Every six months or so, an ESPN panel ranks the NBA’s 30 teams through the prism of its Future Power Rankings. It’s a determination based on projected on-court success expected for each team over the next three seasons: 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24. Back in May, the Nets, based on the availability of their “Big Three,” were ranked No. 1 for the first time in the rankings’ 12-year history.
Now, despite all the injuries, illnesses and (current) controversies, ESPN hasn’t moved them off their perch. They still top the list … going forward, as they say. That said, there is one bit of controversy. Nets management, defined as the “quality and stability of front office, ownership and coaching,” are tied with the Clippers, whose owner is the richest man in sports, for seventh.
First, here’s the explanation of why the four-man ESPN panel thinks Brooklyn is ranked No. 1. Per Tim Bontemps…
It should come as little surprise that the Brooklyn Nets remain atop these rankings. They feature the Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving and enter the season as the clear title favorites. The Nets were predictably strong in the player category, having the top rank there, while finishing third in market and eighth in management. Predictably, they were also at the bottom of the league in money (29th) and draft (28th), having positioned themselves to be deep in the tax with few draft picks left under their control. Although the uncertainty over Irving’s availability hangs over the franchise, the Nets are still positioned to be the favorite, or one of them, to win the title each of the next three seasons.
Makes sense and considering when Sean Marks et al took over in 2016, they were ranked at the bottom, why quibble?
For the most part, the breakdown of where the Nets stand is pretty non-controversial. They are ranked No. 1 in players, No. 3 in market (behind the Lakers and Knicks, but ahead of the Heat and Clippers) and way down in the rankings for money (No. 29) — meaning cap space — and the Draft (No. 28) — which as we laid out recently is what it is.
But is the Joe Tsai – Sean Marks – Steve Nash combination really the seventh/eighth best management team in the NBA? After the last five years? ESPN ranks the Heat, Raptors, Bucks, Nuggets, Thunder and Lakers ahead of them. There’s no explanation of the relative rankings, but looking at the list of teams above them, we see teams that have been historically loathe to go over the luxury tax threshold, are undercapitalized or are hesitant to spend big on player amenities like training facilities and venues, none of which the Nets can be accused of.
The Nets didn’t respond to the rankings, but Irina Pavlova, Mikhail Prokhorov’s one-time rep in Brooklyn, took issue with the management assessment on Twitter. She’s qualified. It was Pavlova who pushed for Marks hiring and was responsible for getting the $52 million HSS Training Center sited and built (luckily as a “private office building,” if you get our drift.) She took no prisoners…
My ranking of the top 10 most reliable NBA sources:
10. Disney/ESPN https://t.co/yI1Cb0MLMk
— Irina Pavlova (@TheRealPavlova) October 11, 2021
The whole exercise is likely to be forgotten as things play out over the next three years. Either they win it one, two or three of those years … or they don’t. They have to play the games, starting in 13 days. So does every team.
Overall, the Bucks and Lakers rank Nos. 2 and 3. The Knicks are 12th. Who now sits at No. 30, the place the Nets called home for a couple of years? The Cleveland Cavaliers.
- NBA Future Power Rankings: Predicting best, worst franchises – ESPN+
- NBA Future Power Rankings: Full scores by category – ESPN+