If the Brooklyn Nets wanted to trade center Brook Lopez, they could have gotten more value.
In 2012, the Brooklyn Nets arrived on the scene in Downtown Brooklyn riding white horses as they were seeking to create a buzz and steal fans away from the New York Knicks. The Nets would make the playoffs in each of their first three seasons in Brooklyn, but they would never advance past the second round. And since then the Nets have become the equivalent of a hyped-up stock that has crashed and burned as they’ve gone on to be one of the worst teams in the NBA.
After the Nets went 21-61 last season they barely managed to win 20 games this campaign as they secured the worst mark in the NBA. But the bad news for the Nets is that with all of this futility, they don’t even possess their own first-round pick which would be in the top three of the NBA Draft this June due to a trade in 2013 that saw them acquire guard Jason Terry, power forward Kevin Garnett, and small forward Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics in arguably the worst trade in sports history. As a part of the deal, the Nets sent three first-round picks, along with the ability to swap first-round picks here in 2017 to the Celtics which they’ll really feel the effect of this summer since Boston finished the regular season as the top team in the Eastern Conference. The trade was a win-now deal for the Nets and they flopped as the trio of Terry, Garnett, and Pierce combined to appear in just 206 games for the Nets. The Nets have been feeling the effects of the deal ever since as they are attempting to recover, but they haven’t had the draft picks or salary cap flexibility to expedite the process.
Sean Marks took over as the Nets general manager last year knowing that he had a tall task ahead of him being that Brooklyn was hamstrung due to a lack of draft choices. Marks hired Kenny Atkinson to be the Nets head coach as they knew that their first year together in Brooklyn was going to be a harsh one. At no point this season were the Nets at or above .500 which included them only winning one game from December 16-January 17. The Nets lacked NBA talent on their roster and with the exception of center Brook Lopez who averaged 20.5 points and became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, there wasn’t that much for Brooklyn to hang their hats on. The nostalgia of that moment wore off rather quickly for the Nets as the reality of one of the worst seasons in franchise history kicked in which was culminated by their 112-73 loss to the Chicago Bulls to end the season this past Wednesday night. The Nets had six players including Lopez sit out that contest as the blowout loss summed up their season. And even with so much against Brooklyn, they must find a way to improve heading into the summer.
The main thing that Marks must do is find a way to trade Lopez. Lopez has been a model citizen for the Nets since they drafted him in 2008. But the reality of the situation is that the Nets aren’t going to contend with him and thus they need to acquire as many assets as possible for him. This past season saw Marks make Lopez available just prior to the NBA’s trading deadline, however his steep asking price of a pair of first-round picks scared off potential suitors. For Lopez’s NBA career he has averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. Lopez is set to earn more than $22 million next season which is the final one of his contract, but he could be enticing enough for a contenting team to pick up.
During the season the Nets traded small forward Bojan Bogdanovic to the Washington Wizards in exchange for a first-round pick this summer. But like the Celtics, the Wizards are headed for the NBA Playoffs which means that the pick will be towards the end of the first round. However that is as active that the Nets will be on draft night as their second-round pick which is 31st overall is now property of the Atlanta Hawks as the result of the trade that saw them acquire swingman Joe Johnson in 2012. The Nets already have more than $70 million committed to player’s salaries for next season, but the operative word for them needs to be “patience”.
The Nets mortgaged their future and now they are paying for it severely. The Nets and their owner Mikhail Prokhorov had to learn the hard way that their is no quick fix in the NBA unless it involves you signing LeBron James. The Nets must focus on drafting, stick to the plan, and accept the fact that they are going to be bad for some time. This is a franchise that has not won a championship of any kind since their days in the ABA. And during the Nets time in the NBA, each time that they appear to be a verge of building something positive, it crumbles like a deck of cards.
The Nets call the Barclays Center home and it is one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in the NBA. However it hasn’t been much of a home-court advantage for the Nets as fans typically show up to cheer for their opponents. And until the Nets solidly establish themselves with a team that is a playoff contender, people will only show up to cheer for their opponents, along with the amenities that are at the arena.
This season you knew that Marks and Atkinson would receive a pass for the Nets struggles on the court. And even though that the deck will be stacked against the Nets again for next season, they must find a way to improve.
Sources: Prosporttransactions.com, Basketball-reference.com
When Sean Marks became the general manager of the Brooklyn Nets this past February, the deck was stacked against him. The Nets were in the midst of their worst season since moving to Brooklyn in 2012 and they didn’t have that much promise ahead of them. The Nets needed to shed salary and rebuild, but they hired Marks just hours before the NBA’s trade deadline which left him at a huge disadvantage. Marks is also charged with pulling the Nets out from under one of the worst trades in sports history as they sent multiple picks to the Boston Celtics for the services of washed up players such as small forward Paul Pierce and power forward Kevin Garnett in 2013. This trade was orchestrated by Marks’ predecessor with the Nets in Billy King who sent three first-round picks to the Celtics, along with giving Boston the ability to swap first-round picks with Brooklyn in 2015 and 2017. The Nets finished this past NBA season with the third worst record in the league. But instead of having the third overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft, the Nets saw their pick go to Boston who used it on small forward Jaylen Brown. And to make matters worse, the Los Angeles Clippers exercised their option to swap second-round picks with Brooklyn during last month’s draft as the result of the Nets acquiring forward Reggie Evans in 2012.
But Marks was able put on his thinking cap as he was able to swing a deal with the Indiana Pacers during the NBA Draft which saw the Nets ship out power forward Thaddeus Young in exchange for the draft rights to shooting guard Caris LeVert. In the second round the Nets would draft point guard Marcus Paige and then trade his rights to the Utah Jazz for the rights to shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead as Brooklyn was looking to get younger and more athletic.
Due to the NBA’s increased salary cap and the trade of Young, the Nets now found themselves with some cap flexibility. The Nets would sign point guard Jeremy Lin to a three-year contract for $36 million, while signing small forward Allen Crabbe to a four-year, $75 million offer sheet, and point guard Tyler Johnson for a four-year, $50 million offer sheet. However the Portland Trailblazers would match the Nets offer to Crabbe, and the Miami Heat would do the same for Johnson. And although that Marks didn’t get everything that he was seeking in free agency during his first go round as a general manager, he still could come out of this smelling like a rose.
As the result of the NBA’s new television deal, the league’s salary cap has increased which has resulted in role players receiving superstar money this summer. With the NBA’s salary cap set to be at roughly $94 million for next season, the Nets currently find themselves with nearly $20 million in cap space which is something to marvel at. The Nets might have lost out on bringing in Crabbe and Johnson, but each player that they currently have under contract has a flexible deal attached to them from the standpoint that either they are not signed to a long-term deal or have an immovable cap number. The biggest contract for the Nets right now belongs to center Brook Lopez who is set to earn $21 million this season, but he’ll come off of their books in 2018, and you can’t rule out the possibility that he’ll be traded at some point during the upcoming season. Unlike other teams, the Nets didn’t overpay this summer for role players or projects which gives them cap flexibility when and if a superstar player does become available either by trade or free agency down the road.
Marks learned his craft in becoming a general manager in the NBA by spending the last two years as the assistant general manager of the San Antonio Spurs. For the last two decades, the Spurs have been the class of the NBA as they’ve won five NBA Championships while making 19 consecutive playoff appearances. Over that stretch the Spurs have focused on drafting and developing their players while rarely dipping into free agency.
Now this needs to be the Nets new philosophy as their owner Mikhail Prokhorov tried to build a championship team immediately upon the organization’s arrival to Brooklyn, but he’s found out the hard way that it doesn’t work like that. The Nets must focus solely on the draft while not getting themselves attached to large, immovable contracts which is something that has plagued them in recent years.
It’s very tough for New Yorkers to practice patience as they want something to happen 10 minutes ago. And although that Marks’ start with the Nets won’t be on the back pages of the New York papers, he could be in a few years if the Nets lack of spending now could lead to something promising later.