It is far too early to do this, right? It’s not the midway point of the season or the trade deadline or his first anniversary as Nets GM or the last day of the regular season. The only milestone is that we have now played 10 percent of the season and the Nets are doing well. So why not a Sean Marks Report Card?
Here ya go, starting with February of last season, when he took over a bad team right up through this week. It’s based mainly on the value each move brought to the team. Enjoy. So far, we have.
—Buying out Andrea Bargnani days after taking the job. (A) Bargnani wanted out. The Nets wanted him gone and his roster spot open. Marks negotiated a deal that paid him $324,000 on this season’s player option. Set the tone for Marks culture change.
—Buying out Joe Johnson, permitting him to sign with a contender ... after giving back $3 million in salary (B+). It was a big loss in that Johnson was a fan favorite, the last vestige of Mikhail Prokhorov’s plan to win now with superstars. Of course, he opened things up for players like Bojan Bogdanovic and Sean Kilpatrick. And $3 million is $3 million.
--Signing Sean Kilpatrick to a three-year deal, starting with the end of last season. (A). The Nets decided to sign the D-League's leading scorer after giving him two 10-day contracts. He's guaranteed vets minimum money this year and next year. It's turning into a real bargain. Kilpatrick is the highest scoring NBA reserve so far this season and has filled in nicely at the point after everyone else went down.
--Hiring Kenny Atkinson as head coach A+ See Pooch's assessment of Atkinson following Saturday's win over the Suns. No need to go into details.
--Restructuring the front office with 29 new hires, with new emphasis on performance, analytics, development, sports science in general. (A) Big turnover with out-of-the box thinking. Seven of the 29, according to our analysis, are from Spurs "tree," meaning a direct hire from San Antonio or a staffer who worked under Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford.
--Re-establishing the D-League presence. (A) Started under Billy King, but Marks decided against hiring King cronies who he brought in as scouts last season --two 60- year-olds who had worked with and for him -- and instead hired Ronald Nored, 25, and Ryan Gomes, 33, to lead the team. The two are viewed as development projects, just like their players.
--Draft Night Trade I: Thaddeus Young to Indiana for rights to Caris LeVert and protected second round pick. (B+). Young was popular, a solid presence on and off the court and the Nets took a chance on an oft-injured if top-notch college player who no one had projected in the first round. The trade also resulted in a $12.57 million salary cap bonus, the net between Young's salary and LeVert's. That permitted Marks to sign Trevor Booker ($9 million) and Justin Hamilton ($3 million) and tender offer sheets to Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe. Booker is younger than Young.
--Draft Night Trade II: Sending the 55th pick and $3 million in cash to Utah for the rights to Isaiah Whitehead. (B) The Nets have invested a lot in the Big East Tournament’s most outstanding player, $3 million to buy his rights, then agreeing to pay him first round money, $5 million over four years, more than $2 million guaranteed. The first Brooklyn Net from Brooklyn, he initially looked like a deer in the headlights, but after Jeremy Lin went down, he filled in nicely. The youngest Net at 21.
--Signed Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $36 million deal, with third year a player option. (B+). Lin played well before going down with a hamstring strain which is likely to force him to miss 10 or more games. Lin's contract is reasonable and his relationship with Kenny Atkinson enhances his skillset and value. Lin has also proven himself a leader, constantly in the ear of players like Isaiah Whitehead and Yogi Ferrell. And his leadership is not limited to the area within the lines. There’s a reason he’s top 3 in social media influence.
--Signed Justin Hamilton to a two year, $6 million contract. (A) WHo? What? was the reaction of most fans when the Nets got an agreement from Hamilton who had played in Spain for Valencia last season. In fact, he was the second signing reported, right after Lin. Turned out to be a sleeper move. The 26-year-old (younger than Sean Kilpatrick or Bojan Bogdanovic) is the Nets leading three point shooter who's been an ideal back-up for Brook Lopez. Who knew?
--Signed Trevor Booker to a two year, $18.38 million contract (A). Again, a solid pick-up but one most fans didn't "get" early on. Voted "Best Teammate" by the Jazz players, he's proven that he can start at the 4 after spending most of his time coming off the bench in Washington and Utah. He's averaging close to a double-double and has proven a solid clutch player late in games.
--Tendered offer sheets to Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe, which were matched by the Heat and and Blazers (C). You can call it a D or an F if you like, but the offer sheets told the league that the Nets are serious about rebuilding, willing to take risks, spend big bucks to acquire young stars. If the two teams did not match, the Nets would be at the salary cap, rather than $18.6 million under. Dodged a bullet? Doubt it. Johnson is playing well in Miami and although Crabbe is caught in the Blazers' backcourt log jam, he's still got great potential.
--Signed Greivis Vasquez to one-year, $4.35 million contract, a Plan B move after Heat matched on Johnson. (D) Coming off ankle surgery, Vasquez suffered continuous pain, had to drop out of the Olympics and ultimately was waived after playing 39 minutes in three games. He'll undergo more surgery. The Nets loved what he brought to the locker room, but had to dump him. How much was known about his ankle before hand?
--Signed Luis Scola to a one-year, $5 million deal, with $500,000 in incentives. (B-). He is another international player with a legendary work ethic, even at 36. Young players admit he inspires them with it. How much does he have left? He has played well enough in limited minutes. Was he signed to be traded to a contender at the deadline? Good question.
--Signed Joe Harris to a two-year, vets minimum deal, with second year a team option. (B+). Last season, Billy King signed four players to two-year, vets minimum or near vets minimum deals, with the second year a player option: Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and Thomas Robinson. This season, Marks signed four players two-year, vets minimum deals with TEAM options: Sean Kilpatrick, Joe Harris, Anthony Bennett and Yogi Ferrell. Harris is a good example of why that's the smart move. Harris, it turns out, is not just a good shooter, but a smart player at both ends of the court. In limited minutes, he's averaging 10 points and three rebounds. Knows what to do in end-of-game situations. 25 years old.
--Signed Anthony Bennett to a two-year, vets minimum deal, with second year, a team option (C-). Nets aren't getting much out of Bennett so far, but they have time and patience. If he works out, great; if not, they can dump him or deal him as ballast in a trade. Compare what the Nets did with Bennett this year and what they did with Bargnani last year. They had Bennett in for more than two weeks, looking him over, working him out. They facilitated him joining the Canadian national team so he could get some summer playing time, even visited him in Italy. Then, they signed him. King signed Bargnani hours after he expressed interest in the Nets. Bennett is 23.
--Signed Randy Foye to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. (C) Plan B again. He's not going to give you big games at age 33, but he's terrific with the kids, like Whitehead and Ferrell and can fill in at the point, which turns out to be critical. Could be another trade deadline deal.
--Waived and bought out Greivis Vasquez, then called up Yogi Ferrell from Long Island, signing him to a two-year, partially guaranteed, vets minimum deal with a team option on year two. (INC). Vasquez needs surgery and the Nets needed a point guard. Ferrell, who played with the Nets in summer league and preseason, being the last man cut in October, doesn't need to learn anything new. He'll get limited minutes, then likely will return to the D-League until needed again. But with an NBA contract, Ferrell is now Nets property. He can pass and he can shoot. He needs to be better on D.
There's a lot of other things we can grade Marks on, like the guys he pursued but couldn't get to consider the Nets. The names are well known, guys like Kent Bazemore, Sergio Rodriguez, Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford, Dwight Powell, Jared Dudley. (The Nets inability to get Kevin Durant to sit down with them, despite all their connections to him, was a real wake-up call.) He could have taken a look at Brandon Jennings, who's turned out to be a better bet at back-up than Vasquez. On the other hand, we could go down the list of 29 staff hires and note how smart some of them are, starting with Trajan Langdon, the assistant GM.
The bottom line is that Marks deserves an A+ (so far) for changing the culture. The Nets had a long list of other assets --New York, Barclays Center, the HSS Training Center, an ownership with a proven record of spending money-- but it wasn't enough.
What Marks has brought is a professionalism that people notice, particularly players. As Lin has said, no organization he's been with has treated players as well as the Nets do. The Nets hope their surprising (so far) record, their changed culture will make next year's free agents --and the free agents after that-- think about Brooklyn as a place to play.