NBA Future Power Rankings - Predicting best, worst franchises

If the Warriors get the top pick, whom should they take? (1:33)

Mike Schmitz breaks down which player the Warriors should take if they end up with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. (1:33)

How will your team perform over the next three NBA seasons?

The Future Power Rankings are ESPN Insider's projection of the on-court success expected for each team in the next three seasons, including 2019-20 if the NBA returns.

Consider this a convenient way to see the direction in which your favorite team is headed.

To determine the Future Power Rankings, we asked ESPN analysts Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks to rate teams in five categories and rank them relative to the rest of the league. For an explanation of each category and a full view of how each team did in each category, click here. Each team also received an overall Future Power Rating of 0 to 100, based on how well we expect it to perform in the next three seasons.

Here are our latest rankings.

Note: The last version of these rankings dropped in October 2019.

The Clippers hold down the top spot. The strength of the team remains with a roster centered around two franchise players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Despite only a 30-game sample of work, the Clippers had a winning percentage of 80% when both players were in the lineup this season.

Future roster concerns rest with free agents Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris Sr. The Clippers have the ability to retain both, but management will need to decide on a price point and whether each player is a priority or a luxury. Retaining Harrell and Morris likely puts Los Angeles in the luxury tax for 2020-21 and potentially even beyond that.

One resource the Clippers don't have is the ability to trade a future first-round pick. Unlike this past February when they acquired Morris, the seven-year rule (2021 to 2027) and inability to trade a first in back-to-back seasons will restrict them. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 1)

The Lakers crack the top two for the first time since August 2010. The strength of the Lakers' roster revolves around having two of the top 10 players in the NBA in Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Despite Davis having a player option for the 2020-21 season and James having one for the following year, a league-best record removes any doubt that the pairing is short term.

Formerly an Achilles' heel for the Lakers, their management ranking improved eight spots, rising from No. 23 to No. 15. Frank Vogel has proved that his hiring was the right decision, as was giving Rob Pelinka full autonomy over basketball decisions. Vogel has instilled a hard-working mentality to a star-studded team, while Pelinka and his staff put together a roster that can win now but maintains the flexibility to add a max player in 2021. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 6)

A league-worst record this season isn't enough to keep the Warriors out of the top three. In fact, Golden State has an overall grade of 74.4, up from 70.8 in October.

Golden State's two projected lottery picks in 2020 and 2021 -- their own this year and Minnesota's (top three protected) in 2021 -- are largely responsible for the top-five ranking. In addition to their draft assets, the Warriors have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins under contract for at least the next three seasons, which should put them in contention with both Los Angeles teams.

Despite being a luxury-tax team for the foreseeable future, Golden State does have a $17.2 million trade exception to use in acquiring players. Because the Warriors ducked out of the tax this season, the financial penalty in 2020-21 is mitigated if they decide to use the exception. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 3)

Perhaps no team has more at stake long term on the possible resumption of the season than the Bucks, who were cruising with the NBA's best record when play stopped. Whenever the offseason comes, Milwaukee will have an opportunity to offer Giannis Antetokounmpo a supermax extension a season ahead of his possible foray into unrestricted free agency. If Antetokounmpo says yes, the Bucks will climb even higher in our future rankings.

While Giannis has steadfastly downplayed speculation, the franchise's first NBA Finals trip since 1974 would certainly seem to help Milwaukee's chances of getting a commitment from the MVP. Since choosing to sign-and-trade restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers last summer, the Bucks have done everything possible to convince Antetokounmpo he can win it all in Milwaukee. But whether the Bucks will have a chance to do so this season is out of the team's control. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 9)

The Celtics move back into the top five, up three spots, largely on the strength of Jayson Tatum's strong February and March play. While we still believed in their management and long-term positioning, Boston's top-end talent was something of a question mark after the loss of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency. Tatum's development into an All-Star and All-NBA contender at such a young age (he turned 22 in March) has eased those concerns.

Though it doesn't appear Boston will get a lottery pick from the Memphis Grizzlies because of their unexpected playoff run, the Celtics are still well-positioned to add young talent with three likely first-round picks this year. Boston will have to manage a tax bill starting next season, when Jaylen Brown's rich extension kicks in, but the Celtics should be able to keep their core intact. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 8)

After a six-year hiatus, Dallas is back in the top six of the FPR. The MVP-level play of Luka Doncic, a healthy Kristaps Porzingis and a roster with complementary players should see Dallas in playoff contention for the foreseeable future. As a result, Dallas is now ranked No. 4 in players, up eight spots.

The question now becomes how Dallas will go from a playoff team to one competing for a championship. With a roster that has 12 players under contract in 2020-21, the answer might have to wait until the summer of 2021, when the Mavericks are projected to have a max salary slot. Of course, Porzingis could return to playing at a franchise level and the Mavericks could continue building around both players.

If not, the No. 6 spot could be the high-water mark for the Mavericks. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 13)

No team has jumped more in the past six months than the defending champion Raptors, who shook off the loss of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard (and starter Danny Green) in free agency to post the league's third-best record through the stoppage of play. Though Toronto's roster might look dramatically different in two years with four of five starters (all but Pascal Siakam) headed for unrestricted free agency by then, our top-ranked management group has given every reason to believe the Raptors can handle any scenario.

Toronto is on track to have max cap space in 2021 to pursue a star to pair with Siakam and a budding core that also includes guard Fred VanVleet (an unrestricted free agent after this season) and forward OG Anunoby. The Raptors also continue to develop complementary talent, with undrafted rookie Terence Davis their latest unheralded find. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 18)

Coming off a 2018-19 season that ended in the lottery, Miami is well-positioned to compete both now and in the future. The Heat stood fourth in the East when play stopped, having seen Bam Adebayo develop into an All-Star and G League discoveries Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson become solid starters in support of new centerpiece Jimmy Butler.

Still, with Miami (our fifth-ranked market) as a draw, the Heat are keeping a close eye on the books for the 2021 offseason. Then, the Heat should have max-level cap room to add another star while retaining Butler, Adebayo, Nunn, Robinson and rookie Tyler Herro as key depth pieces. Miami president Pat Riley has successfully recruited the NBA's biggest stars before, and he's got the chance to build another title contender ahead of considering retirement. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 15)

With hindsight, ranking the Nets second in September looks like irrational exuberance. Yes, Brooklyn should be better when Kevin Durant returns from his Achilles rupture and Kyrie Irving is back from shoulder surgery, but we still don't know whether Durant will be the same player after a devastating injury or if the Nets have the right mix of supporting talent around their rehabbing stars.

First, Brooklyn must decide who's coaching this group after Kenny Atkinson was replaced on an interim basis by Jacque Vaughn just before play stopped. (The Nets played just two games after the coaching change, including a road win over the Lakers that was perhaps their best of the season.) Uncertainty around the coaching situation also caused Brooklyn to slide in the management category.

The Nets could still prove contenders when Durant and Irving are back on the court. That's just no longer a sure thing. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 2)

The Jazz have remained consistent when it comes to the FPR, with this marking the ninth straight year they have appeared in the top 10. Despite the consistency, however, Utah's overall grade dropped from 66.7 to 61.7.

The Jazz's starting five are all under contract through 2020-21 and they were on the verge of winning 50 games in back-to-back seasons, but there have been growing pains this season with the addition of Mike Conley. Both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are extension eligible this summer and will likely combine for a total salary north of $250 million.

A positive for Utah is a management group that ranks in the top five. The Jazz have a front office that is proactively addressing roster needs and a coaching staff led by Quin Snyder that continues to focus on player development. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 10)

The fact that Denver has fallen out of the top 10 for the first time since September 2016 shouldn't be a sign that the roster has peaked or that the future is limited. The Nuggets still have Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray under contract through at least 2022-23 and a possible All-Star-in-waiting in Michael Porter Jr. In fact, the No. 11 ranking could be temporary.

How the Nuggets address the future is broken down into three questions:

What is the cost of pending free agents Torrey Craig, Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant (player option) and Paul Millsap? Can shooting guard Gary Harris revert to his 2017-18 form? Can Porter replace Millsap and Plumlee as a low-cost option? The questions are tied together because the Nuggets made a financial trade when they moved soon-to-be-free-agent shooting guard Malik Beasley at the trade deadline. Denver did recoup a first-round pick from the Rockets, but one that is projected to be in the mid-20s. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 5)

The Sixers have ranked in our top 10 since September 2017, when they were set to add No. 1 pick Ben Simmons to a team that went 28-54 in the last of five consecutive seasons in the lottery. Now, with "The Process" nothing but a memory, Philadelphia confronts a new set of challenges -- namely, whether this core is capable of maximizing Simmons and fellow All-Star Joel Embiid, which hasn't been the case during a disappointing 2019-20 season to date.

With a max extension for Simmons kicking in, the 76ers will start next season in the luxury tax before filling out their roster, and cap relief won't come until 2022-23 (when Al Horford's salary is partially guaranteed) at the earliest. Philadelphia is also out a first-round pick. So while this is still a top-10 roster in terms of current talent, the future appears surprisingly cloudy. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 7)

There is an expectation that the Pelicans will one day be a fixture in the top 10. For now, New Orleans moves up one slot to No. 13. The small increase is a result of Zion Williamson's debut, the future of Jrue Holiday and the expiring contract (2020-21) of head coach Alvin Gentry. A healthy Williamson combined with All-Star Brandon Ingram has the Pelicans with two foundation players -- similar to the Dallas Mavericks.

Holiday will be an interesting case study when it comes to the future economics of the NBA. Before the NBA took a hiatus because of COVID-19, Holiday was labeled as a player entering the 2020-21 season with an expiring contract, despite having a $27.4 player option in 2021-22. Now with the uncertainty of future cap projections, there is no guarantee that Holiday will become a free agent. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 14)

If the FPR were based on a seven-year window instead of three, the Thunder would likely be in the top 10.

Despite having a projected 13 first-round picks in the next seven seasons, the fruits of the Paul George trade with the Clippers will not materialize until after 2022, the last year FPR takes into consideration.

The positive is that Oklahoma City is back in the top 15, with a likely All-Star in the making in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a healthy Chris Paul and the expiring contracts of Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 21)

The Rockets are trending south. Since hitting No. 4 in October, mainly as a result of the Russell Westbrook trade, Houston has fallen to No. 15, its worst ranking since March 2011. The 11-point drop has to do with concerns about the supporting cast, lack of financial flexibility, limited draft assets to build out the roster and the lame-duck status of head coach Mike D'Antoni. While Houston did swap out Clint Capela for Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker is set to enter the last year of his contract and Eric Gordon spent the current year more on the injured list than the active list. Covington, Tucker, Gordon and Danuel House Jr. are the Rockets' lone trade assets. The Rockets continue to rank in the bottom in money (No. 29) because of the $113 million committed in 2020-21 and 2021-22 to Westbrook, Harden, Covington and Gordon. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 4)

Admittedly, the Pacers might be something of a blind spot for the future rankings formula. They've ranked no better than 15th in the last three editions while continuing to contend for home-court advantage in the East. Their .600 winning percentage ranks 11th this season, though their plus-1.9 point differential is not quite so strong.

Indiana does have a key issue on the horizon: Victor Oladipo's free agency in the summer of 2021, when the Pacers wouldn't likely have cap space to replace him with a similar talent. Our Zach Lowe has reported that Indiana had discussed an extension with Oladipo before the season but decided to table those talks until after Oladipo returned in midseason from a quadriceps tendon rupture. One way or another, a top-10 management team should be able to handle the situation. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 16)

Add the Trail Blazers to the list of the teams that fell outside the top 15. The drop is centered around three concerns: health, continued roster restrictions (though the Trail Blazers will be out of the tax next year) and the upside of their former draft picks.

As we saw this season, despite having one of the top backcourts in the NBA in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Trail Blazers did not have a safety net when it came to absorbing a significant injury to one of their core players. Luxury-tax restrictions last offseason limited how Portland could build out its bench.

While Hassan Whiteside stepped in for Jusuf Nurkic, season-ending injuries to Rodney Hood (Achilles) and Zach Collins (shoulder) had Portland resembling a lottery team and not one that was in the Western Conference finals last May. How the Trail Blazers get back to a 50-win team will be determined by the health of Collins and Nurkic along with the continued development of Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Nassir Little and a lottery pick in this year's draft. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 11)

It was only a year ago that the Grizzlies ranked No. 29 in the FPR. Now Memphis has the likely Rookie of the Year in Ja Morant, a foundation player in Jaren Jackson Jr. and a roster of complementary players that has the Grizzlies holding down the last playoff spot in the West.

While head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman was criticized at the trade deadline when he sacrificed cap flexibility in 2020-21 to take back the contract of Dion Waiters, he did so with a big-picture approach. The Grizzlies were not going to be a free-agent destination this summer despite $30 million in room, and Kleiman treated former top-10 pick Justise Winslow as his big free-agent addition.

The Grizzlies are well-positioned in the future and will have options on how they continue to build out the roster. Only Josh Jackson and De'Anthony Melton are free agents this summer, and the Grizzlies could have over $40 million in room during the summer of 2021 while Morant and Jaren Jackson are still on their rookie contracts. -- Marks

(Previous rank: 27)

There is finally a sense of direction (and hope) in Phoenix. Not only has Phoenix won 26 games this season, the most since 2014-15, but the carousel of head coaches that has paraded through since 2015 has finally stopped with Monty Williams.

How the Suns use the momentum from this season and continue to build around All-Star Devin Booker and former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton will be the result of decisions the Suns' front office makes this offseason. The Suns have 11 players under contract, will have a lottery pick and are one of a handful of teams that project to have $20 million of cap space this summer. What direction management goes will be based on continuity (retain Dario Saric and Aron Baynes), short-term contracts or exploring the free-agent market.

Taking the conservative approach would set up the Suns with $45 million of room in 2021, but how frustrated would Booker be by that point if he still hasn't made the playoffs since being drafted in 2015? -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 24)

Since the FPR were introduced in 2009, San Antonio has been the gold standard, dropping out of the top 10 only twice. Now the Spurs sit at No. 20, on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996-97. The veteran players -- DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge -- are set to enter the final year of their contracts. DeRozan has a $27.7 million player option but is not guaranteed to become a free agent with the uncertainty of the financial landscape of the NBA. The Spurs could extend DeRozan or have him opt in to his contract and look to move him, similar to when Chris Paul was traded from the Clippers to the Rockets.

If there is a positive, it is that the roster is not bare bones. The Spurs recently signed Dejounte Murray to a team-friendly extension and have four players on rookie contracts. They will also add a lottery pick, a first since Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 12)

Although Orlando was headed for a second consecutive playoff appearance when games stopped, the Magic stood five games below .500 at 30-35, hardly a ringing endorsement of the team's direction. On the plus side, Markelle Fultz has emerged as a starting point guard at age 21. Internal development from Fultz and forward Jonathan Isaac, who was dominating defensively before suffering a serious knee injury on New Year's Day, is Orlando's best hope for surpassing this ranking.

At the same time, the Magic have relatively little flexibility for a young team. They'd have only modest cap space at best if wing Evan Fournier opts for free agency after a career year, and new contracts for Fournier and Isaac (eligible for an extension after the season) would cap out Orlando for the foreseeable future. So the Magic may end up treading water. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 20)

Like Atlanta management, we were bullish on the Hawks' future after a strong finish to the 2018-19 season led by rookie guard Trae Young and second-year big John Collins. Despite Young's development into an All-Star, Atlanta has taken a step backward, leading to questions about the path forward.

The Hawks are facing a key decision on Collins, who missed 25 games early in the season after testing positive for a banned growth hormone. Collins played well after his return, but his future is uncertain after Atlanta dealt for the similar Clint Capela at the trade deadline.

Additionally, the Hawks must sort out a group of young wings (Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish) who were overexposed this season. And Atlanta's impatience to win might spell trouble for coach Lloyd Pierce, who is still learning on the job -- like his players. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 17)

A return to the playoffs looked realistic for the Bulls after they added Otto Porter Jr. at the 2019 trade deadline and veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young in free agency. Injuries, most notably one that sidelined Porter nearly four months, helped scuttle those plans. Chicago was eight games out of eighth when the season was suspended.

Since the Bulls don't project to have cap space again until the summer of 2021, outside help isn't on the way. Instead, Chicago is counting on better health and continued development from young players. Coby White flashed as a rookie, while Zach LaVine has solidified himself as one of the league's best offensive players. But the Bulls will have to decide whether to extend the contract of forward Lauri Markkanen coming off a disappointing campaign, and they are now looking for a new lead front- office executive. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 22)

After dropping all the way to 28th in the last future rankings installment, the Wizards have given us reason to believe their mini-rebuild might be quicker than expected. That started with a preseason extension for All-Star guard Bradley Beal, keeping him under contract through 2021-22 (with a player option for 2022-23).

Washington's new front office, helmed by Tommy Sheppard, has also showed the ability to work effectively around the margins. Davis Bertans, acquired for virtually nothing from the San Antonio Spurs, has emerged as a premier stretch 4 the Wizards apparently intend to re-sign this offseason. Washington still needs dramatic defensive improvement to compete, and John Wall's return from an Achilles repair remains a question mark, but there are reasons for hope in the District. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 28)

An inconsistent season and the potential high cost of keeping the roster together has the Kings back in familiar territory outside the top 20.

While the Kings did sign Buddy Hield to a four-year $94 million extension last October, two financial decisions loom: the restricted free agency of Bogdan Bogdanovic and rookie extension of De'Aaron Fox. The good news is that Sacramento cleaned up its future finances when Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon were traded during the season. Moving the $25 million cap hit for both players allows the Kings to sign Bogdanovic and still stay under the luxury tax for 2020-21.

Outside of finances, there is a concern when it comes to former No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III. Since he was drafted in 2018, Bagley has played in only 75 games, missing the previous 29 this season because of a left foot injury. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 19)

Minnesota is a good example of how fluid these rankings are. After reaching a high of No. 5 in September 2017, the Timberwolves are now in the bottom four. The positive is that new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas showed at the trade deadline the early blueprint on how the roster will be built. Not only did the Timberwolves acquire All-Star D'Angelo Russell to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns, they also added a first-round pick from Brooklyn this year and much-needed depth, primarily with shooting guard Malik Beasley.

Russell, Towns, Beasley (if signed as a free agent), Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver and two first-round picks in the top 16 give Minnesota a solid base on which to build. -- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 25)

The Leon Rose era at Madison Square Garden dawns with high hopes, as did the Steve Mills, Phil Jackson, Glen Grunwald, Donnie Walsh and Isiah Thomas eras before it. The common denominator over the two decades since the marquee team in the league's largest market last reached the conference finals remains MSG executive chairman Jim Dolan.

The Knicks were able to salvage a first-round pick at the deadline for Marcus Morris Sr., giving them four of them over the next two years. Partial guarantees for most of last summer's signings also mean New York can have substantial cap space the next two offseasons. Still, until the Knicks successfully develop a young centerpiece, it's unlikely they'll fare any better in free agency than they did in 2019. And until Rose proves himself as an executive and decides on a permanent coach, it's hard to rank New York anywhere but last in management. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 26)

For the first time since September 2017, the Hornets have moved out of the future rankings cellar. The post-Kemba Walker crash we've been anticipating hasn't proved as severe as expected, in large part because of Charlotte's good fortune in close games. While the Hornets' 23-42 record ranks 23rd in the league, their minus-6.7 differential is good for 27th.

Onerous contracts for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams are off the books after buyouts, with Bismack Biyombo to follow at season's end. When Nicolas Batum's deal expires in 2021, the Hornets will have only one player (Terry Rozier) under contract for more than $5 million. Since Charlotte isn't a destination for free agents, the Hornets will have to look for bargains or use that flexibility via trade to build around a young core led by Most Improved Player contender Devonte' Graham. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 30)

At long last, the Pistons seem to have accepted the inevitability of a rebuild after Blake Griffin underwent knee surgery in January. They dealt center Andre Drummond to Cleveland in a trade that largely yielded only cap flexibility. After the deadline, Detroit went 1-12 despite strong play from Drummond's replacement, Christian Wood.

Between Wood (an unrestricted free agent after the season), wing Luke Kennard and athletic young forward Sekou Doumbouya, the Pistons have a handful of interesting pieces to start the rebuilding process. But unless Griffin can return to form over the remaining two years and $76 million left on his contract, Detroit lacks a centerpiece, and finding one through the lottery will be the primary order of business. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 23)

Less than two years (and four coaches) since LeBron James signed with the Lakers, the Cavaliers remain early in their rebuilding process, though a 5-6 record under new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff after the All-Star break offered some signs of hope.

John Beilein's stint as head coach, which lasted less than four months, went about as poorly as possible. Beilein failed to connect with skeptical veterans and didn't do enough to develop Cleveland's young talent. Since the break, Collin Sexton has been a quality lead scorer, while rookie point guard Darius Garland has also shown progress after being overmatched beforehand.

The Cavaliers still must figure out what to do with veteran forward Kevin Love, in the first season of a four-year extension. And the newly acquired Andre Drummond could swallow up the Cavaliers' cap space this offseason if he picks up a $28.8 million player option. -- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 29)