In the Time of Tanking, in the Day of Dolan, in a moment in which the Old School vs. New School debate is back, it's nice to cut through the noise and figure out which teams are well-managed and which are well-mangled. That's exactly what we did here.
More specifically, we rated the owner, the leadership (presidents/GMs) and the coach of every NBA team. From there, we ranked the teams in each category, and overall.
Meanwhile, we also asked and answered a few questions for you:
Who came out best and worst overall?
The San Antonio Spurs are No. 1. The New York Knicks are No. 30. Are you surprised?
Which teams round out the Finest Four?
Miami, Dallas and Indiana follow the Spurs in our rankings.
And the Failing Four?
Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee are ranked just slightly ahead of the Knicks.
Can you really rank teams like this?
Yeah. We build the rankings by employing our ESPN Forecast panel, which has been ahead of the curve in making accurate predictions for the past six years. The same panel ranks the players from 1 to 500 every year for our #NBArank project.
The system is simple, but powerful. You've probably heard of the wisdom of the crowd, and that's the wisdom we're tapping into.
We have more than 200 basketball watchers on our panel -- or "experts," if you prefer. The point is, these are people who follow the game closely. In a series of ballots, about half of our panel participated, rating owners, front offices, coaches and the relative importance of the three positions.
What do these rankings really measure?
We asked the voters to focus on just the on-court performance of each team, both now and in general.
To be specific, the voters rated each owner, each front office and each coach on the quality of their guidance and leadership, in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short term and the long term (hence, overall).
But how do we know which role is the most important?
We asked the voters. The results, on a scale of 0 to 100:
• Owners: 26.5 percent
• Front office: 40.3 percent
• Coach: 33.2 percent
The front office is defined as the main basketball-decision-making individual or group. This can include the president of basketball operations, the general manager and others, including the owner in some cases.
You overrated good teams and underrated bad teams, right?
No doubt that recent success influenced our panel, but that's entirely reasonable. The goal is to win -- that's primarily what "on-court success" is all about.
But if you look at our top 10, you see the appeal of isolating these roles and asking voters to rate each team in each category.
For example, in third place we have Dallas, and while the Mavericks did grab a surprise championship three years ago, they finished 41-41 last season and missed the playoffs, and no one considers them a contender anymore. Yet the panel's respect for their management is such that the Mavs are still elite in that category.
Likewise, Chicago is fifth despite not having been to the NBA Finals in 16 years. And Boston is sixth with an abysmal record and a rookie coach. In other words, the voters were willing to look past the W-L record to the true qualities of each team's management.
On the other end, Washington finished fifth-worst in our rankings despite a winning record and some young talent, and several other current and/or recent playoff teams fill out the bottom 10.
This really is about how our panel evaluates each owner, front office and coach.