Over the last two years, the Nets have demonstrated a distinct willingness to get creative when assets need to be had.
From trading Thaddeus Young to Indiana for a first-rounder that became Caris LeVert before the 2016 draft to dealing Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough for a 2017 first-round pick and Andrew Nicholson, to selecting Jarrett Allen with said 2017 first-round pick ... a selection made two days after completing a deal for D’Angelo Russell (and Timofey Mozgov), sending Brook Lopez and another 2017 first-rounder to the Los Angeles Lakers.
And that’s only a portion of what Sean Marks and company have done.
This summer they come in with young players who are heading toward their perceived ceilings, giving the Nets some homegrown assets. So, will they attack free agency and the trade market so feverishly this year? Not quite. As Marks recently told YES Network’s Michael Grady, there is value of continuity, that is not shuffling and re-shuffling the deck.
“I have no idea to be brutally honest whether it’s going to be significant reduction,” said Marks at Monday’s final presser for the 2017-18 season when asked about roster moves. “The hope is that we move forward like, ‘Hey, here’s eight or nine guys we’ve moved forward with, and the following year, here’s nine to ten,’ and you piece together your roster like that.
“There is a lot of value in having continuity. If every offseason (I’d say), ‘Kenny, here’s 15 guys, go and teach them and develop them again,’ I’m putting a lot on our coaching staff. So it’d be nice … what was here, what we inherited, what we came in to, and try build at some point, with some limited tools. Part of it is roster turnover, and we’re going to have to do that to find the guys that fit what we’re trying to do here. Ultimately, the goal is not to have 22, 23 guys on the roster every year.”
That being said, Marks also noted that he might be shifting gears a bit going forward, just might start measuring success by wins rather than progress.
“At the start of the season you asked how was progress going to be measured. I [said] it was never going to be measured with wins and losses. That’s not something myself was looking at or ownership was saying,” Marks told beat writers assembled at the HSS Training Center. “At some point, that’s going to change. Whether it’s this coming year or a year in the future where we [say] wins and losses, now we’ve got to start winning games.”
Of course, everything depends on the roster, what “tweaks” the front office might make, but it was the first time Marks has even gotten close to saying the future may arrive just a little earlier. It made you think maybe he’s got something in his back pocket. He wasn’t saying.
“We don’t want to skip any steps along this rebuild. If we skip steps and think we can do it right now or we could’ve done it a year ago, that’s when franchises end up digging themselves into a hole.” (We remember.)
Will the Nets, still without their own first rounder this June, still utilize the tools they’ve exploited that last two years: Salary dumps and offer sheets to restricted free agents?
The Nets have pursued unfavorable contracts in exchange for draft picks and/or players to fill an ideal role, like DeMarre Carroll, who arrived with first and second round picks from the Raptors at the cost of Justin Hamilton; or Allen Crabbe, who came to Brooklyn in return for Andrew Nicholson.
Crabbe was memorably signed to a four-year, $75 million offer sheet from the Nets in July 2016, which was matched by the Portland Trail Blazers, who in a moment of buyers’ remorse, sent him to Brooklyn 12 months later. Like the Crabbe deal, the other failed attempts at Tyler Johnson, Donatas Motiejunas, and Otto Porter, hasn’t soured Marks on restricted free agency. It’s still an option for the Nets to add pieces, but with less cap space, is it possible? The Nets have $15.3 million in cap space to tinker with at the moment.
“That’s one tool we may have,” he said of the RFA route. “I’d never sort of single-out we’re not going to do RFA or only target this guy. We have guys that we like, and we’ll see how that all falls into place. At this point, I’m not going to say we’re not going to do one thing or the other.”
He declined to name them, with a smile of course.
As for the draft, the Nets have pick numbers 29, 40, and 45 in June’s selection process.
“I think the draft is one vehicle,” said Marks of the June event, where Marks has come away with Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen in back-to-back first rounds, two core pieces ... at least. “And if we looked at our emphasis is just going to be on free agency or just going to be on the draft we may lose something or miss out on an opportunity. I think in some ways they go hand-in-hand. In other ways, it’s, ‘Let’s use this opportunity to find somebody at 29.’”
The history of those slots is spotty. The Nets selected Chris McCullough at No. 29 three years ago, and he didn’t work out. However, George Gervin, Monta Ellis, and more recently, Lance Stephenson and Will Barton went 40th overall in their respective drafts. Goran Dragic (2008) and Dillon Brooks (2017) weren’t half bad for 45, either.
Marks said the team hasn’t started working out draft prospects yet, but the front office does spend parts of their day on prepping for the draft. Marks doesn’t want to be surprised, he said, and there is a lot of arguing and debating going on at 168 39th Street in Sunset Park, including how they could have done things differently in the past.
“And you know we have a couple of picks in the second round, too. I think these are tools in our toolbox, and I can’t tell you now - like I’ve always said - are we going to use them, when we’re going to use them. But it gives us another vehicle in which to try and improve the roster and the team in the rebuild.”
Bottom line, though, the Nets think they are becoming more and more attractive as word gets around the league about what it’s like to play for the organization, how it can help your career. The Nets will enter meetings with agents and players with more at the table, an improved “sales pitch,” if you will.
But Marks, as expected, declined to go into specifics. It is, after all, proprietary, and you don’t want to let the competition know what you’re up to.
“We’re not going to go into a whole bunch of details with that, but what I would say is it’s the emergence of some of the guys on our roster – how they’ve obviously developed,” he said of the “pitch.”
“I don’t need to speak about Brooklyn and the culture here because I think that’s well-versed and well-talked about already. I think the thing that’s been real positive for me is the guys that leave here – whether they go to another place through trade or lost through free agency or so forth. When they speak about their experiences here, when they speak about playing for Kenny and the style and so forth, that’s been terrific. It’s in a positive light – guys want to play here.”
Ideally, some will.
- Nets leave door open for shift to win-now approach - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Why Nets GM won’t bet against a Jeremy Lin comeback - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Next season will be slow going for Nets and Knicks fans - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Nets GM Sean Marks praises coach Kenny Atkinson’s player development - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Brooklyn Nets look back at the 2017-18 season (Video) - Newsday
- Nets GM Sean Marks preaches ‘level of impatience’ - AP
- It’s ‘show me’ time for Nets in 2018-19 - John Torenli - Brooklyn Daily Eagle
- State of the Nets: Sean Marks, Kenny Atkinson ready to raise expectations - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York