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Mavericks fall 6 spots in ESPN Future Power Rankings

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Unsurprisingly, the DeAndre Jordan decision leaves Dallas' future considerably less bright.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has published their annual "NBA Future Power Rankings" -- available for Insider subscribers only -- and the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in the middle of the pack.

For those unfamiliar with the Future Power Rankings, every year Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton use a formula to grade the 30 NBA teams based on five criteria: players, management, money, market and draft. A subjective rating is given to each category, and then weighted (for example, the quality of the roster receives the largest weight) to create the final grade. To see the methodology explained in greater detail, check it out here.

After placing No. 8 in last year's rankings, Dallas comes in at No. 14, sandwiched between Milwaukee and Indiana.  Here is what they have to say about the Mavs:

We might look back on DeAndre Jordan having second thoughts as a turning point for the Mavericks. There were still questions about Dallas' future with Jordan, but they were amplified by his decision to return to the L.A. Clippers, which left the Mavericks with an aging core and no obvious path to improvement.

Led by 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas projects as the league's third-oldest team next season. And the two youngest members of the team's starting five, Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons, are both coming off surgeries.

The Mavericks can't count on adding young talent through the draft because they owe a protected (top 7) first-round pick to Boston from the Rajon Rondo trade. So despite trademark cap flexibility and our faith in the team's management, Dallas appears stuck in the middle for the foreseeable future.

A pretty fair assessment of the club's future. In all honesty, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised Dallas was slotted where they were, ahead of teams like Memphis and Atlanta. As touched on, the club gets its strongest push from the "money" and "management" categories, where Dallas rated No. 5 and 6 in the league, respectively. Everything else is bad news, and obviously most disconcerting of all is that a team that for years counted itself among the deepest in the league is now being rated in the bottom fifth of the league on roster talent.

For the last half-decade, with an ever-changing lineup led by a gradually declining star, the only things that have seemingly remained constant are the team's much-touted "cap flexibility" and a dearth of young developmental players. This has meant Dallas continued to be in position to change their fortune, yet did so essentially operating without a safety net. The aftermath of the DeAndre Jordan reversal is the latest and best example of how damaging that approach can be.

It is at this point a beaten horse to go on about Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson's draft asset management the last decade.  Sufficed to say, Dallas has done themselves no favors there. However, this past summer, while the chaos of free agency swirled, there were perhaps some signs that the winds are changing. Dallas did not trade back or out of their draft position (a significant event for this team), and they locked up several players to long term contracts, rather than the usual batch of one or two year deals.

Losing DeAndre obviously set the team back considerably, but if there's anything to glean from being in the middle, it's that it could be a whole lot worse.