Brooklyn Nets Relying on Culture to Attract Free Agents

Mar 1, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) congratulates guard Jeremy Lin (7) during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) congratulates guard Jeremy Lin (7) during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Brooklyn Nets may have finished with the worst record in the NBA, but they can still rely on their strong culture to bring in free agents this summer.

A winning culture, money and a large market make up some of the most important things free agents look at when deliberating which NBA teams to set their sights on. Out of those three things, the Brooklyn Nets can offer the latter two.

With the second-lowest lowest payroll in the NBA, according to NetsDaily, the Nets can hold up two max contracts this summer. And the location of New York City is still something the Nets could use to their advantage.

Where the Nets lack as a winning team, however, they make up for by having a culture that’s headed in the right direction. Jeremy Lin pointed out the draw of Brooklyn and the Nets’ culture in an interview with the New York Post.

"“I honestly don’t think it’s going to be that hard of a sell,” Lin said. “First of all, it’s Brooklyn. It’s New York. Second of all, everyone can tell this culture is completely different. You can talk to the players. There’s a freshness, a different vibe, and what we did after the All-Star break will help. But also, players just want to be treated the right way, and I know that there’s definitely a lot of interest."

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Last February, the Nets brought in Sean Marks as general manager to try to fix the train-wreck that was left behind by previous GM Billy King. King’s infamous 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics to bring in superstars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce left the Nets depleted of rights to their first-round draft picks until 2019.

To make up for Brooklyn’s bleak situation, Marks traded Thaddeus Young to the Indiana Pacers for the No. 20 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, which turned out to be Caris LeVert. LeVert missed the first 20 games of the season while recovering from multiple foot surgeries, but quickly became one of the few bright spots for the Nets. He will undoubtedly be one of the Nets’ core pieces for years to come.

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Marks went even further to try to recover more lost draft picks. At the 2017 trade deadline, the Nets dealt Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough to the Washington Wizards. In the exchange, they acquired two players and one first-round pick. Now, Brooklyn has two first-round picks (No. 22 and 26) to work with in this year’s draft–a fact that seems to have been forgotten because of the 2013 trade and the Nets’ record.

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Brooklyn’s culture can also be seen from how the players treat each other. Despite the inevitable frustrations that come with being on a 20-win team — the Nets did not even eclipse double-digit wins until March — players never turned on each other, and the team consists of a tight-knit group. Remember that trip to Disney World Brook Lopez organized?

While the Nets can’t sell themselves as a winning team to free agents, it’s clear the regime they have in place is focused on improving the team for the future. Even more importantly, the players love it here in Brooklyn.

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Last summer, the Nets’ culture was what sold multiple free agents to come to Brooklyn. Randy Foye said he considered other options, but complimented the positive “vision” Marks and the Nets had in place. The hiring of Head Coach Kenny Atkinson has also been credited as the reason Lin chose to come to Brooklyn, since the two held a strong bond from their days with the New York Knicks.

Why should free agency be any different this summer, over a year into the Marks and Atkinson regime? And so far — at least in pre-free agency rumors — it’s played out in the Nets’ favor.

Recently, Lin mentioned that free agents “are already asking questions” because of Atkinson’s coaching style and the way Brooklyn managed to stay competitive in most of their losses. 32 of the Nets’ 62 losses were by a margin of 10 points or less, with 12 of them occurring during the Nets’ 16-game losing streak in late January through February.

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The fact that free agents are noticing the positive culture in Brooklyn despite the Nets’ lack of success this season speaks volumes to how much Atkinson and Marks are valued around the NBA. Perhaps this is another result of the “progress” Marks emphasized prior to the season.