A league-best won-loss turnaround only goes so far. The Brooklyn Nets ranked just 21st out of 30 NBA teams in ESPN's annual "Future Power Rankings," (Insider) with a Future Power Rating of 541, down seven spots from last year's ranking. They rank just one spot ahead of the Orlando Magic, the team that finished the season with the worst record in basketball.
The Future Power Rankings assess five separate markers of success -- "Players," "Management," "Money," "Market," and "Draft," weigh the importance of each (Players matter much more than any other designation), and rank each team based on how well they're set up for the future in each category.
The Nets ranked 11th in "players," meaning that in terms of pure talent, the panel concluded that the Nets have the 11th-best roster in the league going forward. Here's what Amin Elhassan, who wrote the Nets capsule, had to say about the players:
There is very little upside to their talent other than Brook Lopez. What you see is what you can expect to continue to get from the majority of contributors on this team. That was and remains good enough to get the Nets into the playoffs, but it's not quite the star-studded roster that Nets fans hoped they were getting. Now, after firing Avery Johnson and choosing not to retain P.J. Carlesimo, the Nets must find a coach who can motivate and extract the most out of the existing roster.
While the Nets ranked fourth in "Market" -- understandable, since Brooklyn has an enormous populace and a cultural cachet that few other markets have -- it's all downhill from there.
The Nets also ranked just 23rd in "Management," indicating that the ESPN panel doesn't have a lot of trust in Nets general manager Billy King or owner Mikhail Prokhorov to make the savvy deals necessary in their current situation.
The Nets ranked 29th out of the 30 teams in "Money," not because Prokhorov doesn't have it by the ushankaload, but because he can't spend it. The Nets are deep in the luxury tax with their current roster without much wiggle room to make moves. Without major, unexpected moves, they can't spend more than the taxpayer exception in each offseason for the next few years in free agency, which amounts to three years and almost $10 million this year and grows in small increments each year.
The only major moves they can make are on the trade market, and that would require someone desiring one of the team's large deals. This year, that would be Kris Humphries and his expiring contract worth $12 million.
One place their money might help is in the draft. The Nets ranked just 26th out of the 30 teams in "Draft," thanks to the fact that they've traded their second-round pick in four of the next five drafts, but the Nets have up to $3 million to spend in each season to facilitate trades. Teams will often sell their second-round picks purely for cash, and if the Nets see a player they like, they've shown a willingness to buy a pick -- they bought the 54th pick last season from the Philadelphia 76ers to select Tornike Shengelia. Not much, but it's something.
The Nets own the 22nd pick this year. They have their first-round pick in each of the next five drafts (though the Atlanta Hawks have the right to swap picks with them in 2014 and 2015). Since they're expected to be in the playoffs through at least 2015-16 with their current roster, those picks will likely be in the bottom half of the first round.
For what it's worth: the New York Knicks rank 25th.