How Sean Marks is saving the Brooklyn Nets

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 28: D'Angelo Russell
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 28: D'Angelo Russell /

Sean Marks is creating hope out of thin air for the Brooklyn Nets

I remember reading about Sean Marks taking the job as GM of the Brooklyn Nets and thinking, “Man, I know there are only 30 of these gigs out there, but I might not even want this one.”

That’s how bad the situation in Brooklyn was as of February 2016. The infamous trade that had brought Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn robbed the Brooklyn Nets of valuable draft picks that they desperately needed to rebuild their roster. When Marks took the job, the Nets had little more than an oft-injured Brook Lopez.

With Boston owning Brooklyn’s first-rounders or the right to swap picks through 2018, Brooklyn looked to be in about as bad a shape as we’d seen in the NBA since the days of Ted Stepien.

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There was a lot of buzz about Marks and his potential as an NBA decision-maker, but the Nets job represented an uphill climb with very little climbing gear. The first move Marks would make was to waive Joe Johnson less than a week after he took the job. That signaled the end of a very mismanaged era of the organization. After the 2015-16 season ended, Marks would hire Kenny Atkinson as head coach of the team.

Marks’s first player acquisition came on draft night in 2016 when he shipped Thaddeus Young to Indiana for the 20th pick in the draft and a future second-rounder. It was clear that the Nets would not be competing for the foreseeable future, and Marks needed to find a way to secure young talent even without the high draft picks he should have had at his disposal.

Marks used the 20th pick to land Michigan shooting guard Caris LeVert. LeVert missed much of the 2015-16 collegiate season due to injury, which had hurt his draft stock. Some scouts thought LeVert had lottery talent, and it was clear that Marks saw the value in selecting a player with his upside. With a serious dearth of young talent, the Nets were in a position to take a risk on a player that could vastly outperform his draft position if he stayed healthy.

After signing guard Jeremy Lin to a team-friendly contract, Marks turned his attention to the restricted free agent market. Offers to both Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe were matched by their respective teams, but Marks was quickly establishing himself as a man with an eye for talent. Neither of these players were household names, far from it, but they were obviously good enough for their teams to pay and avoid losing them. Johnson in particular has shown himself to be a valuable NBA player.

Marks filled out the Nets roster with bargain contracts for guys like Trevor Booker, his lone mistake of 2016 appearing to be the release of Yogi Ferrell. Houston matching the offer sheet Marks signed big man Donatas Motiejunas in December may have saved the GM from a second error that year.

Leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft, Marks made a big splash by finally moving Lopez. He shipped the talented center and the 27th overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for guard D’Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov. The Lakers were desperate to rid themselves of Mozgov’s bloated contract, and they were willing to give up a promising talent in Russell to get it done. Marks saw an opportunity to land a player that would immediately be the team’s most talented.

Russell was the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, and while he hasn’t been a stud in his first two pro seasons he certainly has not been a bust. The Ohio State product is probably most famous for the video incident involving former teammate Nick Young, but the kid has a ton of offensive potential. He won’t turn 22 until February of this coming season, and he was able to average nearly 16 ppg in 2016-17.

He’s been inefficient in his first two years in the league, but that’s not uncommon for a young player on a young team. He’ll be given every chance to develop into the Nets best player, and his All-Star potential must have Nets fans excited for the first time in quite a while.

After nabbing another high upside player in Jared Allen with the 22nd pick in the 2017 draft, Marks took another shot at a restricted free agent. Signing Otto Porter to an offer sheet of more than $100 million again showed Marks’ willingness to pay for the chance at young talent. However, the Wizards decided to match the offer, and Marks had to again move on after being thwarted in restricted free agency.

The Brooklyn Nets are without a pick in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft, so Marks decided to change that. The Raptors were willing to give Marks a 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick and a second-round pick for non-factor Justin Hamilton if the Nets would take on DeMarre Caroll’s contract. Carroll never fit in north of the border, so, like with Mozgov, Marks was willing to take on Carroll in order to collect assets.

Some people may say Toronto’s first-rounder doesn’t carry value, but for a team in desperate need of any young talent it does.

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Taking on the contracts of players like Mozgov and Carroll is not the end of the world for this organization. The team has financial resources and time. It doesn’t matter if Mozgov doesn’t contribute on the court, because he allowed the Nets to get Russell. Carroll will probably surprise some people during his time with the Nets, but he was really just a way to score some draft picks.

In Russell and LeVert, the Brooklyn Nets have an extremely intriguing backcourt going forward. They’re going to be bad again this season, but it’s all about the future for this franchise. It’s clear that they’ll take on some albatross contracts in order to secure young assets. It’s a creative approach that is making Marks look like a great hire and a guy that can help turn things around in Brooklyn. He’s almost created hope out of thin air.