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A (begrudging) look at latest ESPN rankings

We swore a year ago that we would not post too many season projections, predictions, rankings, et cetera when September came around again. There are plenty of news stories about things that are happening now, not what might happen in the future.

On the other hand, we don’t want to ignore them, so here’s a couple of ESPN rankings from the last week or two we thought we’d share.

First is Zach Lowe’s League Pass rankings, that is, his 1-through-30 on a team’s watchability. It combines the team’s actual on-court possibilities, individual highlight potential, style of play, minutiae — announcers and uni designs, as well as the potential for unintentional comedy.

Last season, the Nets were No. 30. This season, the Brooklyns have jumped to 22!!! Ahead of the Knicks, the Kings, the Hornets, etc., etc. Here’s Lowe’s assessment...

We did not trigger the Ian Eagle Corollary, which calls for an artificial deduction if the Nets finish too high after their automatic perfect-10 in the Minutia category. This feels right for a frisky young team that will go all-out, run like hell, and bomb from deep.

D'Angelo Russell gets a fresh start, and he has both the creativity and the vision to be a plus playmaker if he kicks his addiction to points. He whips the ball ahead in transition, and should do well in Kenny Atkinson's go-go system. The rock will fly when Russell and Jeremy Lin play (and probably start) together.

The Nets don't have a traditional big man who can open the court like Brook Lopez did, but if DeMarre Carroll beats out Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at power forward, they should be able to stash three shooters around Lin and Russell pick-and-rolls with Timofey Mozgov.

There are fun bit players, too. Caris Levert feels the game. Isaiah Whitehead dribbles with a snappy, hunched staccato that keeps defenders off-balance, and has the strength to power through obstacles at the rim.

Quincy Acy smashes stuff. Trevor Booker shoves dudes out of the way for offensive rebounds, and chases people down in transition; his sheer effort seems to unnerve opponents.

Give the Nets a chance!

Then, there’s Bobby Marks et al’s assessment of where NBA teams might stand in three years. (It had to be updated Monday after all the late breaking news since its first iteration a few weeks back. Sometimes, predicting is subject to change.)

To determine the Future Power Rankings, Marks and Kevin Pelton rated each team in five categories. For an explanation of each category and a full view of how each team did in each individual category, click here or let us list them for you: players, management, money, market, and draft. The Players category represented most of the marks (pun intended).

Last year, the Nets were next to last on this list a year ago (after being dead last in the last three years of Billy King’s tenure). Again, they’ve moved up to (drum roll) No. 27! The Nets made their biggest jump in the draft, skyrocketing to No. 20.

Here’s Bobby Marks’ assessment...

There is a light at the end of the tunnel in Brooklyn. For the first time in three seasons, the Nets are not ranked last or next-to-last in the Future Power Rankings. The move up to No. 27 is from a combination of timing, shrewd management and flexibility.

Brooklyn still finds itself toward the bottom based on a roster of developing draft picks (Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen) and new players (Timofey Mozgov, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and especially D'Angelo Russell) looking for a fresh start.

The offseason additions took a bite out of the Nets' future cap space, though flexibility remains to improve their roster in free agency. The Nets could have $30 million in room next year and close to $60 million the following year.

Brooklyn has cracked the top 15 in management for the first time. Sean Marks has proved to be one of the most aggressive and creative GMs in the NBA. After being shut out of the free agent market in the previous two summers, Marks has found a way to build the Nets through the trade front while also acquiring future assets.

Even without their own first-round pick next June (traded to Cleveland via Boston), Brooklyn is likely to have two picks in the top 40, a first rounder from Toronto and second from the Pacers. With the Boston trade a soon-to-be-distant memory (or nightmare), Brooklyn will have the opportunity in future years to add an impact player in the draft, something they have not been able to do in previous Junes.

For the record, the teams behind the Nets this year are in descending order, the Hawks, Kings and Bulls. Okay, we can deal with it, but we really must take umbrage with the ranking of the Nets market at No. 6, behind the Lakers, Warriors, Knicks, Clippers and Rockets. No matter how you slice it, Brooklyn is part of the NBA’s largest market (by far).

So there, we’ve fulfilled our obligation until the final projections come out just before the Nets and Pacers take to the court in 16 days.