Brooklyn Nets: Markelle Fultz a talent risk worth taking

Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets D’Angelo Russell Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

76ers get a defender and a point guard

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks had a bold plan for this season. Conventional wisdom said the Nets would look to maximize the value of their first-round pick this season (because “tanking” is such an ugly term), since they had their own first-round pick for the first time since 2013.

But Marks moved chess pieces around the board, freed up a ton of cap space for July and wanted the Nets to compete for a playoff spot in order to maximize Brooklyn’s attractiveness for what appeared to be a potential bumper crop of free agents.

But Kyrie Irving has decided he’s going to decline his option for next season to sign a new max deal with the Boston Celtics, Jimmy Butler is likely to do the same thing to remain with the Philadelphia 76ers.

If Kevin Durant decides to leave the Golden State Warriors, it will be to go somewhere that offers him a chance to win right away. A Brooklyn team with lots of cap space and a ton of expiring contracts might not present that option, because there will be a lot of holes to fill next summer.

The Nets have one player with the potential to be a go-to scorer, a closer, but Caris LeVert is sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury. The Nets are just 2-6 since LeVert went down and have squandered away late leads in three of those six losses.

Two of the players Brooklyn has on expiring contracts are on rookie deals that are ending. Point guard D’Angelo Russell has had more ups and downs than an elevator this season.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, for all of the hopes of Brooklyn fans, is stuck as a 2-and-D wing, because his 3-point shooting is just not there.

But those two players could definitely be of value to a contender such as the 76ers, who lack depth after losing Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the trade for Butler to go with a spate of injuries.

Ben Simmons is their point guard of the present and future, but backing him up is former undrafted free agent T.J. McConnell. McConnell will be 27 before this season ends and, for as much of a fan favorite as he is in Philadelphia, he hit his ceiling a long time ago.

In 15.1 minutes per game this season, McConnell is averaging 4.1 points and 2.6 assists while shooting .517/1-for-7/6-for-6 in 17 games.

Russell would certainly provide the 76ers with more flexibility. He can play the point, of course, but also is able to function well off the ball. He’s got some 3-point range and would be able to play off-ball with Simmons or at the point with J.J. Redick in a minutes-staggering arrangement.

Hollis-Jefferson gives the 76ers some wing flexibility and a switchy, versatile defender for those tough matchups anywhere from 1 to 4.

Here’s the proposed deal:

The salary numbers work, per the ESPN Trade Machine, and the 76ers can use some of those draft assets they’ve accumulated to augment their status as a contender in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets move forward with Spencer Dinwiddie — also on an expiring deal — getting a chance to audition for a long-term role with the club, assuming the starting point guard role for this season. Fultz would be waiting in the wings to assume that role down the line.

Shabazz Napier would move up in the backcourt rotation and moving Hollis-Jefferson opens a spot in the crowded frontcourt to give rookie Rodions Kurucs — who has earned the opportunity — a rotation spot.

And Brooklyn gets some additional draft assets to augment a more traditional rebuild with youth, now that the Nets have draft picks to work with.

The franchise ended up in this position because Mikhail Prokhorov and Billy King tried to buy a contender. Doesn’t it make more sense to take a more organic approach to team-building this time around?

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Adding Markelle Fultz gives that process a jump start.