Brooklyn Nets where Sean Marks, Kenny Atkinson said they’d be

Brooklyn Nets Kenny Atkinson (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Kenny Atkinson (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets Sean Marks (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images) /

1. Built by Marks, a roster nearly devoid of stars is winning

This Brooklyn Nets roster is a testament to general manager Sean Marks’ ability to find talent from unlikely sources. With the exception of forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, whose rights were acquired by King in a draft night trade in June 2015, this roster is built by Marks.

The homegrown Nets during that span include:

  • Injured wing Caris LeVert, the 20th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft whose rights were acquired from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for veteran forward Thaddeus Young.
  • Center Jarrett Allen, selected 22nd overall from the University of Texas in 2017 with a pick acquired in a deadline deal with the Washington Wizards.
  • Rookie wing Dzanan Musa, taken 29th overall last year from Bosnia and Herzegovina, via Croatian pro club Cedevita, with a pick acquired in a salary dump from the Toronto Raptors,.
  • Rookie forward Rodions Kurucs, selected 40th overall in 2018 from Latvia, via FC Barcelona in Spain, with another pick acquired in the same deal with Toronto as the Musa pick.
  • Undrafted rookie Theo Pinson, signed as a free agent in August whose deal was converted to a two-way contract in October.
  • Undrafted rookie Mitch Creek, a 26-year-old Australian signed as a free agent in August, waived at the end of the preseason, and signed to a 10-day contract last week from their G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets.

The rest of the roster was assembled via trade, free agent bargains or the waiver wire:

  • Wing Joe Harris, currently third in the NBA in 3-point shooting, was pulled out of pro basketball purgatory by Marks in July 2016 after being traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers and immediately waived by the Orlando Magic the previous January. Harris re-upped with the Nets on a two-year, $16 million free agent deal last summer.
  • Sixth man Spencer Dinwiddie, currently recovering from surgery on his right thumb, was plucked out of the G League as a free agent in December 2016 after he had been traded by the Detroit Pistons and waived by the Chicago Bulls. He signed a three-year, $34.3 million extension last month to remain in Brooklyn.
  • Point guard D’Angelo Russell, a legitimate candidate for an All-Star berth, was a former No. 2 overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers who was jettisoned in a draft night trade in June 2017 as the incentive for the Nets to take on the cumbersome contract of Timofey Mozgov in exchange for the Nets’ all-time leading scorer, Brook Lopez, and the rights to Kyle Kuzma.
  • Forward DeMarre Carroll was the player acquired in July 2017 in the aforementioned salary dump from the Raptors that yielded the draft picks used to take Musa and Kurucs. It cost the Nets journeyman Justin Hamilton.
  • Wing Allen Crabbe, currently out with a knee issue, came a couple of weeks after Carroll in July 2017, a straight-up salary dump from Portland in exchange for Andrew Nicholson. The salary the Trail Blazers were dumping was built by Marks, who had signed Crabbe to a four-year, $75 million offer sheet that Portland matched in July 2016.
  • Reserve guard Shabazz Napier signed a two-year, partially guaranteed deal for $3.78 million last summer after spending two years in Portland.
  • Forward Jared Dudley was a — wait for it — salary dump acquired along with a top-35 protected 2021 second-round pick from the Phoenix Suns last summer in exchange for Darrell Arthur, who had been acquired in a previous salary dump from the Denver Nuggets.
  • Backup center Ed Davis, leading the NBA in offensive rebounding and total rebounding percentage, accepted Brooklyn’s biannual exception for one year and $4.45 million last summer after three seasons with the Trail Blazers.
  • Versatile defender Treveon Graham inked a partially guaranteed two-year deal for the veteran’s minimum last summer after playing two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets.
  • Alan Williams spent three years with the Suns before being waived just after the start of the new league  year last July and signed a two-way deal with Brooklyn just before training camp. He was waived at his request earlier this month to sign a deal to go to China. When that offer fell through, the Nets brought him back on a new two-way contract.

That is the roster that is 28-24 right now, in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and 5½ games clear of the ninth-place Detroit Pistons. That is the same distance — 5½ games — separating the Nets from the third-place Indiana Pacers and fourth-place Philadelphia 76ers.

Getting these results from this group has to put Marks solidly into the discussion for NBA Executive of the Year honors.