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    Default Ultimate Standings: Indiana Pacers #4

    Bang For The Buck (BNG): Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.

    Fan Relations (FRL): Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.

    Ownership (OWN): Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.

    Affordability (AFF): Price of tickets, parking and concessions.

    Stadium Experience (STX): Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.

    Players (PLA): Effort on the field and likability off it.

    Coaching (CCH): Strength of on-field leadership.

    Title Track (TTR): Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.
    By Max Klinger | ESPN The Magazine

    Last year's rank: 48
    Title track: 66
    Ownership: 18
    Coaching: 25
    Players: 16
    Fan relations: 20
    Affordability: 3
    Stadium experience: 15
    Bang for the buck: 3

    The lockout meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but for the Pacers the resulting collective bargaining agreement was the reaffirmation of a specific management philosophy. In light of the CBA changes, the Pacers' brand of small ball suddenly seemed less like a toss of the dice and more like the strategy of the future for small-market clubs. It's a simple strategy but not easily duplicated: precise draft picks (Granger, Hibbert, George), prudent trades (Barbosa) and prescient free agent signings (West). That's how the Pacers created the kind of chemistry that took them to the Eastern Conference semifinals (their first since 2005) with the third-lowest payroll in the league. With a smaller front office and less money, they simply can't afford the toe-tapping free agent games that other big-market teams can, and what has resulted is a finely calibrated personnel strategy. The Pacers could be the Eastern Conference version of the Thunder, only leaner, cheaper and more efficient (the Thunder have the 14th-lowest payroll; the Pacers have the 28th). And this homespun management style has caught on well with the plainspoken basketball fans of Indiana. It helps that the Pacers were voted the most affordable team in the NBA. It also means that categories like ownership, coaching and players received 40-plus point boosts in our poll. With the new CBA set to start showing its teeth in the years to come, the Pacers are set up to be the franchise of the future.

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