Brook Lopez is gone and now things start to happen. Trading him for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov is Sean Marks’ biggest move since becoming GM.
The trade portends a few things for the Nets this offseason ... and future.
- D’Angelo Russell is the point guard of the future for the Brooklyn Nets. Jeremy Lin has only one year left on his deal before he can opt out of his three-year, $36 million deal. It’s a given he will. It seems unlikely that the Nets would trade Lin, but they’re certainly preparing for life without him after this year. Kenny Atkinson now has two very useful and young assets to develop for the future in Russell and Caris LeVert — the future of Brooklyn’s backcourt.
- Milos Teodosic is out of the picture now that the Nets have Russell. The Nets have made it a point to find playmaking guards who can play multiple positions. In a point guard heavy league it’s almost a necessity. With Russell, they have four guys under contract that can play the point in Lin, Russell, LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead. That doesn't include Spencer Dinwiddie or Sean Kilpatrick who both have team options.
- This move almost assures the Nets will take a big at the draft on Thursday. Whether they move up or not, they only have two true centers under contract for next season: Timofey Mozgov and Justin Hamilton. They have several players big enough to play either small forward or power forward, but they're undersized, but even with a position-less, small-ball style of play, they need height.
- The Nets still have enough money to throw a big offer sheet to the likes of Otto Porter or now less likely Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Expect that to happen, but both will have other offers no doubt. So the first step will be convincing them to sign the sheet, then getting it past the ownership in Washington or Detroit.
- The trade adds another very young player to the roster. Russell is just 21-years-old, the youngest player on the team. He’ll have a chance to grow and shine in Brooklyn under Kenny Atkinson. He joins a cast of the building blocks under 24-years-old, including third-year player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead. It will be six players under 24 if they decide to retain Dinwiddie and Archie Goodwin, which at this point is expected.
Among under contract for next season, the average age of the Nets is currently 25-years-old. It’s likely that more moves will be made. They’ll have $30 million to spend even with Mozgov on the books.
Here’s a look at a projected rotation before the Nets add a player in the Draft, make any other moves or act on team options.
ROTATION (GUARANTEED CONTRACTS)
PG: Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell, Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert
SG: D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
SF: Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson,
PF: Trevor Booker, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Andrew Nicholson, Justin Hamilton
C: Timofey Mozgov, Justin Hamilton
The Nets have to make decisions on several players including: Dinwiddie, Goodwin, Quincy Acy, K.J. McDaniels, Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris. All played well in their time with the team, but it’s unlikely that all are kept.
Even with the trade, the Nets have more than $30 million in cap space. The trade save them $1.8 million this summer, the net between what Lopez will earn and the deals for Russell and Mozgov.
From Day One, Sean Marks figured this is a long-term rebuild. The main question he and Kenny Atkinson ask themselves is how they can build a winning culture... without the winning part. Unloading Lopez was like taking the cork out of a bottle. The rebuild is now in full gear. Free agents know the team is a few years away from contending for anything.
All that said, this looks like a steal for Marks. It isn’t easy to eat the contract of Mozgov, but if the Nets figure they won’t contend for another year or two, they can afford to spend Mikhail Prokhorov’s money strategically if it brings them assets. In this case, Lopez is an expiring contract who could have cost them close to a max contract. He’s also 29-years-old with a history of foot injuries. D’Angelo Russell, on the other hand, is 21-years-old with unlimited potential.
Marks used Prokhorov’s financial resources, a draft pick from the swap of Celtics picks and a veteran asset to get what he wanted. This makes the Bojan Bogdanovic trade all that more important. Remember, the 22nd pick, the only pick the Nets currently have, was acquired by Marks in a deadline deal. It would have been much more difficult for the Nets to do the Laker deal without the cushion of the 22nd pick.
It’s simple: With the Nets’ dismal draft pick situation the trade seems like a no-brainer. This is a shot they had to take.
The question: We all know D’Angelo Russell can ball. But he has a past filled with finding his name in the headlines. Will this be a thing in Brooklyn? If so, will Sean Marks tolerate it? Doubtful. This is a big opportunity for Russell to take Brooklyn by storm.
We hope character issues don’t plague the ultimate outcome.
It’s unlikely that Marks is done. Caris LeVert is nearly untouchable, but everybody else is essentially up for grabs for the right price. Trevor Booker is an expiring contract and they have the 22nd pick. There’s always a chance they bundle the pick and an asset and try to move up.
We’ll find out shortly. But for now, the new chapter includes getting younger and spending money strategically. Oh, and bulk up on guards.