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.