T8"? Or is the emphasis on the franchise, the league's winningest and staffed by arguably the NBA's best front office and coach?

We may be able to see subjective measurements of those things in the formula they show us below...but those are still subjective assessments. I know, I know, second place isn't the spot to be bringing this up, but with these kinds of "black box" analyses, well, regular readers know how much subjectivity gets my goat in these kinds of analyses. It's not the subjectivity, it's the presentation.

Now that I'm done yelling at the clouds to get off my lawn, let's take a look at the top three, starting with the Houston Rockets.

Daryl Morey and company (and the rest of the top three) have held steady since ESPN last did this ranking, and if anything, that pecking order should be even more solidified after some surprising changes on the wing in that city. To that end, per Pelton:

"Last season's run within a game of knocking off the Warriors and reaching the NBA Finals might have been a highpoint for the Rockets, who lost starter Trevor Ariza in free agency and replaced him with lower-cost forwards Carmelo Anthony and James Ennis III. Age is also a concern for Houston, what with Chris Paul starting a four-year, maximum contract at 33. Paul's deal and a supermax extension for James Harden that kicks in next year will likely leave the Rockets in the luxury tax for the foreseeable future, and they come in nearly last in the money category. For all that pessimism, the Rockets still have our second-ranked roster, led by the reigning MVP, Harden; and the combination of Daryl Morey's creativity and Mike D'Antoni's visionary offense has them second in the management category as well. It's just that Houston might be trending downward rather than upward."

From there, let's look at who Boston will likely be facing in the NBA Finals, should expectations play out concerning the two most likely teams to meet at that level (yes, lots can change in 82 games), the Golden State Warriors.

The Dubs might be showing signs of wear, but that's to be expected, according to Pelton:

"It has now been four years (and three championships) since the Warriors finished anywhere besides first in the Future Power Rankings. In addition to the top-ranked roster and management, Golden State also has ascended to joint No. 1 (with the Lakers) in market, thanks to the appeal of contending for championships in a warm-weather climate near Silicon Valley -- appeal proved again by DeMarcus Cousins taking less money to sign with the Warriors this summer. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both can be unrestricted free agents next summer, with Draymond Green in line to hit free agency in July 2020, and re-signing all three players could result in a stratospheric luxury-tax bill. It's also possible one or more will want a different role elsewhere. And at some point, age will start to take a toll on Golden State's core. For now, however, the Warriors' future projections remain light-years ahead."

There's a lot that could change - and plenty of potential pratfalls in wait - before age will really start to be a factor for the team's top talent, but we're also seeing Father Time nipping at the heels of Andre Iguodala. Probably safer to assume continued success until we stop seeing it, though, at least for now.

This leaves us with the Celts, who fell between the two because, according to Kevin:

 "The Celtics first jumped to No. 3 in 2016, back when they were coming off a first-round sweep. Since then, Boston has never finished outside the top three, having made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals. With Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, this is the Celtics' most talented roster yet. And there's still more room for internal development from young wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, plus as many as three extra first-round picks on the way -- including the Sacramento Kings' pick, which Boston gets in June, unless it's No. 1 overall. The big iceberg on the Celtics' horizon is Irving's free agency next summer. If he leaves, Boston won't have any cap space to sign a replacement, and they would have to rely on their young talent stepping up. However, we trust their second-ranked management team to handle that or any luxury-tax woes if Irving does re-sign."

No arguments here, though, as I've said elsewhere, the odds of Irving decamping are pretty low, if still high enough a contingency plan coughcoughTerryRoziercough should be waiting in the wings.

What do y'all think about this ranking system? Accurate? Nebulous? Both? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Image: ESPN/GettY/NBAE 
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