When the Brooklyn Nets added Sean Marks to their management team last season, big things were anticipated to come the Nets’ way. Marks has lived up to his expectations so far as general manager.
Of all the teams in the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets have the tallest mountain to climb. Most teams have either highly touted young prospects, hopes of tanking for a high draft pick, a roster desirable enough to lure top free agents, or enough talent to make the playoffs and compete. After trading away all their assets in a failed win-now attempt that started in 2010, the wheels officially fell off the wagon in the 2015-16 season, as the Brooklyn Nets finished with the third-worst record in the NBA.
When Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov named Sean Marks as general manager, a breath of fresh air and sigh of relief entered Brooklyn. Coming from the San Antonio Spurs, Marks has all the tools fans could possibly want in their new front office leader. Marks played 11 years in the NBA, two of which he spent with the Spurs while being part of their championship run in 2005. In addition to his championship experience as a player, Marks was also a member of the coaching staff with the Spurs in 2014, helping the franchise win its fifth title. Along with his experience as a player and coach, Marks was also the general manager of the Spurs developmental league affiliate team, the Austin Toros. The Spurs have been the model franchise for utilizing the D-League effectively, and Marks has firsthand experience in building this talent pipeline in San Antonio. This wide range of experience, combined with a first-class organization, positioned Marks as an ideal candidate on paper for the Nets general manager position. However, would his actions be able to live up to his resume?
The first acquisition Marks made had San Antonio written all over it. Similar to the San Antonio Spurs, Marks immediately went to the D-League to search for hidden gems. His search was successful as Marks signed Sean Kilpatrick, the leading scorer in the D-League to a 10-day contract, which ultimately led to a three-year deal. Kilpatrick is now one of the Nets prime young assets and appears to have an upside no one would have expected. At 26 years old, Kilpatrick is just about to hit his prime. In 31 games with the Nets, he averaged 11.1 points per game, while shooting a reasonable 34 percent from three-point land. Kilpatrick has positioned himself to either be a starter for the Nets this upcoming season, or be a strong sixth man candidate for the club. For a team with limited assets, upgrading through the D-League will be essential for Marks as he continues on his journey to build a contender in Brooklyn, as he once did in San Antonio.
Signing Kilpatrick was possible because of the buyouts of Andrea Bargnani and Joe Johnson, which resulted in two open roster spots. Typically, buyouts are not impactful moves. They usually simply allow veteran players the opportunity to move to a competitive team, while saving the team a few dollars. Not only did Marks afford this opportunity to Johnson (who went to Miami), but he also saved the Brooklyn Nets approximately $4 million in cap space, while easing luxury tax pressure while adding young talent to a depleted team.
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While these moves were solid and strategic, they did not move the needle for the Nets substantially. However, the moves demonstrated Marks’ competence as a general manager from a talent and fiscal perspective. It was only the beginning.
While the Brooklyn Nets roster was a work in progress, they did have several pieces that competitive teams in the league coveted. One of those pieces was Thaddeus Young. Recognizing that the Nets were several years away from competing and needed more young assets to develop, Marks pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Young to the Pacers, acquiring the 20th pick in the 2016 NBA draft. With this pick, the Brooklyn Nets selected Caris LeVert, who projects to be a solid wing player in the NBA. The Nets now have three recent first-round picks in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, and LeVert, and can begin building a future around them for the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions.
However, sometimes it is the deal that did not happen that says the most about a manager. Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe were both under-the-radar free agents during the summer of the Kevin Durant free agency. Both are young talents that can score the ball in a variety of ways, while having good size for their positions. Marks made substantial offers to both of these restricted free agents. Although both offer sheets got matched by their respective teams (Johnson being matched was likely a product of the Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade breakup), Marks demonstrated a strong eye for talent. Even more so, after missing on both Crabbe and Johnson, Marks did something that many New York fans are not used to: he didn’t throw money away on bad contracts (which we should all applaud him for). This level of patience is the polar opposite of what got the Brooklyn Nets into this position to begin with, and it is a mindset they desperately need in their front office.
In the short time Marks has been in Brooklyn, he has proven himself more than competent and has attacked every aspect of managing a team strategically. Marks saved the Nets’ money with buyouts. Marks moved assets that were more valuable to other teams to the Brooklyn Nets, and flipped it to get young talent. Marks found a diamond where no one was looking in the D-League. Marks did not panic when things went south with the deals he offered to the restricted free agents.
Marks brought fan favorite Jeremy Lin to town on a very reasonable deal that should bring some excitement back to the Brooklyn Nets. Most of all, Marks has been the complete opposite of what the Brooklyn Nets front office has been for the last six years.
Because of that, we can say with confidence: In Marks we trust.