Just under four years since the Brooklyn Nets acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first round draft picks, as well as the right to swap first round picks in 2017, the Nets are somehow right back on course.
Many have ranked that deal as one of the worst in NBA history, as it’s still helping Danny Ainge make the Boston Celtics better to this day. But that’s not stopping Brooklyn’s GM Sean Marks find ways to rescue the most desperate situation in basketball.
No easy task given how few assets the Nets were left with following their recent implosion.
Yet, no draft picks, no problem, says Marks, who succeeded in trading Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in this year’s draft to the L.A. Lakers for Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell on Tuesday, giving the Nets a new bedrock around which to build.
As good as Lopez was (he averaged a solid 24.9 points, 8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for Brooklyn last year and was something of a folk hero for the club given his time in New Jersey), he was the last remaining link to 2013’s failed “super team”, meaning the Nets should now be in a position to shake off that failed experiment and start having some fun.
Upon completing the trade back in 2013, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said:
Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets. With the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, we have achieved a great balance on our roster between veteran stars and young talents. This team will be dazzling to watch, and tough to compete against.
While that turned out to be far from true, this young team could eventually be “dazzling” to watch, as in addition to Russell, they also have a lot of other fun pieces on their roster including Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Sean Kilpatrick and K.J. McDaniels.
On top of that they have a 28-year-old Jeremy Lin on their books, who could turn out to be a mentor for Russell assuming he survives the next few weeks.
Plus, last night they drafted athletic big-man Jarrett Allen (who offers the kind of rim-protection Lopez didn’t but little else) with the 22nd overall pick, and draft-and-stash forward Aleksandar Vezenkov with the 57th overall pick just for good measure.
On top of that they’ll be in a strong position to go after some solid free-agents again this summer after forcing the Portland Trailblazers to overpay their own restricted free-agent Allen Crabbe last summer.
Expect them to take a long, hard look at guys like Otto Porter, Jonathon Simmons, Joe Ingles and Tony Snell, all of whom would bolster their young roster by adding some much-needed experience on the wings. They may also do well to take a look at someone like Nikola Mirotic, who would be an affordable option capable of helping space the floor.
Obviously the key to all this though is Russell, as the 21-year-old former 2nd overall pick has the potential to develop into the kind of player that attracts free agent talent – provided he’s able to do something about the attitude problems the Lakers were said to have grown sick of.
Getting away from the media spotlight in L.A. will be a huge plus for him. While getting traded so early in his young career could encourage him to adopt a different mindset to the one that seemed to suggest he had some serious off court issues bubbling away beneath the surface.
Still, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka told L.A. Daily News that the decision to trade Russell had nothing to do with the player and everything to do with the assets the Lakers were getting back, as reported by Mark Medina:
I asked Rob Pelinka in his press conference if Lonzo’s talent made him feel Russell was expendable in Brooklyn trade pic.twitter.com/t3cQ4DLJ6L
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 23, 2017
Russell has, after all, averaged 18 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.6 steals over the course of his two-year career, one of which was largely spent handing the ball off to an aging Kobe Bryant.
He is an exciting scorer, an above average rebounder for his size and could even become a great creator in the right situation. As you might expect, his defense still needs work at times, but last season he contributed a defensive win share of 1, which isn’t terrible for such an offensive-minded player.
Let’s not get carried away here, regardless of Russell this Nets team is still going to take a lot of work.
But given that they’re just four years removed from the point at which the previous regime decided to throw the next five years of the franchise’s future under the bus, the Nets are in really good shape right now. And, they may even be worth a watch every now and again on League Pass next year.
Mozgov aside (!!!), what’s most exciting here though is that the organization’s decision-making sits firmly in the hands of a team of people, lead by Marks, who know exactly what they’re doing.
And based on the moves they’ve made so far, long may it continue.
Sean is the site's resident hoops historian, exploring some of the NBA's most significant moments through the 'Step Back' series. He's also written for Fansided's Orlando Magic Daily and the Last Word on Sports network.