Brooklyn Nets: Brighter days ahead, but also a long road

The Brooklyn Nets will officially be out of most of the Billy King era’s dark shadow after the 2018 NBA Draft and the rebuild can begin in earnest.

If Brooklyn Nets fans have June 21, 2018, circled in red on their calendars, it’s not because of the Nets holding the 29th overall pick belonging to the Toronto Raptors.

No, instead it’s because the 2018 NBA Draft marks a turning point for a franchise that was gutted by former general manager Billy King’s 2013 gambit in acquiring aging Paul Pierce, more rapidly aging Jason Terry and already aged Kevin Garnett in a futile attempt to bring an NBA title to Brooklyn.

What the Nets got was one first-round playoff victory followed by the misery of being bad without the hope of getting much better via the draft because the Boston Celtics seemingly owned every future Nets’ first-round pick — either via swapping places or outright — until the end of time.

But the truth is that the last of King’s folly conveys to the Celtics (to be handed in turn to the Cleveland Cavaliers) on June 21 when Brooklyn’s pick at No. 8 overall comes off the board.

All that will remain of the King era will be the two remaining seasons of salary cap penalties associated with buying out the massive contract of Deron Williams, a price tag of just shy of $5.5 million per season, according to HoopsHype.

All of this marks a significant turning point in the tenure of general manager Sean Marks, who has done a solid job of finding value from players who either didn’t pan out or never got a real opportunity elsewhere, such as Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Before Marks was hired, I wrote for HoopsHabit that the Nets’ GM post might be the most thankless job in sports at the time. A bad team in salary-cap purgatory with no draft picks — hey, sign me up!

The salary cap situation heading into 2018-19 isn’t great, with roughly $84.3 million, plus the cap hold for the 29th overall pick against a projected salary cap of $101 million, per an April report from Eric Pincus of BasketballInsiders.com.

The Nets will also be facing an October deadline on possible extensions for point guard D’Angelo Russell and small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

So the turnaround of the Brooklyn Nets won’t happen in 2018-19. But for the first time since taking the job in 2016, Marks will likely be looking at a real lottery pick to work with in 2019.

Beyond that, the contracts of Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll will be coming off the books at the end of next season, the price paid for gaining assets in the form of of Toronto’s 2018 first-rounder and former No. 2 overall pick Russell, still just 22.

So playing for a pick somewhere in the top eight to 10 in 2019 while being prepared to play the free-agent market in earnest seems to be a logical approach.

In any event, the first two years under the Marks-Kenny Atkinson tandem have shown the franchise is in good hands and that brighter days are indeed ahead … at some point.

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