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Getting beyond lost picks with creativity, development, DLo


The Nets had their assistant GM, Trajan Langdon, and other scouts at the just completed Eurobasket. They dutifully made notes and filed reports on Luka Doncic, the 6’7” Slovenian wunderkind who could be the top pick in next June’s Draft.

They’ll do the same with Michael Porter, Mo Bamba, and Marvin Bagley III, the other preseason candidates for the No. 1 slot. But it will be for nought. The Nets 2018 pick was sent away nearly five years go in the ill-fated Boston trade, the final payment other than fans’ heartache, in that deal.

The trade led to Billy King being dumped by Mikhail Prokhorov and Sean Marks being hired. It hangs over the franchise to this day and may for a long, long time as the players taken with those picks mature, perhaps become NBA All-Stars.

Marks doesn’t like to talk about the deal, the lost picks, or his predecessor. It’s “sunk costs,” he’s said in the past. He and the organization can’t be bothered by “what-if’s.”

Tuesday, when asked about the 2018 pick again, tried to make light of the question. Does he think the Nets can win enough games to devalue the pick, now in Cavs hands?

“Had you not told me where that pick went, I wouldn’t have known. I mean, it’s not our pick right,” Marks joked before launching into his mantra on the situation.

“So, if I focus on what could have been, I wouldn’t be here, Kenny wouldn’t be here. Our focus is on what we have right in front of us is those 15 guys. I’d be doing them a complete disservice if I was focused on what Boston’s gonna do with that pick. What Cleveland’s gonna do with that pick. Our focus is on those guys at hand and they appreciate that.”

The last line was a bit new. Marks said by not talking about the trade’s consequences internally, it removes a distraction for his players. They’re not Jaylen Brown or Markelle Fultz or Luka Doncic.

Marks and Atkinson did say that the lack of picks has forced them to be a bit more thoughtful, putting a bit more pressure on Kenny Atkinson, the scouts, the analytics team (both of whom he regularly praises) to get the most out of what assets he and the organization have.

“We’re going to be creative the whole way along here,” he told the assembled media. “We know we’re a long ways from where we want to get to. It just goes back to being fluid and seeing what happens over the course of the next one, two, three years. See how this team develops, how certain pieces of the team develops, how they get along and how they mix, and we’ll go from there.”

Atkinson likes the progress.

“I feel the momentum of this organization and where we’re going. I feel really good about it. Obviously we want that to translate into results, there’s no doubt about it,” said the coach.

So Marks and Atkinson are not pushing regrets or excuses. They can’t. It’s about development and finding players like D’Angelo Russell, who is younger than half the players drafted back in June and younger than 40 of the 60 players the Nets worked out prior to the draft.

“I’m obviously a big proponent of development and the guy next to me, that’s what he does,” said Marks. “So, it’s how he develops these guys over the course of the year. They buy in, they bought in last year, they buy in this year and you’re seeing guys, that progress throughout the year. I’m more excited about that.”

As for Russell, Marks said his development is going to be about maturity, managing expectations, getting along, etc. But there’s no doubt, he’s seen as the way out.

“So with D’Angelo, we’ve had candid conversations with [him] just like we’ve had with all of our guys. It’s Kenny and myself, it’s the coaching staff with him,” said Marks.

“And D’Angelo knows the expectations of him. He wants to come in here, he has a chip on his shoulder, he knows defensively he’s got to get better, but he’s got to get better at a lot of different things. His all-around game.

“We all know that he makes players better. He’s got a high basketball I.Q. Now how does he take that on the court with a new group of guys that he’s never played with before and how do they develop trust together.”

Marks, and particularly Atkinson, talked about their own pick, Jarrett Allen, and where he can be. They are very high on him, too. Marks at one point implied he’s one of the organization’s “core” players.

Both men know, but won’t say, this year is a very big deal in their long-term plan to get past the events of June 2013. Since the end of last season, they added players who are 19, 21, 25, first round pick equivalents. More importantly, they’re looking for big development from others.

And so, the big issue this season —their last without a pick of their own— is not how much they will miss getting Doncic or Porter or Bamba or Bagley. It will be about how much Russell and Allen and Crabbe, et al. develop.