Nets Offseason Report: Sean Marks’ Men

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2016/17 Record: 20 – 62 (Last in the Eastern Conference)

2017/18 Salaries: $97,378,061 (Under The Cap Team) – full BKN cap situation – here

Incoming Draft Picks: TOR ’18 1st (15-30), IND ’18 2nd (31-44), LAL/ORL ’18 2nd (Less Favourable).

Outgoing Draft Picks: CLE ’18 1st, PHI/CHA ’18 2nd, ORL ’19 2nd, PHI/ORL ’20 2nd.

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 10.01.25 pmWhen Sean Marks took over as General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets in February of 2016, the objective was clear. Rebuild. He was given four years to make it happen.

Several years earlier, as the first decade of the millennium drew to a close, the Nets embarked on a journey that began with new ownership taking over the team. With new ownership often comes big ideas and the added move to Brooklyn created a Big Apple little brother, desperate to make a splash. The failed attempt at trading for a Championship and to embarrass the Knicks in the process, has realistically put the Nets franchise back a decade.

Put simply, it is Marks’ mission to do whatever it takes to get the Nets out of the hole they dug themselves, charged with the responsibility of building Brooklyn back up again. This time, from the ground up. After hiring his new coach, Kenny Atkinson, Marks has tried (often failing) to add talent by whichever means he has available. The accumulation of several players over two offseason’s has created quite the timeline for this current roster, but it also begs the question:

Which ones are actually going to be Marks’ Men?

February – June ’16: Sean Kilpatrick holds the prestige of being Marks’ first signing as a GM. He is now in the final year of a multi-year deal and becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent at the conclusion of the season. While the Nets will certainly have the cap room for another deal, Kilpatrick will need to show he has the consistency to stick. Caris LeVert, on the other hand, has a little more time after being drafted last season with the Indiana pick Marks sought for Thaddeus Young. The Nets will be hoping he can build on his encouraging end to last season averaging close to 10 points, 4 Rebounds and 2 assists in 26 games as a starter. If he can, the Young trade looks like an early home run for Marks, especially with the Pacers Second Rounder conveying in the upcoming draft.

July ’16: The Pioneer Point – Jeremy Lin

Without any picks early on though, Marks had to use the one asset he did have at his disposal; salary cap space. Signing Lin to a three year – $36 million deal was a nice little coup for the Nets and whilst it hasn’t quite gone to plan, there may still be hope.

Lin has been hampered by injuries in his short Net career but goes into Season 17/18 healthy and likely starting in a new look back-court. An interesting wrinkle to his current deal is a Player Option in Year Three, which provides Marks with a potential trade chip.  Injuries could this time be in Brooklyn’s favour, with Marks sending Lin to a contender in need of a Point Guard and picking up yet another asset in the process. At worst, if he cannot move Lin then the Nets go into the following offseason with further cap room or an expiring deal should Lin opt-in.

Trevor Booker, Isaiah Whitehead and Joe Harris followed Lin as Brooklyn’s next Free Agent signings in the Summer of ’16 to fill out the playing roster. Like Kilpatrick, they are all now in the final guaranteed year of their contracts and only Whitehead has a current option to come back. Booker may not have the same currency as Lin but Marks could pick up another second rounder or add Booker into a larger deal at the deadline. As for Whitehead, he will be keen to prove worthy of the Nets guaranteeing his salary for 18/19 and should get plenty of minutes at backup PG.

December – January ’17: Also looking to prove their worth; Spencer Dinwiddie and Quincy Acy; two NBA role players that Brooklyn signed during the 16/17 season. The Nets are perhaps the last chance for both to carve out a role in the League and the aforementioned trades could provide the opportunity for either to capitalise on.

June ’17: The Franchise Face – D’Angelo Russell

It’s no secret that Marks is looking to deal. He proved this at the deadline last season by moving Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough for the draft pick that became Jarrett Allen, plus change. While it’s far too early to judge Allen, he comes in right as the Nets move Brook Lopez out. This is perhaps Marks’ most impressive transaction to date, not only because he landed Russell by eating Timofey Mozgov’s contract but also due to the patience he showed with a Lopez deal.

Russell is a little closer to judgement day than his new 6’11” Nets teammate, joining Lin in the Nets’ likely new back-court and looking to impress. After a somewhat disappointing Sophomore season, Russell could thrive in the Nets fast-paced offense without the past threat of being pulled. The Nets’ current situation means Atkinson will allow Russell to play through mistakes and maximise his skillset in a variety of offensive sets. Whether it’s on the ball or playing off next to Lin, this season will be big for Russell to finally translate his College game to the pro’s. The Nets will be hoping he can become the 20 PPG threat he was with the Buckeyes, with a mix of play-making (averaged 5 Assists) and shooting (41.1% from College three).

July ’17: The Salary Sacrifice – DeMarre Carroll

Sean Marks’ other rebuild inside the rebuild, Carroll, is more of rejuvenation project than a hopeful transformation. Brooklyn traded Justin Hamilton to Toronto for Carroll and acquired the Raptors First Round pick plus another Second, reuniting the stocky Small Forward with Atkinson in the process. The deal is another low-risk-high-reward by Brooklyn’s GM. At worst the Nets gain a veteran presence who remains on their books for two seasons, before departing after 18/19 when the Nets potentially need the cap space.

However at best, the deal could become one of the greatest salary dump moves in history. Not only has Marks added two draft picks to his ’18 haul, Carroll could return close to his best under Atkinson. Health could be the major reason for Carroll’s recent dip, with his shooting percentages the main victim of his time in Toronto. If Atkinson can get the ball moving (unlike in Toronto) with a dual PG system and Carroll can stay on the court, there is every chance he could return to his ultra-efficient Hawks self. All going well, Carroll may even hang around after his big pay day and remain with the Nets on his next deal after they took a chance on him.

July ’17: The Restricted Return – Allen Crabbe

Speaking of chances, Marks landed Allen Crabbe this past offseason after attempting to use RFA offer sheets on him, Tyler Johnson, Otto Porter Jr. and Donatas Motiejunas. After being matched on four for four, Brooklyn instead traded Andrew Nicholson to the Blazers for Crabbe and finally got their man.

It was a matching process that didn’t help the player or either team in the end, and Crabbe begins his Nets career a season later. A season where the former Blazer SG did not take the leap to match his increased salary but instead flat-lined around a 10 PPG contribution with little impact elsewhere. He did shoot 44.4% from deep last season though, second only to Kyle Korver and should help the Nets lift in that area after finishing 25th in overall 3FG% last season. With a possible increase to 30 minutes a night, Sixth Man honours are certainly not out of the question. Crabbe would likely need to become a 15 PPG contributor in order to meet the historical criteria.

July – September ’17: Marks has rounded out his current resume by signing Tyler Zeller for one guaranteed season, with an option for a second and picking up the two maximum two-way contracts. Jake Wiley and Billy Ouattara continue Marks’ affiliation with big athletic wings, providing defensive versatility in Wiley’s case and shooting with Ouattara. All three deals are no risk and possible reward moves for Marks, using what he has at his disposal.

Where other GM’s may have had the luxury of a treasure chest of assets to play with, Marks has had rations. Just 110 games into his tenure the Nets can already see a future building from within their current roster. However, he has had to be creative. Early on, his only asset was cap space and he has had to trade his way into replacing the three consecutive First Round picks his predecessor gave away.

Every player on the roster – bar Rondae Hollis Jefferson – is now a Marks acquisition. Brooklyn’s GM has taken a number of shots, mostly from deep, in order to land players that he can build around long term. However given his constraints, some are likely to be moved on again while others may never work out. If Marks can land one or two building blocks with his creative moves so far, it can only be seen as a bonus that puts the Nets ahead of schedule. A timeline that will be half completed by the trade deadline of the upcoming season.

Unlike season’s just passed, the upcoming 82 games appear to have a big say in just who will be Marks’ men going forward. Finally, Brooklyn appears to be doing things right. After all, the Knicks will take care of embarrassing themselves all on their own.

Projected Starting Five:

Projected Depth Chart:Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 2.17.30 pm

Overall Offseason Grade: B

2017/18 Prediction: 24 – 58

Despite a pretty successful offseason, Marks’ men are likely in for another tough season. You can guarantee Coach Atkinson will have the team playing hard, but wins will be tough early while the completely new starting lineup gets used to playing together. As for later in the season, a lot will come down to the health of the team and any further moves the front office might make. Perhaps 24 wins is on the low side for a team in the weaker Conference with no real incentive to lose, but expect the Nets to continue to focus on the future rather than chase too many late season wins.

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Player To Watch: Timofey Mozgov

While Mozgov was clearly the “throw-in” to the Russell/Lopez deal, he certainly gets an opportunity in Brooklyn to rejuvenate his stock as the obvious choice to start in the middle. However, it will likely be a short leash both in games and throughout the season. With the Nets signing Zeller and drafting Allen, there appears to be a short and long-term substitute to Mozgov should he struggle to remain in the game. Brooklyn can certainly utilise his rim protection on the defensive end but he needs to find an offensive role to remain on the court. While he may never justify the contract the Lakers gave him, Mozgov can still provide the Nets with a serviceable rim runner. Is a career best season of 10 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block out of the question?

Four Key Questions:

1. What does Atkinson do about the starting backcourt?
At this stage, all signs look to be pointing to Lin and Russell both starting in the back-court for the Nets. While this will certainly come with many advantages for Brooklyn, it looks to be a move that is much more designed to not upset either lead guard. While it will provide the Nets with dual points of attack, it could ultimately put unwanted pressure on the likes of Carroll for both shooting and defense, plus rob the second unit of the talent and experience it desperately needs. Perhaps Atkinson will look to stagger over the full 48 minutes, in order to have one on the court at all times and gain the best of both worlds.

2. Can one of the long shot wings pay off big time for Marks?
Whether Brooklyn looks to stagger the two lead guards or not, there stands to be plenty of minutes (and shots) within the second unit or three-guard lineups for a number of the Nets’ “wings”. Sean Marks looks to have an eye for size, with several guys who could feature at the one through to the three. Crabbe (6’6″) will likely be the main beneficiary, however Marks will be hoping at least one of the Isaiah Whitehead (6’4″), Caris LeVert (6’7″) or Sean Kilpatrick (6’4″) trio can be relied upon for consistent rotation minutes. The Nets GM will be hoping to hit the jackpot and have at least one force themselves into his group of Marks-men.

3. Does Jarrett Allen earn his minutes?
Although Mozgov looks set to start at Center and the Nets also recently acquired Tyler Zeller, Jarrett Allen is undoubtedly Brooklyn’s big man of the future. Coach Atkinson had his team play at the fastest pace in the league last season, partly to counteract their lack of talent but almost certainly for larger philosophical reasons too. In Mozgov and Zeller, the Nets have big men who will do no worse than Lopez in running the floor but it’s not hard to imagine that Atkinson will be eager to deploy his fresh-faced Texas recruit as soon as possible. However, the minutes are unlikely to be given away. The Nets have created a situation where Allen will need to earn his way into the rotation, which could even include an early stint with the Long Island Nets in the G-League. When he eventually earns his spot, the Nets have a prospect capable of transforming their defense and creating havoc above the rim on offense.

4. Can RHJ elevate himself into elite defender status?
Despite not being drafted by the current Brooklyn GM, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson still has a real opportunity to carve out a significant role with this Nets team. Last season, Brooklyn appeared to settle on RHJ as a small-ball Power Forward and with Booker starting and Acy the only other reserve, Marks will be hoping they can find a more permanent solution at the four going forward. At 6’7″ he is certainly undersized for the position but has the defensive nouse and wingspan to cover the majority of modern day four-men. All going well, RHJ has an opportunity to become Atkinson’s opposition star player stopper and also allow his coach to deploy a switchy defensive scheme with the likes of Carroll, LeVert and perhaps even the aforementioned Allen down the road.


Info courtesy of:
Basketball Reference
Basketball Insiders
Real GM
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