The Atlanta Hawks have reached the postseason in six straight seasons, and according to the experts at ESPN that streak may continue.
On Monday ESPN released its semi-annual Future Power Rankings column and ranked Atlanta 13th overall. These rankings project three years into the future, so in this case the experts are referring to the 2013-2014, 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons as a whole.
The ranking given to each NBA team are derived from five weighted categories: players (50%), management (16.7%), money (16.7%), market (8.3%), and draft (8.3%). The most important category (players) refers to the team’s current roster and the future potential of those players. The remaining four categories are made up of factors such as ownership and coaching, spending habits and cap situation, reputation of the city and the franchise, and the expected position of future draft picks.
Here is an excerpt from the Insiders’ take on the Hawks:
They retooled their roster using careful cap management, re-signing Kyle Korver to a descending scale contract, picking up veterans on short-term deals like Paul Millsap, Elton Brand and DeMarre Carroll and claiming FIBA Americas Tournament MVP Gustavo Ayon off waivers.
As a result, they’ll have cap flexibility for the next two summers, which will allow them to be nimble enough to take advantage of any opportunities that might arise.
The Hawks scored highest in the ‘money’ and ‘draft’ sections, and the fact that they ranked so highly in these two categories is a testament to the good job that GM/President of basketball operations Danny Ferry has done thus far in Atlanta.
The lowest ranking was in the ‘market’ category:
Their market will always have a reputation of a lukewarm fan base, but they’ve put themselves in the position to be competitive within the Eastern Conference. The Hawks still have a bright future by being fiscally responsible and showing shrewd player evaluation.
The Insiders give the Hawks credit for doing well with what they are able to control, which is good, but there was a little shot of disrespect at the city of Atlanta with a low market rating.
One of the situations that the high rankings surely factored in was Danny Ferry’s handling of the Josh Smith situation. Instead of overpaying the talented-yet-flawed Smith this offseason, Ferry let him walk and brought in veterans Paul Millsap and Elton Brand to fill his void. The duo is set to make $13.5 million in the 2013-2014 season; Josh Smith will be paid $14 million alone. Smith is coming off a very strong year with per-game averages of 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks. Millsap meanwhile is coming off his worst season in the past three years and still posted averages of 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks, despite averaging five minutes less per game than Smith and while shooting three percentage points better than Smith from the field. The Hawks will miss Smith’s versatility, but certainly not his shot selection or questionable leadership abilities. For almost $5 million less per year, Millsap was the right investment, and Brand was the perfect backup man. Well played, Ferry.
Another factor that swings heavily in Atlanta’s favor is how loaded the Western Conference is and how top-heavy the Eastern Conference is. Of the 12 teams ahead of Atlanta on the list, only four were Eastern Conference foes, meaning that the Insiders would likely agree that Atlanta is a safe bet to keep their playoff streak alive for the near future. If the team is able to sign an elite defensive force like Omer Asik, their ranking would surely rise as they would instantly become a legitimate contender in the East.