The Brooklyn Nets went 21-61 last season with a bare-bones roster built around Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. Under new management led by general manager Sean Marks and new head coach Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn doubled down on its rebuilding process by sending Young to Indiana on Thursday for the 20th overall pick in the draft.
The night ended with two new rookies looking to grow with this extremely young Nets team. Since the Pacers are using cap space, they don’t have yet to take on Young’s contract. The trade won’t be officially complete until the league’s new fiscal year begins in July. So Marks couldn’t speak on the record about Young, the trade, or Indiana’s pick made for the Nets.
That pick became Caris LeVert, an athletic 6-foot-7 guard from Michigan who’s had multiple foot surgeries, including one in May performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley of the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Nets’ foot and ankle specialist who performed Lopez’s surgeries. LeVert had the same foot fracture and surgeon as Kevin Durant did, and reportedly spoke to KD to ask for advice.
“It’s the first steps in putting some building blocks in place,” Marks told reporters at the team’s Brooklyn practice facility after the draft. “We’re not going to skip steps along the way and divert from what we’ve set out to do from the beginning, which is bring in good values, good culture and good competitors.”
Congrats to former @umichbball star Caris LeVert, who is drafted No. 20 overall! https://t.co/5RrB360wRE
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) June 24, 2016
On the ESPN broadcast, Jay Bilas said LeVert has lottery-level talent — he shot over 40 percent from three during his collegiate career — but health is already an issue for a pick for which Marks traded Young in order to draft. Young will make $14.1 million next season after his trade kicker, and the Nets will save $11 million in cap space this summer, bringing their total to over $50 million. Even with a $94 million salary cap, that’s a good starting point to build a roster the way Marks sees fit.
“It’s not going out there and spending it on somebody for the sake of spending it,” Marks told The Comeback. “We’ll hopefully make the right decisions and, again, it starts with bringing in the right people.”
Marks is not naive about the Nets’ numerous holes right now, but he’ll be judicious about who he signs rather than go out on a spending binge when free agency begins on July 1.
“Well, if you look at the roster, we need a few things,” he jokingly said. “We know who we’re targeting out there. We’ll see where it goes.”
Lopez is now the only remaining piece from the old guard, and Marks said he spoke with the All-Star center on Thursday around the time of the Young trade.
“I discussed things with him and he was excited about the approach and where things are going and we’ll see where it’ll go.” Marks said.
Brooklyn’s lack of talent and future draft picks put it in a poor bargaining position, which could be why Marks was only able to get the 20th pick for Young. Hours after the Brooklyn trade, Sacramento got the No. 22 pick (Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson) from Charlotte for guard Marco Belinelli, who would seemingly have much less value than Young. That might signify Marks’ lack of leverage in negotiations to try to get the most assets out of its current roster.
Young, who averaged 15 points and nine rebounds last season, is the second starting-caliber player the Pacers acquired over the last two days. They dealt for point guard Jeff Teague on Wednesday in a three-team trade that sent George Hill to Utah and the 12th overall pick, Baylor’s Taurean Prince, to the Hawks.
After this trade drained even more talent from this depleted roster, Brooklyn is really going to have to build from the ground up. The franchise is still greatly impeded by the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade it completed with Boston at the 2013 draft. This year’s third overall pick, Cal’s Jaylen Brown, went to the Celtics as part of the deal, and Boston has the option to swap 2017 first-rounders with the Nets. The Celtics also get Brooklyn’s 2018 first rounder as part of the deal.
Drafted by the @BrooklynNets, @IsaiahW_15 has excelled in NYC before with his amazing run @TheGarden. #BEtoNBA https://t.co/gUZRpJFH7g
— #BIGEASThoops (@BIGEASTMBB) June 24, 2016
For their second pick, the Nets won the PR battle by trading up with Utah to select Isaiah Whitehead, a Brooklyn-born guard out of Seton Hall who played at Lincoln High — the same school Stephon Marbury, Lance Stephenson and Sebastian Telfair attended — with the No. 42 pick. He’ll certainly be a fan favorite going forward while the team endures a whole lot of losing.
“Being a local guy, we were really familiar with him, his background and the person, the character that he has,” Marks said. “He fits with our group and what we want to be. He embodies what Brooklyn grit is all about.”
Like LeVert, Chris McCullough, one of their first rounders in 2015, had his draft value sink after a long-term injury. After missing most of the season recovering from a torn ACL, McCullough debuted on Feb. 8 and played in 24 games. LeVert does not expect to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, he told reporters at the Barclays Center.
LeVert, McCullough and Whitehead will join forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson— a 2015 first rounder who was limited to just 29 games in his rookie season due to a fractured right ankle— as the team’s new young core under 22 years old. With Young gone, the youth movement and a long rebuild is truly underway for the Brooklyn Nets.