No. 81: Portland Trail Blazers

Ultimate Standings 2012

Updated: September 6, 2012, 6:02 PM ET
By Andy Kamenetzky | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 31
Title track: 89
Ownership: 84
Coaching: 118
Players: 87
Fan relations: 68
Affordability: 59
Stadium experience: 52
Bang for the buck: 88

The Portland Trail Blazers tumbled a whopping 50 spots in our rankings, but the free fall is hardly shocking. As much as any city, Portland takes its identity from the Trail Blazers -- and it clearly didn't like what stared back in the mirror. To begin with, the team lost a face and heart in Brandon Roy. His exit (via the amnesty provision) coincided with a team collectively losing its spirit, and the squad eventually was dismantled down to the studs at the trade deadline (coach Nate McMillan included). The postseason was predictably missed, putting an ugly stamp on the campaign. "The loss of Brandon Roy was an absolute killer," says Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge. "He was as popular as any Blazer in decades ... The 2011-12 team was, at times, despised for their lack of effort and for quitting on their coach."

In addition to being soulless, the Blazers also seemed headless. They operated without an official general manager for the entire 2011-12 season. Ex-president Larry Miller alienated himself from the fan base with, as Golliver puts it, "public bumbling and broken promises," before his eventual resignation. As for owner Paul Allen, he was reportedly among the hardest of hard-line owners during the lockout -- which didn't endear him to the fan base -- and spent less time around the team than during the previous few seasons. Figuring out who's calling the shots in that environment can be difficult. Then again, when the decisions are so unpopular, does it really matter? "The level of investment of the average fan in Portland is significantly higher than the average fan in many NBA markets," notes Golliver. "The failures of ownership and management are magnified in that environment."