Before Sean Marks was hired to be the new General Manager for the Brooklyn Nets, he rose up the ranks of the San Antonio Spurs, learning from the premier team building organization in the NBA. It engenders privilege. The exhaustive task to spearhead the Nets reclamation project falls upon Marks who is 40 years old and is being thrown head first into the deep end of the pool. His energy and creativity will balance out all the negatives, such as the Nets have a thin roster. They had no first round pick this year. They have $14 million of Deron Williams salary on the books the next two years. They have a lot of bent jigsaw pieces that don’t fit and an uphill climb to respectability. They may have money when the cap goes up, but who wants to come play in Brooklyn?
Sean Marks signed a four year deal to try to heal the Billy King disaster which swung for the fences and missed. But missing a pitch isn’t the worst thing, as long as it is situational and one moment in time. When the Nets were robbed by Danny Ainge of Boston who stole their future, the Nets co-signed it.
The Nets gave up everything to bring in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. At the time, Mikhail Prokhorov described it as the basketball gods doing the Nets a favor. Not quite. The Nets received a short playoff exit for the mortgaging of their future with few draft picks on the horizon. One year earlier, they signed Deron Williams to a max deal and took on the bloated contract of Joe Johnson. Neither paid dividends. It’s been a complete failure for the front office and now it falls into Sean Marks lap.
“After an exhaustive vetting process, we are delighted to have Sean as our General Manager. His experience on the court, in coaching and management gives him a 360 degree view of the job at hand.” (Mikhail Prokhorov)
That view would be crumbs, leftovers and scraps. It’s the basement view, no windows, just a lot of darkness.
Sean Marks is familiar with the less than penthouse view. The New Zealand native was a second round draft pick of the Knicks and played for the Raptors, Heat, Spurs, Suns, Hornets and Blazers. He also played in Poland and for the New Zealand Olympic team. His career high was in 2001-02 for the Heat, 4.6 points per game. He retired in 2011. In 2013, he became an assistant coach for the Spurs and witnessed up close the Spurs impressive game 5 victory in San Antonio that earned them a championship.
The Nets have the most challenging rebuilding project of all the bottom feeders. Of the miserable losers, the Nets are the only team without a collection of young talent. They are starting slower than everyone else. The Lakers (D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram), 76ers (Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid) and Timberwolves (Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns) have all filled their rosters with 20-year olds who are learning the rough and tumble NBA. The Nets are showing up every night with veterans who don’t even matter because they can’t compete for wins.
The whole thing has to be blown up.
Standing in Marks way will be Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov has promised to take a step back and I believe he’ll do that in the first year. But what about in the second year? The Nets are far behind their peers and it’s a 5-year job to get the Nets on par where they are a viable contending team with young talent as their nucleus. First, they have to get draft picks. It is still unclear if Prokhorov has a clue as to how NBA teams are built. They are built with patience.
Can Prokhorov let Marks do his job? Can he wait on talent to develop over time?
The job of a General Manager is to acquire talent through the draft and free-agency, maintain flexibility with reasonable contracts, and build a competitive team that can grow together. There has to be an established vision, a blueprint on how each one of these steps is executed, and a willingness to communicate.
“I am very excited to be named the General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets and to become a member of the vibrant and dynamic organization that represents Brooklyn. I look forward to the challenge of creating a unified culture and building a winning team.” (Sean Marks)
Before winning and the Nets are in the same sentence, the roster has to be purged. Thankfully Joe Johnson is off the books. Thaddeus Young is gone. Jarrett Jack is in Atlanta. Another sub 30 win season is on the horizon.
For Marks, priority number one was a coach. Check. Kenny Atkinson, a protegee of Mike D’Antoni and Mike Budenholzer was hired so a lot of ball movement will be part of the offensive scheme. Priority number two was a point guard. Jeremy Lin was signed in the off season. The rest of the list seemingly has no end but the Brooklyn Nets are a better team today than they were yesterday, though that’s not saying much. However, less Prokhorov and more Marks is a good thing.
photo via llananba