Hawks Fall to 18th in ESPN’s Future Rankings

Bo Churney —  May 30, 2013

“The Future Power Rankings are ESPN Insider’s projection of the on-court success expected for each team in the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

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

ESPN asked a series of questions to it’s expert panel, which involves yours truly, to rank each team in the NBA based on the expectations over the next three season. These questions were based on roster, money, market, and the team’s management. Here is the article. (ESPN Insider required)

Now, I usually try not to get caught up in things like rankings, but something about this intrigued me. The Hawks fell three spots from the last time this survey was done, which was in August 2012. The biggest factor that took a hit was the management category, which fell from 13th down to 19th.

Now, a few things need to be clarified about this survey: more people participated than the last time it was done in August. For all I know, the question may have been different then as well. The survey was also completed BEFORE the Hawks hired Mike Budenholzer as head coach.

However, I have difficulty seeing how Atlanta’s management should be rated that low at this point. Even without counting the Budenholzer hiring, Danny Ferry has done a fantastic job as general manager. The ownership group appears to have settled after the selling of the Thrashers (RIP) and has empowered Ferry to run point on all decisions. I’m just unsure at how you look at teams like New Orleans (16th in management) or Philadephia (18th) and think, “Yeah, their front office is better than Atlanta’s right now.”

The Hawks also ranked 18th in market, but it’s not the ranking that I have as big of an issue with as it is the description.

“GM Danny Ferry will have to persuade players to come to a franchise that historically has struggled to draw fans, even when they’re winning…”

Uh… winning what, exactly? The Atlanta Hawks still haven’t even been to a Conference Finals, the team has won two second round GAMES over the past decade, and has only won their division once over the past 25 years. Throw in the fact that the team had an eight season stretch where they didn’t even make the playoffs… I mean, where do you expect the fans to come from? This isn’t purely an Atlanta thing, either. The Braves averaged about 40,000 fans a game in the 90s and the Falcons have been doing well recently. Simply put, when a team is actually winning, the fans will show up.

“…routinely sees bigger support for the visiting team.”

I usually think arguing semantics is a lame argument, but I can’t agree with this statement; it’s a cop out for the poorly constructed “ATLANTA HAS BAD FANS” meme. Nearly every city in the league has their arena invaded by Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, and “whatever team LeBron is on” fans. Even then, this isn’t always true; yes, I’m looking at all three Boston fans that showed up to Philips Arena the year before Kevin Garnett was traded to the Celtics. I appreciate your participation.

The Hawks have the best salary cap situation in the league, a stabilized and improved front office, and a couple of good pieces in Al Horford and Lou Williams. They may not have “contender” written over them for the next three seasons, but they definitely seem to have top 15 situation in the league over that time period. After another summer with Danny Ferry at the reigns, I see no reason why the Hawks couldn’t conceivably crack the top ten of this project.

Bo Churney

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4 responses to Hawks Fall to 18th in ESPN’s Future Rankings

  1. Top Ten? Seems like quite a stretch.

    Ferry has done a good job of clearing space, but hasn’t done much to quantify as doing a great job.

    We do struggle to attract free agents, even when winning loads of regular season games.

    Atlanta is a pretty wretched sports town. A city of transplants with no real loyalty who only show major support when a team is winning. (I remember the Braves in the 90s. Fan attendance the first half of the decade was great. After ’97, not so much.)

    We’re poised to make strides, but we haven’t really accomplished anything in the last year. We were average in 2012. We were average in 2013.

    Until Ferry actually constructs a winner…no one is giving this mediocre franchise the benefit if the doubt.

    Nor should they. The real test begins July 1.

    • My problem is that the outlook of the team’s future looks better than it did at the beginning of the year… and we fell in these rankings in categories that we shouldn’t have fallen in.

      Yes, top ten is a stretch; that’s why I said “could”. That said, I mostly took issue at criticizing a team’s attendance when said team has never won anything.

      • Fair enough, but a fandom that only shows up during championship runs…isn’t that the definition of fairweather fans?

        Like Miami Heat fans…

        We used to be a bottom feeder with seasons of 13 and 26 wins. Those days are long gone and we can’t even sell out playoff games.

        The Braves had the same problems from ’98 through 2004.

        We field solid, competitive (not great) teams and still don’t get steady attendance despite being a city with 5 million people in the metro area.


  2. If they were to sign a true star, their attendance would be fine. Didn’t the Pacers rank low in the attendance rankings this year? And they have an EMERGING star in PG-24, not to mention a friggin title contender. Look at the attendances for teams without a true star and I think you’d find a similar situation attendance-wise. Big cities have lots of things to do, especially Atlanta which is very popular with players as a leisure-time spot, and unless your team is a title contender you may have issues getting people in the seats.