Once again, a NBA team is at the top of ESPN’s annual Ultimate Standings. This time, the defending NBA champion Spurs have taken the top spot from the surprising Grizzlies in last year’s rankings.
San Antonio obviously has a shiny new ring and trophy to add to their collection. That certainly helps. But the Spurs also finished in the top-20 in every category ESPN studied. They were first in Fan Relations, Ownership, Players and Coaching. The way Peter Holt and Gregg Popovich have built things and the sustained success they have experienced with virtually the same core now for pretty much a decade. There is obviously a deep connection with the fans.
The only thing lacking is the Stadium Experience at AT&T Center. And they still finished 18th. The Spurs have also kept things affordable. It is no wonder that the Spurs are always near the top of these standings.
As Peter Keating of ESPN the Magazine wrote, the Spurs understand their market and understand the task they have to accomplish on the court and succeed at both:
You know that the Spurs do a great job of finding undervalued talent. You might not know: During the 2011 draft, San Antonio offered to trade George Hill, a Gregg Popovich favorite, to Indiana if a mystery player were still available at the 15th pick. Indiana took the deal; the Spurs took the pick. That player was Kawhi Leonard. You know that the Big Three are playing at a discount. You might not know: Over the entire history of the NBA luxury tax, the Spurs have paid $12,597,554 in penalties, less than Charlotte paid Ben Gordon last year to shoot 34 percent in 19 games.
Plus, they have the cheapest hot dogs in the NBA at $3. Buy me one.
The NBA has four of the top-10 franchises in American sports with the Grizzlies (last year’s No. 1 came in at No. 4 this year), the Thunder (No. 7) and the Mavericks (No. 9) also finishing well.
The worst franchise in the NBA is, somewhat surprisingly, the New York Knicks.
The Knicks finished 121 out of 122 teams.
Certainly the team’s disappointing finish played a role. But so too did very poor fan relations and players. The Knicks just do not have a lot going for them. Maybe Phil Jackson‘s vision will change things as James Dolan at least says he will take a step back. The team needs to keep rebuilding though with Carmelo Anthony as a centerpiece and every other piece seemingly up in the air. It is hard to tell what the future holds for the Knicks.
All that we know is the last year has been an absolute mess for the organization and franchise as high hopes have cratered into disappointment.
At least the Knicks do not disappoint like the nationally celebrated Toronto Maple Leafs. Canada’s most scrutinized hockey team is last among the American sports.
The Anaheim Ducks of the NHL and the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks finished second and third in the standings.