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ESPN’s Future Power Rankings put Nets at No. 19

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets-Media Day Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

In the past few years, ESPN’s Future Power Rankings have not been a cause of rejoicing. From 2015 through 2016, the Nets were dead last in the semi-annual rankings. Last October, they inched up to No. 27, even with a 20-win season following a 21-win season. Then again, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson had replaced Billy King and the Nets coach-of-the-month club, last awarded to Lionel Hollins.

Now, Kevin Pelton is back and Bobby Marks has joined him in gauging the three-year outlooks for all 30 teams. And the Nets have made a significant jump, from 27 to 19. Only the Pacers made a bigger jump. (And that kind of improvement also shows that three-year horizons can change from year-to-year.)

Yay. That eight place jump is the second highest in the rankings, which is a measure of how well ESPN’s pundits expect the team to perform in the next three years, based on a number of categories, everything from players through management, money, market, and draft picks.

The Nets rank highest in money at No. 8, no doubt the function of having two co-owners, Mikhail Prokhorov and Joe Tsai (eventually), with a combined net worth of $23 billion. ESPN ranks Brooklyn as sixth in market, 11th in management, and 16th in draft picks. Players are the lowest of the five categories, at No. 21.

In general, Bobby Marks (usual disclaimer: no relation to Sean, but 21 years with the Nets) has positive things to say about the state of the Nets...

The Nets have finally cracked the top 20.

Based largely on their young core of D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen -- four players still on their rookie contracts -- Brooklyn moves up seven spots. For the Nets to take the next step, all four players will need to develop into top-line starters.

Brooklyn also benefits from controlling its first-round pick in 2019 for the first time since drafting Mason Plumlee in 2013. In total the Nets could have six draft picks (two firsts and four seconds) over the next two seasons, and they continue to rank in the top 15 in money, market and management.

Two seasons of being in the bottom of the East should not detract from the jobs GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have done. Both essentially inherited an expansion team in 2016 and have improved the on-court product each season.

The Warriors and Celtics are ranked No. 1 and 2 and the Charlotte Hornets have taken up the Nets old place at the bottom. The Knicks come in at 24th.

ESPN is not the only site with a positive note on the Nets Wednesday. The Ringer is listing positives for teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs. For that Nets, that positive is Caris LeVert. Here’s Kevin O’Connor...

As the Nets rebuild their identity, LeVert has emerged as one of the organization’s reasons for optimism. The 23-year-old tall, lanky guard is averaging 27.1 points, 7.2 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per 100 possessions since the All-Star break with stellar scoring efficiency (55.8 effective field goal percentage, 59 true shooting). LeVert struggled to put the ball in the basket early in the season, but he demonstrated a natural feel for making the right reads, much like he did in college. Now shots are falling.

It might be hard for Nets fans to think positively about another losing season. But there aren’t too many players who are as long as LeVert who can score from all three levels, pass, and play versatile defense. Once the surrounding talent is better, LeVert’s skills will become far more appreciated.

So expect a three-game winning streak to top off the day?