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Will Nets unconventional rebuild become a model for NBA? Or another bad idea?

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Shlomo Sprung, writing for The Comeback, suggests that in an era with draft lottery reforms and less cap space than expected, Sean Marks unconventional rebuild may become a “case study” for rebuilding teams.

Sprung argues that tanking is not as good a gamble as it once was under the reforms just instituted by the NBA Board of Governors. The team with the worst record now has a smaller chance at the overall No. 1 pick.

Moreover, the dramatic rise in basketball related income in 2016 that drove the salary cap to new heights has leveled off and by some estimates, as many as half the league’s 30 teams could be in luxury tax territory next season.

Bottom line, writes Sprung...

Couple draft lottery reform with smaller increases in the NBA’s annual salary cap projections — meaning less money for teams to spend on free agents — and it’s getting harder and harder for teams in the draft and free agency, with less money for teams to spend on players on the open market. With traditional ways to rebuild getting more difficult, teams may have to devise new strategies to get ahead...

Enter Sean Marks, who was left with little of either by Billy King’s disastrous moves. He had no picks and the Nets were by no means attractive to any first-rank free agents.

Nets general manager Sean Marks, now beginning his second full season in charge of basketball operations, had to get creative in order to upgrade his roster, and did so with a two-pronged plan of taking on toxic assets and going hard after restricted free agents.

Sprung lays out the two best examples of taking on toxic assets

— Accepting Timofey Mozgov’s remaining $48 million contract as part of D’Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez (and “preseason folk hero Kyle Kuzma”), and

— Accepting DeMarre Carroll’s remaining $30 million contract to acquire Toronto’s lottery-protected first rounder and a second that should be in the 30’s.

The other part of the strategy hasn’t yielded what the Nets hoped for. The Wizards, like the Heat and Blazers before them, matched on the Nets offer sheet to Otto Porter. The “poison pill provisions” weren’t enough.

Then again, the Nets simply waited out Portland on Crabbe and got the league’s second best three point shooter for basically nothing (aka Andrew Nicholson). Brooklyn’s willingness to pay Crabbe $58 million over three years showed their offer sheet wasn’t just some punitive drill. They liked then, they like him now.

“We wanted him when we signed him to the offer sheet and we never changed,” Kenny Atkinson told Sprung. “It’s big for our organization as a statement that this is the guy we wanted.”

“A year later, they’re still in the picture trying to find a way to get me on the team. So it just shows a lot,” Crabbe added. “It shows that they’re really interested in me and that they still see me in their plans.”

Will it work? And will it change when the Nets go into a season knowing they’ll have a first rounder, as they will a year from now? Sprung writes it all depends on how Russell and Crabbe play ... and not just this season.

As the Tanking Era ends and the salary cap levels off, different team-building strategies may come into play. And based on how successful players like Crabbe and Russell end up being in Brooklyn, we’ll see over the next few years whether the Nets model can be a viable and successful approach going forward.

We shall see.