Sean Marks came into the Nets organization ready to shake things up. After 5 years of learning and growing with the Spurs front office, Marks has been bred to become the next R.C. Buford/Greg Popovich success story. His direction seemed very clear, build around their best asset and invest in a young backcourt. Brook Lopez had one of his best seasons last year for the 21-61 Nets. By surrounding him with young ball handlers and good shooters (typical Popovich fashion), the Nets could finally have something to build off of. So, they rid themselves of veterans Joe Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Jarret Jack and Thaddeus Young, with hopes of assembling a competitive team for the present and future. However, Marks has quickly learned that nothing comes easy for the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets do not have a first round draft pick until 2019. If Marks wants to change the dynamic and direction of this team, it needs to be done through free agency. There is only one problem with this strategy; no one wants to play for the Nets right now. They had no shot at signing young players like Kent Bazemore or Chandler Parsons, and even Jay-Z couldn’t convince Kevin Durant to meet with the team. If a youth is what Marks is going for, he knew he’d have to look elsewhere.
The announcement to sign PG Jeremy Lin happened just hours after the Nets parted ways with Jack. Lin has proven to be a successful asset on teams that lack a talented roster. He will be reunited with former coach and huge supporter Kenny Atkinson, and welcomed with open arms by the city where the Linsanity began. Not to mention the immediate buzz it will create in the arena, and the obvious Brook-Lin marketing potential. Lin rejuvenated his game while playing with Charlotte last season and provided a necessary spark for a playoff team. He will be in a position to make an impact immediately, and prove his worth in the NBA.
The Thaddeus Young trade was probably the biggest head scratcher for Nets fans. In return for the second best producer on the team, they received the rights to rookie Caris LeVert. LaVert, a versatile two guard who has been sidelined with a series of left foot injuries, is not exactly what one would call a “sure thing.” Then to fill the void at power forward, the Nets decided to pick up Trevor Booker. Booker is an active body who will ultimately help a very small and inexperienced frontcourt, but by no means is he the answer to anyone’s prayers.
The Nets then raised eyebrows throughout the NBA by signing their backcourt of the future, Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe. The two players, who have started a combined 24 games in their entire careers, were nabbed up for a combined $125 million. This sparked a lot of questions about the new direction for this Nets team. How can all of these years be invested in young and unproven players? Are two guys who spend most of an NBA game on the bench worth the expensive price tag? All of these questions are now completely irrelevant.
With Johnson and Crabbe both being restricted free agents, their teams were able to match the offer sheets, which they did. The Nets tied up a majority of salary cap space in hopes of landing these players, and now are left empty handed. So this leaves the all-to-familiar question; what now for the Nets?
They quickly added veteran PG Greivis Vasquez. Not the most attractive move in the world, but the guard market was dwindling and the Nets had only one point guard on contract with any NBA experience. They then signed veterans Randy Foye and Luis Scola, who are below average rotation players at best. The Nets continued down path of mediocrity adding Anthony Bennett, Joe Harris, and Justin Hamilton to short term deals. Marks went from being an aggressive, questionable, risk-taker, to compiling arguably the worst 15 man roster in the NBA.
I’ll try to look on the bright side here. With the new deals, the Nets will be in the same position next year during a very attractive free agency. The Brook-Lin two-man game should prove to be effective, and force a smile on the face of fans. They still have Bojan Bogdanovic, who is steadily improving and already a fan favorite in Brooklyn. Sean Kilpatrick had a strong end to the season, and with extended playing time, he could become a solid rotation player. Young players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough and Brooklyn’s own Isaiah Whitehead will also gain valuable experience by being thrown right into the fire, since they pretty much don’t have a choice. I know none of this sounds too appealing, but they need to have something to work towards.
It is safe to say that it has been a tough start for Marks. The new direction for his Nets organization has already blown up before it began, and it looks like it will be another brown-paper-bag-type season for the Nets. With Johnson and Crabbe both returning to their respective teams, even more questions now circle around this franchise. Should they just dump Brook Lopez and completely rebuild from scratch? What will be more entertaining, Jeremy Lin’s play on the court or his hair? How on earth do they plan on attracting any free agents next year, when their roster is even worse than before? Only one thing is actually for certain. It looks like it will be a long season for the Nets.
With all of this taken into account, Nets fans should still try to hang on. Marks has proven his intentions, he is changing the landscape of the “Old Nets.” He is someone who is willing to take long-term risks, for the opportunity of landing players with an upside. No more signing aging players to huge contracts, with hopes of catching a second wind. Even though his plan failed this year, it definitely got people talking and things may turn around after this season. Will Sean Marks match the success of former Spurs executive Sam Presti, or will he be a disappointment like Dell Demps for the New Orleans Pelicans? Only time will tell.