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Woj: Brooklyn in first rank of ‘getting players better’

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Leaders Sport Performance Summit New York Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for Leaders

Buried in his draft podcast this weekend with ESPN colleagues Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz, Adrian Wojnarowski talked about how agents are increasingly looking at player development —and general competence— rather than big markets in pushing their clients to certain teams.

And among those teams he cited was Brooklyn, who he noted is both a big market and a place where agents want their clients.

“There are plenty of agents who want to get their players to, hypothetically, an Oklahoma City, a Portland, a San Antonio, a Utah. Brooklyn is a big market where they’ve seen, we talked about Caris LeVert, people have seen them get young players better,” Woj said.

He was referring to how the Nets and Sean Marks were willing to take a risk on LeVert, who had had three foot surgeries at Michigan. Givony had earlier noted a conversation he had the day before the podcast with LeVert’s agent.

“He was drafted 20th,” Givony said. “But if he doesn’t go 20th to Brooklyn, he probably goes deep in the second round. I saw his agent -- I was on a plane with him yesterday and he was telling me that teams were calling him about stashing Caris LeVert in Europe for a year or two!”

The Nets of course had an advantage. Their own orthopedist, Dr. Martin O’Malley, had done the third and final surgery on LeVert’s foot, grafting a piece of his hip bone to strength his foot. (Givony has previously said medical staffs on other teams simply said, forget him, take him off your boards altogether.)

The Nets have indeed quietly built their relationship with player agents. They’ve tendered large offer sheets to stars like Otto Porter Jr. The other team may have matched the Nets offer sheets, but at a higher price tag, helping the player’s pocket book ... and the agent’s reputation

On the other end of the scale, the Nets have signed marginal players to NBA contracts for one or two days so that the players can add a year of NBA service. Should those players ultimately get an NBA gig, their vets minimum would be a few hundred thousand dollars higher.

Woj and Givony also said there is a growing gap between the best and worst run organizations and agents recognize that.

“There are certain organizations that they worry about their players --they worry about their development, they worry about their dysfunction, they worry about the instability of those organizations. and they feel it is not a place where a guy is going to grow, with the best chance at a good career,” Woj argued.

“And while a team can draft you if they want to --you can’t stop a team from drafting you, you can make it really difficult.”

He added, “Certain places are losing, they’re run poorly. It happens over and over. They’re in an out of the lottery. To me, it almost always starts with ownership.”

Woj didn’t name any particular team as poorly run but noted that the Suns gave up on two high lottery picks —Dragan Bender and Marquis Chriss.