So glad those damn Finals are over, now the NBA can be fun again. Like, all due respect to the Golden State Warriors for manufacturing one of the greatest teams the league has ever seen but let’s be honest here and admit that Kevin Durant has kinda ruined basketball. And no matter how much work other teams put into their offseason the only decision that really matters is the one that KD is probably gonna make to take a few less dollars to ensure the Dubs can re-sign all the dudes they plan on re-signing.
But that doesn’t mean it ain’t still fun. For example, let’s take a good hard look at what Kiwi Sean Marks just pulled the trigger on for the Brooklyn Nets.
There’ll be a few more things written about Marks on TNC over the next couple months, most likely. Not only because he’s an unprecedented New Zealander in charge of the fate of an NBA franchise but also because the Nets Reclamation Project is legit one of the most fascinating storylines out there. How do you fix a team that had maybe two half decent assets and bugger all draft picks 18 months ago? Well, ‘slowly’ would be first answer. ‘Patiently’ another. ‘With great care’ the third.
Marks has moved on a few ideas. Thaddeus Young was traded and Jeremy Lin was signed. There was the Bojan Bogdanovic trade mid-season. Failed restricted free agency quests for Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson. A couple D-League guys and undrafted free agents have been given rare chances to surprise everyone, a couple of them looking like genuine rotational options. But their one real piece of value was Brook Lopez and up until now they’d held firm on cashing that contract in.
With only a year left on his deal though, this was the time to make it happen and Sean Marks, Kenny Atkinson, Mikhail Prokhorov and the Brooklyn Nets did what all rebuilding teams should do: they played the field to their advantage.
The Los Angeles Lakers had Timofey Mozgov on this disgusting contract – 30 years old and one season into a four-year $64m contract averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 16-17 – and if they’re gonna make a serious pursuit of Paul George or LeBron James next offseason then they needed to get the hell out of it. George has already said he intends to play another year in Indiana but if things go bad there he could be available at the trade deadline, if not in 2018 free agency. And the Lakers take on a big contract for Lopez here too, a much better player but also one they can have off the books for that 2018 pursuit too if they want.
Hence why they kinda needed to make this happen now, rather than fumbling around next season. This is not a short term plan they have to get back to where this famous franchise once was. But the Nets have all the power here. They’re the ones taking on the crap contract so they need a little more to push this one through. As it happens, they’ve got plenty more than that. At the expense of the 27th overall pick in Friday’s NBA Draft they’ve also added D’Angelo Russell.
A 21 year old guard still on a rookie contract, with plenty more as-yet-untapped potential. Sure there are question marks about his maturity that but where were you when you were 21? Russell remains a brilliant prospect and he’s younger than plenty of dudes that’ll be available in the ’17 Draft so think of it that way if his progression hasn’t quite filled you with confidence yet. Yo, who the hell is supposed to thrive playing next to Kobe Bryant and for Byron Scott? By last season he already had a dirty reputation and the writing was on the wall.
Also recall that the first step the Nets took in rebuilding their team wasn’t a personnel thing, it was about implementing a Spurs-style culture. That’s why Marks was hired, why Atkinson was hired. They’re all about nurturing and developing players. They’ve been waiting for this exact opportunity: a high value young player to build their future around. Even if you aren’t a D’Angelo Believer then this still makes for a great piece of business – Lopez is expiring anyway and the 27th pick is worth much less than a former #2.
For the Lakers they didn’t need D’Angelo - kinda funny that Nick Young has outlasted him in LA but so it goes. They’re gonna draft Lonzo Ball anyway and there’s probably only room for one of he or DR in Los Angeles. Plus if they sign Paul George or LeBron James (still don’t believe that’s at all realistic, tbh) then this’ll look like a genius move. Can’t really criticise them either. Expect Luol Deng to follow Mozzie through the out-door.
The Nets should have around $30m in cap space now and the Lakers should have about the same for 2018 after this. Not sure what the Nets will be able to achieve in free agency but in a way they’ve already added the one piece they most needed. The centre-piece. Russell will form a backcourt with Jeremy Lin that’s bound to offer a fair bit of funk and with cheapo contract still in effect for guys like Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Isaiah Whitehead and Sean Kilpatrick they’ve got an interesting core developing. Trevor Booker was a player they were excited to acquire last season too.
A reminder now that the Nets were 13-17 when both Lin and Lopez both started and 7-45 when one or neither of them started. They finished on an 11-15 run after Lin returned from injury. They went 1-24 through the middle while he was hurt (during which Lopez started all but two games).
Plus there’s the draft. Coincidentally enough it’ll be happening in Brooklyn at their home arena of the Barclays Centre… yet the first overall pick that should’ve been theirs for this season’s struggles has instead ended up with the Philadelphia 76ers by way of the Boston Celtics. Long story that one, you already know it. But they didn’t gift their 2017 pick to the Celtics, they actually had a pick swap for 2017 - so that Celtics pick they got in return was the one they flipped to the Lakers which means instead of picking first they ended up with a second-overall player and if you treat Lopez like a free agency departure and squint just enough then that almost balances out… for 2017 at least. They still have one first rounder too, the 22nd overall pick which came over in the Bog trade with Booker and Andrew Nicholson.
And they have the 57th overall pick on Friday which we’re just gonna assume they’re saving for Tai Webster.
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