BOSTON – Over the past three seasons, Danny Ainge has always kept his sights set on rebuilding the Celtics for the long haul. The team has shown a nice progression in the win-loss column, but more importantly has built and maintained an impressive collection of assets since the plug was pulled on the Big Three era in the summer of 2013.
Just how far has the team come over the past three seasons? And how rosy is the future that awaits? Few teams can compete with the chips that Ainge and co. has assembled according to the latest version of ESPN's future power rankings.
The ESPN rankings use a formula to project a franchise's odds of success over the next three seasons, based on a variety of factors including a team's players, management, ability to spend money and draft positioning. They combine all of these elements to develop "future power rating" for each team, with a panel that includes Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton.
The Celtics thrived in the majority of the measuring factors, including top-5 rankings in the management, money, and draft future categories.
Only the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors ranked ahead of Boston in this edition of the future rankings, a far cry from the 24th spot the Celtics were handed in the rankings a mere two years ago.
So what has changed the most in recent years that has propelled Boston up the rankings? The team has always been positioned well in terms of cap space the past couple years and Boston's management ranking has also improved as he's continued to put together winning deals over the past two seasons. Hence, it's fair to say the biggest gains have been the development of young players like Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder (pushing the players ranking from 29th to 15th) as well as the collapse of the Brooklyn Nets. The latter has given Boston's stash of unprotected first round Nets pick more value than ever.
While ESPN's projection may be a little bit more optimistic for even the biggest Celtics homers (ahead of OKC?), they aren't the only ones with a positive outlook about Boston's future. Currently, the Celtics have the sixth-best odds (20-to-1) in the NBA to win the 2017 NBA Title according to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. Those are the second-best odds for any team in the Eastern Conference, behind the Cavaliers.
That kind of outlook from a variety of outlets makes it apparent there is a lot of confidence in Ainge to make something big happen this offseason. With a hefty collection of trade chips and future flexibility at this disposal, the Celtics are clearly in a spot a lot of teams would love to be in this offseason.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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