Do the Nets have the worst future in the league?
It’s that time of year again, when the NBA is close enough to starting that you can taste it but far enough away that we’re still wondering what’ll happen in years beyond. Enter ESPN.com’s “Future Power Rankings,” where ESPN’s Amin Elhassan, Chad Ford, Tom Haberstroh, and Kevin Pelton try to parse which teams will fare after the 2014-2015 season. The four panelists gave their rankings from 1-100 on five points: “players,” “management,” “market,” “draft,” and “money.”
Let’s get this out of the way now: the Nets rank dead last, with an average score of 27.04. Most of that came from their “market,” which was rated a 79, but brought down by their “draft” (7) and “money” (9) ratings.
From Elhassan, who wrote the Nets report:
This is Russian for “welcome to the basement!” — which is where the Ghosts of Bad Decisions Past have banished the Nets to for the foreseeable future. When they gave pick-swap rights to Atlanta for the right to overpay Joe Johnson, we said in unison, “No!”
When they gave up all those unprotected first-rounders for the last gasps of Kevin Garnett,Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, we all cried, “Don’t do it!” When their luxury tax dwarfed the total payroll of every other NBA team, we collectively face-palmed.
But it didn’t matter, as the Nets steamrolled their way to a team destined to be a second-round knockout, doubling down on an aging roster with limited upside. Add onto that Lawrence Frank debacle a month into last season, and the failed coup (and eventual departure) by Jason Kidd this summer, and it’s easy to place the Nets among the most dysfunctional franchises in the NBA. As a result, here they are, with no cap respite until 2016, a depleted pick inventory and no blue-chip talent outside of the oft-injured Brook Lopez.
Ouch. Elhassan pulls no punches and he doesn’t have to, although the cries of confusion over the Johnson deal reek of revisionist history. The Nets gave up next to nothing for Johnson, who’s been inarguably the team’s best player over the last two seasons, and the pick-swapping might turn a mid-first round pick into a later mid-first round pick this year. No one’s trading Joe Cool back for that, even with his ridiculous contract.
That aside, it’s hard to disagree with the larger points. The Nets did give up three unprotected first-round picks for one year of Paul Pierce, an aged Kevin Garnett, and a piece they later flipped for Marcus Thornton, which they later flipped for Jarrett Jack. It seemed like a good idea at the time, before the Nets fell to 10-21 in the first two months of last season.
But this is how the Nets were put together from the start. They were never supposed to have a future in this iteration of the roster. The Nets aren’t built like a young team looking to grow, or a collection of superstars trying to win a championship. They’re just on the cusp of competing, one or two stars short of a top contender. That’s what a year of trying to trade for Carmelo Anthony was for, and then the year hoping for Dwight Howard. The Nets threw all their eggs in one basket, and a couple eggs cracked, leaving the entire basket a yolky mess. Their current roster is above average (we think), their draft picks are persona non grata, and their future is indecipherable.
That’s been the point this whole time! This team was built to try to win now. They didn’t, and now they’re sweeping up after the mess they’ve made, saving LeBron-like money by letting Pierce go and re-tooling with some youth infusions. The only players slated to stick beyond the 2015-16 season (not counting this season’s second-round picks) are Bojan Bogdanovic, Deron Williams, Mason Plumlee, and maybe Sergey Karasev. Beyond that they’ve got nothing but cap space, cap space that could increase by eight figures once the NBA’s new TV deal kicks in. That’s a lot of money that the Nets could throw around in the future, more than a 9 out of 100 grade might indicate.
So the irony of this ranking is that, yes, these Nets currently have the worst future in the league. That’s because that was the plan all along.
ESPN (Insider) — Future Power Rankings