It's been a month since the Nets announced they had signed Sean Marks as their new GM, essentially a surprise move. A lot of people believed the Nets would go with the flashy choice, Bryan Colangelo, or even an experienced, if tarnished, piece in Danny Ferry.
Instead, the committee put together by Mikhail Prokhorov unanimously recommended Marks and reportedly gave him carte blanche to re-do the Nets. How's he done in his first month.
For openers, it was hectic. Marks made four moves, five if you count the 10-day and multi-year deal with Sean Kilpatrick. There was no big moves ... he was named five hours before the trade deadline, just a series of steady moves that bore out what he said his plans were: changing the culture, taking intermediate steps, going for diamonds in the rough to replace draft picks. And that's what we are aware of.
We grade each move...
Buy out Andrea Bargnani (A+)
The 30-year-old seven-footer wasn't playing much under either Lionel Hollins or Tony Brown and when he did play, he was awful, particularly on defense. Because Billy King had signed Bargnani to a guaranteed second year, with a player option, Marks had to work a deal that kept as little as possible of Bargnani's deal on next year's cap. He succeeded. Only $323,599 of Bargnani's $1.6 million guarantee remains on next year's deal.
Added benefit: Bargnani wanted out and the Nets were only too happy to accommodate him. The move freed up a roster spot.
Buy out Joe Johnson (A)
Johnson, the oldest Net at 34, had played well after Brown replaced Hollins and set the offense free, but this is a guy with a lot of pride and a string of eight straight playoff appearances. He had that monster contract which the Nets could not move (although they considered a deal with Memphis over the summer). Johnson was willing to give up $3 million on his $24.9 million deal, which permitted the Nets to make some small moves -- without worrying about the luxury tax threshold. Prior to the Bargnani and Johnson buyouts, the Nets were only $1.4 million below the luxury tax --and repeater tax-- threshold. After those two post-deadline deals, the Nets had a $4.7 million cushion and two roster spots.
Added benefit: the professionalism of the deal, with no wrangling, no publicity, established Marks, a neophyte in the GM's chair, as someone agents could deal with. And of course, it opened a second roster spot.
Sign Sean Kilpatrick, first to 10-day, then three-year deal (A+)
Three days after the Nets bought out Joe Johnson, the Nets signed Sean Kilpatrick, the D-League's top prospect, to a 10-day deal. Kilpatrick had had cups of coffee with a number of teams and most of the media were more interested in the Knicks' audition of Jimmer Fredette.
So why the high grade for an undrafted 26-year-old who had bounced around and couldn't get called up from the 76ers' D-League club? A number of reasons, starting with the results. It's always dangerous to expand on a small sample, particularly when the player arrives at the end of the season ... and plays for a lousy team. Still, Kilpatrick, a Yonkers native, looks like an NBA player. There were other reasons, too ... reasons that go to getting the most out of an audition and rewarding a solid performance.
The signing was nicely timed. The Nets played five games during Kilpatrick's first 10-day deal, giving Marks ample time to see what Kilpatrick could contribute. After those five games, Kilpatrick showed enough to earn himself a second 10-day contract, and rather than wait the full 10-days, the Nets made a deal with Kilpatrick and his agent in the middle of that second 10-day. No need to wait for formalities.
Finally, the deal protects both sides. He gets $221,000, the pro-rated portion of a vets minimum for the remainder of this year, a fully guaranteed $980,000 vets minimum for next season, and if the Nets don't waive him by June 30, 2017, he stands to make $1.05 million, the vets minimum again, in 2017-18, at a team option. If he works out, it's a great bargain. If not, he's an end-of-the-bencher next season with a deal that will amount to about one percent of the projected salary cap. Bobby Marks (no relation) noted that Sean Marks used part of the MLE the Nets had left over to make it a three-year, rather than a two-year, deal.
Added benefit: Marks said he would look to the D-League as well as overseas to make up for the lost draft picks. It's going to be difficult to make up for the loss of a high lottery pick this June. But if he can find enough gems like Kilpatrick --and strike it rich, it's a big step.
Hire Trajan Langdon as assistant GM (B+)
Surprise. A lot of people thought Marks might go for a more experienced NBA type as his No. 2, but instead went back to the San Antonio tree and selected Langdon, who has even less experience that he has. Langdon and Marks had worked together on the Spurs staff for two years before Langdon joined the Cavaliers this summer in a scouting capacity.
Langdon checks a lot of boxes. He worked for the Spurs alongside Marks. He played for CSKA Moscow for years, winning two Euroleague titles when Mikhail Prokhorov owned the team and Sergey Kushchenko, a member of the Nets board, was CSKA GM. He speaks Russian! He knows a number of potential Nets coaching candidates, like Ettore Messina and David Blatt.
Where does Frank Zanini fit now? Billy King's most loyal acolyte filled in as assistant GM after King was "reassigned" in January. It's hard to imagine the Nets keeping two assistant GM's, particularly when one of them is so tied to King. It's not hard to imagine Zanin sticking around in some capacity.
Added benefit: Langdon knows overseas basketball. He was a member of the Euroleague All-Decade team, a Euroleague Final Four MVP, a three-time All-Euroleague selection, etc. He'll be able to construct a more robust overseas scouting operation.
Sign Henry Sims (B)
Sims, 25, had far more NBA experience --and far more success-- than Kilpatrick did when the Nets brought him up. Sims, a near seven-footer, has appeared in 121 games (57 starts) in parts of three seasons with New Orleans, Cleveland and Philadelphia, recording averages of 7.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 18.8 minutes per game. Sims spent the 2014-15 season with the 76ers, averaging 8.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 19.2 minutes per game in 73 games (32 starts).
Brett Brown, the former Spurs assistant who's Philly's head coach, raves about him. And it's hard to imagine that Marks didn't talk to Brown about Sims before making the decision to sign the Baltimore native.
In his first game, he played well enough, admirably even considering how little time he had to practice before taking the court. He had 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting, showing some range; eight boards and a block in 20 minutes. Also, like Kilpatrick, the Nets waited a few days to sign him so they would have five games to assess him.
Added benefit: Sims may not wind up with a multi-year deal like Kilpatrick, but if things go well, you could see him in a Nets uniform this summer in Orlando (and Las Vegas?)
Marks has apparently worked with Tony Brown to get some little used players, like 22-year-old Sergey Karasev, and 24-year-old Markel Brown some audition time, reportedly "streamlined" some bureaucratic processes --no details-- and shown some independence.
His biggest challenges, of course, are ahead. He's said he has a "short list" of coaching candidates and would like to hire a head coach "sooner rather than later." No word on who or when. There's the draft. Will he entertain offers for players on Draft Night. He's hinted he would. Free agency, too. Marks has said he's hopeful, but attracting a top flight free agent this summer will be "difficult." Not to mention the Long Island Nets. That's a top priority for this front office, as are analytics.
So, bottom line: in Sean we trust. We don't have much of a choice.