ESPN projects Warriors as third-best NBA team over next three seasons

Brian Witt
NBC Sports BayArea

The Warriors got worse over the offseason -- that cannot be denied.

When you lose Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and DeMarcus Cousins, that's simply unavoidable. Factor in Klay Thompson's ongoing rehab from surgery to repair a torn ACL, and it's quite obvious that Golden State is positioned worse to win a championship moving forward than the Dubs have been in each of the last five seasons.

But as for how much worse, you might be surprised.

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According to ESPN's NBA Future Power Rankings posted Thursday, the Warriors are ranked third among all NBA teams for projected on-court success for the next three seasons. 

In forming the rankings, ESPN's Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks rated each NBA team on five categories -- players, management, money, market and draft -- and ranked them relative to the rest of the league. Those rankings were then used to create an overall score of 0 to 100, which determined the final order. Golden State received an overall score of 70.8, sandwiched between Brooklyn (72.5) and Houston (70.2) for third in the league. The Clippers came in at No. 1 with an overall score of 87.7, and Denver (69.4) rounded out the top five.

The Warriors' score was boosted significantly by their rating in three categories. Pelton and Marks rated Golden State's players tied for sixth in the league, the Warriors' management tied for first and the Dubs' market tied for second overall. The Warriors didn't rate nearly as well in the money (t-27th) and draft (t-24th) categories.

Pelton believes Golden State will be able to contend for a championship again once Thompson returns to the lineup, and views the acquisition of D'Angelo Russell -- while limiting in the immediate -- as affording the Warriors flexibility down the line.

"Golden State aggressively pivoted by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal to bring D'Angelo Russell from the Nets," Pelton recapped. "How Russell will fit with the core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson remains to be seen, and the move gutted the Warriors' bench this season, but they will have a window next summer to use a $17.2 million trade exception created in the Andre Iguodala deal. At worst, Russell would be valuable in a trade coming off an All-Star season at age 23."

Pelton brings up a great point. While the Warriors currently are severely limited in their roster and salary cap flexibility, that will all change when the trade exception becomes usable. With Curry, Green, Thompson and Russell signed to long-term deals, Golden State already has the core of its next contender.

[RELATED: Eclectic rookie Poole attaining early success for Warriors]

That might not come this season, but safe to say, the downfall has been overstated.

ESPN projects Warriors as third-best NBA team over next three seasons originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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